Prophetic Ministry In Church Life: Why Have Guidelines?

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy… But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.’ (1 Cor 14:39-40, TNIV)

Guidelines are to prophetic ministry, as railway tracks are to a train. They provide a way for the gift of prophecy, along with other revelatory gifts, to be released and fulfil their God-intended purpose.

The Apostle Paul gave clear guidelines for prophetic ministry to the Corinthian Church. He advised the church to put protocols into place for prophecy to operate in church meetings. (1 Cor 14:26-33)

Healthy guidelines don’t hinder; rather, they provide a way for spiritual gifts to flow, whilst ensuring they do so safely and effectively. [1]

What I Learned About Prophetic Guidelines

I have not always appreciated guidelines and leadership in church life.

Years ago, when I was in danger of going ‘off the rails’ altogether in my prophetic ministry, God intervened in my life. I tell the story of my journey, repentance and restoration in my book, ‘Prophetic People In A Changing Church.’ [2]

The most significant thing God did during this time was to teach me the value of honouring and submitting to church leadership in the use of spiritual gifts.

Later, as a prophetic leader in our church, this value was the single most important factor that enabled me to help grow a thriving prophetic/ prayer ministry.

It enabled me to lead and teach our team in such a way that the people on our team, and their spiritual gifts, flourished.

As a result:

  • Opportunities for prophetic ministry increased when our pastor and leadership team were assured that it was operating within a safe framework
  • Our prophetic people had the assurance of knowing what our protocols were, and experienced freedom within the framework of these
  • And the congregation benefited from the exercise of a loving, and safe prophetic ministry that brought great blessing to the church.

Whenever situations came up in prophetic ministry that I was unsure about, I would talk it over with my pastor and clarify the particular guidelines of our church.

Guidelines are to prophetic ministry, as railway tracks are to a train. Too many times we have seen prophetic ministry derailed, sidelined and disused in church life. Sometimes this has followed a crash—some event involving misuse or abuse of prophetic gifts.

A major benefit of guidelines and protocols is that they help prevent these situations from occurring. Should an issue arise, they also provide a reference and guide for restoration—while enabling continuing freedom for the gift to operate in the church.

Why Have Prophetic Guidelines?

I actively encourage guidelines in church life. In fact, during my prophetic training sessions, I teach the importance of following general guidelines, as well as the unique protocols that exist in churches.

Here are 7 important reasons for having guidelines and protocols in place:

1.There is a Biblical precedent for them. The Apostle Paul encouraged prophetic accountability and protocols in the life of the church (1 Cor 12, 14)

2.They provide a framework within which spiritual gifts can be released and operate freely with accountability

3.They prevent the cycle that is so prevalent in church today: Gifts released…damaging event…gifts suppressed…gifts released…and so on.

4.Guidelines can be pointed to when something unhealthy or potentially damaging occurs that needs to be addressed

5.They bring everyone ‘on the same page,’ e.g. if a new person comes into the church who has prophetic gifts but has a differing perspective on their use, it gives you something to refer to

6.They help provide a safe environment for a. pastors and leaders, b. prophetic people and c. the congregation (and therefore builds confidence in prophetic ministry)

7.They provide a means of pastoring prophetic people and intercessors in the church

Guidelines for Other Revelatory Gifts

Prophetic people frequently gravitate towards prayer-related ministries, such as intercession, in the church.

I believe that prayer ministry areas particularly benefit from having a defined framework in which to operate in the use of spiritual gifts. [3] This is because intercessors and pray-ers frequently operate in revelatory gifts including:

  • Discernment
  • Intercession (revelation on how to pray, what to pray, the burden to pray, etc)
  • Prophecy
  • Word of knowledge

What Kinds of Prophetic Guidelines can a Church Have?

The following situations may benefit from having specific guidelines and protocols in place:

  • Personal prophecies (given from individuals to individuals within the church)
  • Prophecies or revelatory insights (discernment, etc.) concerning the church, its direction or vision
  • Prophecies for the congregation, pertaining to particular church services
  • What to do when an unhealthy or potentially damaging event occurs (e.g. someone brings an ‘off’ prophecy)
  • What to do with a word that is not purely encouragement; e.g. is directional, a warning, etc
  • A track for people who desire to operate and grow in prophetic ministry

If you are a person in the church who is gifted in prophecy or other revelatory gifts, be willing to allow your pastor and/or leadership team to adjust guidelines as the church changes and grows.

A Note for Pastors

If you are a pastor or leader, when communicating guidelines, I recommend that you share the reasons for them and particularly, the benefits of them. As you do, convey your vision and passion for the release and blessing of spiritual gifts in the life of your church.

Your protocols will be unique to your church and are affected by a number of factors. These may include:

  • The unique vision and values of your church
  • The size of your congregation
  • Your desired outcomes for prophetic ministry
  • The needs and history of your church


[1] I understand that there can sometimes be confusion between healthy guidelines that release ministry, versus unhealthy control that quenches the life of the Spirit. Feel free to leave any questions about this in the comments section.

[2] For key principles and my personal journey related to prophetic ministry in church life, see my e-book  Prophetic People in a Changing Church

[3] I have discussed the gift of discernment extensively in this blog. See the following post in particular:

6 Tips For Exercising The Gift Of Discernment In Church Life

Related Post:

Prophetic Ministry In Church Life: 3 Non-Negotiables

Prayer Ministry Ideas And Guidelines

© Helen Calder 2011 Enliven Blog

On team with David McCracken Ministries: Prophetic Ministry That Empowers The Church

Do you have any experiences or questions to share on the topic of prophetic guidelines and protocols in church life? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment in the comments box below. If the comments box is not visible, click on this link and scroll down.