by Dick Gruber, D.Min./ June 14, 2016
The girl knelt at an altar in Winter Park, Florida. I’d just invited boys and girls to come down and pray to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. This twelve-year-old knelt weeping. As my wife Darlene and I drew near, we could hear her saying over and over again, “I’m so bad, I’m so bad.”
Do’s and Don’ts When Giving a Salvation Invitation
The little girl described above had never set foot in a church in her life until that evening. She felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. She knew she was a sinner. The only way she knew to express this was to say, “I’m so bad.” Darlene and I led her to the Lord and then into receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit that evening. Her case brings to mind several principles when giving invitations.
Let Them Come
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me…” He didn’t instruct us to bribe, scare, or coerce them to come. Let them come as the Holy Spirit convicts. Remember when giving an invitation that, whether two or twenty children respond, it is God bringing them down, not you. You cannot save anybody. Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. Be faithful in presenting the gospel, then let children come as the Spirit draws them in.
Make No Assumptions
First, do not assume that children have knowledge of the Bible. Some children you encounter have never heard basic Bible stories. Explain salvation in such a way that the biblically illiterate child can understand.
Second, do not assume a child is coming to the front to pray about your invitation. Most kids responding will pray about whatever you presented. Some need to pray about the pressing issues of their lives before dealing with your action point. I instruct my altar workers to ask the child what he or she came down to pray about.
The child may be concerned about his grandmother. She may need healing for herself or a family member. He might want prayer for the family pet. Pray about the child’s request before reintroducing the topic of your service. Once free of personal concerns, the child will easily pray about your current action point or big idea.
Third, do not assume children not responding are non-responsive. Your active learners will usually be the first down at every altar call. Children with other learning styles may feel more comfortable responding in their seats. Repetitive pleas due to low response only makes children feel guilty or pressured. These are two motives that should be avoided at all costs.
Allow time for all children to pray. Remember, the altar only starts in the front of the room. From there, it spreads throughout a child’s life. Altar time can be just as valid at their chairs as in their back yard or local mall.
A Kind Invitation
Remember back to your childhood. One day at school, you received a colorful personalized invitation to a friend’s birthday party. Two things stood out. One, it was personal. Make your invitations personal. Utilize statements like, “Some of you want to respond today,” or “You are sitting there, and you know that you’ve sinned. Jesus loves you.” Be positive in this personal approach.
The second thing that stood out about the birthday invitation is that it was friendly. It wasn’t scary, intimidating, or hurtful. Keep your invitations bright, kind, loving, and calm. Quiet your voice as you present the invitation. Calmly explain, more than once if needed, exactly what children are responding to that day.
When following these simple guidelines, you will discover that children experience a genuine response to your kind invitation. Pray, work on, write, and practice invitations with as much fervor as you do the Bible story or object lesson for each week’s service.