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.

7 thoughts on “Prophetic Ministry In Church Life: Why Have Guidelines?”

  1. I made a comment previously concerning a prophecy given to my friend, at my now previous church, in which the Pastor’s wife prophesied to her that when she began to do the new thing some of her friends were going to leave, they wouldn’t change, because she’s faithful to God, and they didn’t like her anyway. Needless to say, she played this prophecy for me and to an insecure person who is lonely and in a frame of thought that this is her only friend and if she leaves she’ll have no one, this was not a good thing. I came under bondage to my friend, didn’t want to set her off, because if I didn’t remain her friend, I wasn’t going to change and I wouldn’t do the new thing. This church prophesies every Sunday and they do prophetic training, they have guidelines in place in which there is one woman who judges all of the words before they are released to the congregation, if she is not there, I’ve only seen one male deacon judge the prophecies. This prophecy given by the Pastor’s wife was not judged by anyone before it was released to the congregation. Not to mention I have seen numerous times that people who are considered to have the title of Prophet release words without having them judged. Would this be the unhealthy guidelines and damage that can happen as a result of prophecy in a church? All I can say is that if the word were true it damaged my life. I am slowly repairing my relationship with God and I have left that church, and cut ties with them and my friend. Should all of these things happen as a result of a prophecy?

    1. Hi Lolli, I am sad to hear of the very difficult journey you have been through. Although I don’t know enough background to make a comment on the specific incident you have mentioned, a couple of thoughts do come to mind.

      An important part of pastoring prophetic ministry in church life is teaching people how to respond to and weigh up personal prophecy. You may find my article, ‘What To Do With Your Personal Prophecy’ helpful. This is available for download on the David McCracken Ministries website on the June-July free resources page. You can access it here:

      Also I have had some discussions on the following blog post (you will need to read the comments section too) which may help you:

      Personal prophecy should never result in hurt or damage to relationships–that is certainly not the Father’s intention, nor is it the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
      Lolli, I pray that you continue to find healing and a safe place to emerge again.

  2. Thank you for the help and thank you for your blogs. I appreciate knowing i’m not the only one who struggles but that others have overcome by the grace of God.

  3. I felt saddened to read Lolli’s comments – which, in turn, reminded me how important it is to have ‘healthy guidelines’, as you mention at the beginning of the blog.

    In your training material on the prophetic, you’ve mentioned that a prophetic word is meant to “build up, cheer up and lift up” – and I think that is a key for any of us as we pray for people or minister a prophetic word.

    Thanks for sharing out of your wealth of experience to help others grow in the prophetic

  4. Thanks Jenny 🙂 and your reminder about ‘build up, lift up, cheer up’ (1 Cor 14:3) is timely for this post.
    The KISS principle for prophecy: If we were to keep to this one simple, Biblical guideline, especially for personal prophecy, then a lot of damage that is done today in the name of ‘prophecy’ would be avoided.
    Or even Jesus’ guideline… ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:31).
    1 Cor 13 is in the heart of Paul’s discussion on gifts. Let’s love, and then speak…

  5. Pastor Augustin Omana

    Dear Pastor Helen,
    Greetings in the name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ;hoping that all is well with you ;am doing fine with my wife and ministry we are called for; Am Augustin Omana from Burundi;am leading a church named Mount Calvary Holy Ministry. I have visited your Web-site and was interested how God is using you in ministry of God. I wish to partner with you so that we can work together here in Burundi. You are most welcome to visit us here in Burundi , Also please I’m interest to come to your conference will be held on ( 2013 ), I will be happy to remain in contact Yours faithfully, Please we has a hungry of learn the word of God
    Pastor Augustin Omana
    Po Box 404
    Mobile Phone/+ 25779560049
    E-mail : [email protected]
    Mount Calvary Holy Ministry

  6. Chontae Taingahue

    Hi Helen.
    Its Chontae from New Zealand. How are you my friend?

    I’m wondering if you’ve got a template to use for churches to use as a guideline. I’m implementing our church guidelines for prayer and prophecy.

    Talk soon

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