Prayer Lists & Privacy

prayer listFor years, most congregations have created and distributed printed prayer lists.  As technology has changed the way data is shared, many congregations have updated how they share these lists with interested parishioners.

Jonathan Webster is a minister who coordinates chaplaincy and bioethics services for the Western Division of Carilion Clinic, and who serves as adjunct faculty at Jefferson College of Health Sciences and Radford University. He recently wrote about this topic for his denomination: the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In addition to offering best practices, he offers five suggestions every congregation should consider implementing:

  1. Ask before placing someone on the prayer list, there are many reasons people do not want others to know about their illness.
  2. Only place the name on the prayer list. Ask the person what information they would like shared when someone inquires.
  3.  Be very careful about placing names on public web pages, this provides information for those who might wish to do someone harm.
  4.  Have a clear policy about what your church places on social media sites such as Facebook making sure it is keeping with the wishes of all those involved.
  5.  If you are not sure about whether to share the information always err on the side of protecting the privacy

So What?

While some congregations have clear policies about how prayer lists are created, updated, and disseminated, many do not.  Among those with policies, many struggle to consistently apply them to all people and to all of the prayer lists.  Among those without policies, the issue necessarily becomes a case-by-case decision without an objective standard to guide such decision making.

  • What are the policies and procedures in your congregation for having a name included on the prayer list?  Do those responsible for administering such a list do so consistently and apply the rules equally to all situations?
  • How often are your congregation’s policies and procedures for the prayer list reviewed? Who conducts the review and makes recommendations for changes (especially those based on emerging/changing technologies)?



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