How does a church plan a "Coming Home" service?

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Hi folks,

Our church, together with a couple others in our area, are beginning to plan a "coming home" prayer service.  The main impetus for this is that a young person in our congregation ran away from home over the summer, and her parents still can't find her.  So, the service is first of all a time to come together to pray for this family, and to pray that this teenager would come home.

But we also decided to expand the service to include prayer for people we love who need to "come home" in other ways, too: those who have strayed from the faith, those who are in estranged relationships, etc.

As this is a very delicate topic, we want to make sure that we plan wisely and sensitively.

Has anybody planned or participated in a service like this before? Are there any resources or model prayer services you could point us to? Any other ideas or suggestions?

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Erin,

Sorry, but I am not aware on an entire service (I've participated in services where this has been being included) dedicated to this theme but it sounds like a wonderful idea. Our Father loves his "Prodigal Son(s)"  and longs for them to come home! (Luke 15!)

I agree that it must be handled wisely and sensitively - and I have a few suggestions. 

I would suggest that the only names mentioned (prayed for) publicly are those submitted in advance by members of the immediate family (e.g. parents could submit the name of their prodigal son/daughter, a wife her prodigal husband). I would not take requests from the congregation during the service. I would share the minimal amount of information necessary about these prodigals in order to pray effectively. For these requests, I would encourage the family of the one being prayed for to be surrounded by the congregation (perhaps even laying on hands) and have (a few) pre-designated people offer prayers (e.g. the pastor, their elder, a close friend or two, a family member, etc.). Set aside sufficient time. Prayers should be positive and encouraging - i.e., with the emphasis on their "coming home!"

I would also provide a time during the service where people (with a burden for a prodigal they might not want to make public or it would be inappropriate for them to make public) could approach a prayer team (I would have 2-4 teams available in the back and/or front of the worship space - I often recommend couples) and personally and confidentially share their request with the team. The "team" would then pray for their son, daughter, parent, spouse, grandchild...  When we have done this we have sometimes had very soft music playing and/or silence. If this time is extended, you might want to break it up with a song or two. We have placed items for members of the congregation to pray about on the screen or a small handout.

A short meditation on the parable of the prodigal (or another appropriate) passage emphasizing how God loves to welcome his children home...might be included.

Songs of God's faithfulness and love would be most appropriate.

I would include the reading of some of passages of God's promises/assurances/love - perhaps asking the families who have been interceding for a prodigal family member what passages have been helpful to them.

I also believe that you need to follow up on this worship service. The prodigals prayed for need to be continually prayed for. When the prodigal "comes home" a celebration needs to follow - including prayers of thanksgiving for God's faithfulness.

God will honor and answer prayers for his children!

And it would be great if you'd be willing to share your service with "us" as an encouragement for other congregations.