Home Pastors Preaching & Teaching 10 Must-Have Tips for Giving a Public Invitation

10 Must-Have Tips for Giving a Public Invitation

In churches where no one has “walked the aisle” in months, only the most courageous soul will be the first to do so. But where people are getting up and walking to the altar every service to kneel and pray, those making significant decisions find doing so much easier.

9) Pastors will want to have working sessions with everyone involved in the service in order to plan the invitation, know how to deal with responders, handle interruptions and understand the pastor’s hand signals. Hand signals? Yes, or some other nonverbal sign he may send to others involved, directing one minister to someone he might have overlooked, telling the worship leader he’s ready to end the hymn, that sort of thing.

10) Pastors do well to keep reminding themselves that they are dealing with the fine China of people’s eternal lives here. This is not about your sermon, not an affirmation of your ministry and nothing that happens here is about you. It’s about people coming to Jesus Christ and living for Him. Whatever you can do to assist them in this, you will want to do it and do it well.

A couple of dangers about public invitations …

1) Public altar calls can be abused by manipulative leaders.

Shoppers know about impulse buying. Stores situate impulse-items near the checkout and the bread and milk in the back of the store.

I fear there are those who have come under the sway of a high-powered preacher and “gone forward” during the invitation and then regretted it the moment they walked outside into the light of day. We must guard against this.

Once, before I began pastoring, our church had an evangelist whose invitation consumed a good 15 minutes every night and consisted of the same sequence: “If you want the Lord in your life, raise your hand.” “If you raised your hand, look up at me.” “If you are looking up at me, stand to your feet.” “All of you who are standing, walk to the front.” (I guarantee you after a night or two of this, people learned not to raise their hands to this guy!)

2) There is not enough time during the typical altar call to deal with people sufficiently. That’s why churches should have trained counselors ready to help those who respond and, in many cases, to invite them into an adjoining room for an unhurried visit.

3) The minister must do nothing inappropriate as he transitions into the invitation. 

The most common mistake that I’ve noticed is telling a joke or delivering a humorous line that just occurred to him. He must learn to squelch that if he wants people to come to Christ.

—All thoughts and eyes and words should be about this time of commitment. This is no time for the pastor to tell the custodian to turn down the thermostat, the youth minister to come to the front and assist him, or someone to see to the crying baby in the balcony. Tough it out, preacher. Lives hang in the balance.

I hope someone will find this helpful.  

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Joe McKeever has been a preacher for nearly 60 years, a pastor for 42 years, and a cartoonist/writer for Christian publications all his adult life. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.