How to Give an Altar Call

A close-up of a microphone on the podium in front of church pews.
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An altar call is the moment at the end of some Christian worship services when the pastor invites individuals to respond to God's teachings by publicly professing their faith. Beginning in the 1830s, ministers used the altar call to determine how many people actually responded to their preaching. While offering a sermon, always bear in mind that the final point of your teaching is not only to encourage people, but to bring the congregation to a decision-making point.

Identify your audience when preparing your sermon. Determine, for example, whether you will be speaking to teenagers, adults or a mixed audience of all ages. Understand the general needs of your listeners, and plan an invitation that will show compassion and concern for their individual lives. Consider whether most listeners are knowledgeable about the Bible or whether they are new to attending church.

Determine the main point of your sermon. Remember that your aim is to present God’s word and guide your congregation to make a decision based on your teaching. The subject matter influences the type of decisions that people will make at the altar call.

Draw your sermon to a close and guide the listeners to a point of decision about their faith. Explain the many types of decisions, such as joining the church, repenting from wrongdoing, choosing to be baptized or simply praying for a hurting friend.

Ask members of the congregation to individually come forward to publicly announce a decision. Emphasize that their stepping forward is between them and God. Encourage listeners to set aside any lingering doubts and follow through with the decision they feel that God is leading them to make. Ask each listening to silently pray at his seat, come forward to pray at the altar, or speak with the pastor or other church staff member.

Offer counseling and followup sessions to anyone who comes forward during the altar call. Sit and pray together or plan a meeting later in the week to further discuss the issues at hand. Offer materials that may help, such as information about struggling marriages or addictions, or simply give a Bible to someone who does not have one.

Kimberly Dyke is a Spanish interpreter with a B.A. in language and international trade from Clemson University. She began writing professionally in 2010, specializing in education, parenting and culture. Currently residing in South Carolina, Dyke has received certificates in photography and medical interpretation.