The United Prayer Group prioritizes community and support during its weekly meetings


Senior Sutton Steensma still recalls a time when the United Prayer Group was merely a small crowd of students gathered in the basement of Jam’n Bean. When she began attending the group as a sophomore, it was in its early stages, led by its founder, Amanda Riffe.

Sutton also remembers being approached by Amanda, shortly after Amanda’s graduation. She and senior Ashlyn Fitch were being offered the opportunity to take over leading the group. At first, they were a bit nervous about being handed such a big responsibility, but they stepped into the role without hesitation.

“Amanda was going to graduate, and we didn’t know if United Prayer was going to continue or who was going to take it over,” Sutton said. “And then she approached us in the summer and gave us both little journals and a pen, and she was like, ‘I want you guys to start the group’, and we were just like really emotional about it because United Prayer meant so much to us.”

Now, the United Prayer Group meets in English teacher’s Robbin Demeester’s classroom, with a regular attendance of fifteen to twenty students. Sutton and Ashlyn alternate every week preparing a sermon and discussing it with the group. This format allows everyone to have a chance to contribute their thoughts and interpretations. Then they open up prayer requests and close in prayer.

“Everybody’s kind of able to educate and empower each other,” Sutton said, “rather than just us like spitting out a bunch of things at them, which is really cool because then Ashlyn and I are able to grow as well as everybody else in the group.”

Sutton is consistently trying to improve the way she impacts others. Through these efforts, she has noticed her relationship with God strengthening, as well as her relationship with Ashlyn. Together, they find ways to meet people where they’re at.

Every single week, Sutton realizes more and more how everybody is at a different place, so every week, she learns how to reach people on different levels. What she and Ashlyn say can be interpreted so many different ways depending on where people are in their lives.

“I open the group to absolutely anyone,” Sutton said, “wherever they’re at in their faith or just in life. They don’t have to necessarily be a Christian to be in the group as long as they just want a group of people who are [going to] support them and love them for where they’re at.”

This level of acceptance has led to an enhanced sense of community among the group. Everyone is welcome, no matter their grade, social status, or relationship with Christianity. Junior Alexander Hahn has found this to be his favorite aspect of the United Prayer Group.

He was talking to a friend when the United Prayer Group was brought into the conversation. On further inquiry, he discovered what it was and decided to give it a shot. Right away, he fell in love with it.

Alexander has formed and strengthened bonds with people he wouldn’t have otherwise known. He has also been able to help people through some difficult situations. This friendliness extends outside the individual meetings and into the hallways and classrooms. Alexander knows he can count on the friends he has made, and he is always willing to return the favor.

“The community’s probably the best part,” Alexander said. “But I mean we learn a lot too, and it’s fun because it just brings you closer to others when you’re in there. And the vulnerability is very unique. There’s not a lot of times in school where you just sit there and are openly vulnerable to a large group of people.”

The United Prayer Group is a welcome addition to FHC’s after school activities. It’s more than just a group that meets to pray; it’s a group of students that come together from many different backgrounds to unite and provide support to each other.

“I think that what’s cool with United Prayer is it’s open to absolutely anybody and everyone who wants to come,” Sutton said. “And I think that it just provides another outlet for people to get to know people and to just feel more comfortable in high school. [We’re] just getting through high school because we’re all just learning together, so it’s nice to kind of have that end of the week recap and like reset for like the next week to come.”