By Shawn Hendricks
Contributing Writer, B&R
THOMPSON’S STATION — Do you have an emergency? Are you in the middle of a crisis? Or, do you simply need some encouragement? Go to the Prayer Clinic at Thompson Station Church, where volunteers are standing by every Sunday morning to meet your spiritual concerns – and send you off with a prescription of prayer and Scripture.
One way to describe the Prayer Clinic, said Leighann McCoy, prayer and family minister at the church in Thompson’s Station, is to compare it to a walk-in health clinic. The Prayer Clinic, she explained, is a specific room located near the church’s sanctuary where people can gather anytime Sunday morning between 8:45 a.m. to noon to share their burdens and concerns. They also receive prayer and Scripture verses that relate specifically to their needs.
“We have little prescription pads, and you leave with an actual verse that God’s given us to address that need,” McCoy said.
Following their churchwide prayer conference that drew 380 people Jan. 16-17, McCoy shared about the importance of prayer to a church’s overall health.
“We have a saying at Thompson Station Church that when we work, we work. And when we pray, God works. And I’m sure we’re not the first people to say that,” said McCoy, calling prayer the “backbone” of the church’s ministry. “We’re called to pray. John 15:5 tells us that if we abide in Him and He abides in us, we’ll bear much fruit – but apart from Him we can do nothing.”
“So I’m extremely passionate about prayer because I feel like that is the access to the abiding.”
Each week the clinic draws about eight to 10 people requesting prayer, said McCoy, noting that about five volunteers are there ready to greet them. But she added that a team can consist of three people. “It doesn’t have to be a big huge team.”
Visitors to the clinic meet with a prayer team member, share their prayer request, pray through their concerns and a specific Scripture verse, and are given an opportunity to leave contact information for follow-up.
The Prayer Clinic team then keeps in contact with that individual until their prayer request is met.
McCoy noted that everyone gets a prayer card on how they specifically can pray – whether the request is about a health issue or marriage troubles. And before they leave, they receive a bracelet that says “God’s got this.”
In addition to teaching people to pray through Scripture and their needs, McCoy said, the Prayer Clinic also focuses on exposing and celebrating what God does when we pray. She describes it as a “laboratory for prayer in the church.”
The church’s Prayer Clinic originally began in 2008. But a lack of training and focus, McCoy said, derailed the ministry for a few years until they officially relaunched it in 2018.
Today, with 22 team members, they keep track of prayer requests and information using an app, and they put more emphasis on developing volunteers. Every six months, McCoy leads a training course that goes for four weeks on Sunday mornings. Training, leadership development, and focus are the keys to maintaining the ministry over time, she noted, adding that clinic prayer team members are recruited from those who take the prayer training class.
And churches of all sizes, McCoy said, can start their own clinic. Right now, McCoy is working with nine churches on developing prayer teams and offering training to help equip them for prayer ministry.
But regardless of effort and planning, keeping an extended prayer focus going at a church can be like “swimming against the current” and is open to spiritual attack, McCoy said.
“It is hard work,” she said. “… And it can be exhausting at times. But when we are focused on prayer, God does things in our congregation that we don’t have to work so hard to make happen. … The things that make a church healthy begin to happen when we’re praying.”
Fruits of prayer
McCoy’s husband and the church’s senior pastor, Tom, said the church averages about 1,500 in attendance each week, and he credits its prayer focus with the church’s successes in a variety of areas – including their baptism numbers. They went from 106 baptisms in 2018, when they relaunched the Prayer Clinic, to more than 200 in 2019. And he noticed attendance also increased by 10 to 12%.
“Those aren’t the only metrics that are important,” Pastor McCoy said, “but they are important.”
“We’ve seen some supernatural things,” said the pastor, noting other examples of answered prayer and healing, whether it involved the recovery of a 42-year-old man who had a near life-ending stroke or a young boy who had a 36-hour seizure.