This article is part of the 2Calls2Faith campaign to encourage InterVarsity staff to give calls to faith at the first two large groups of the semester.
As you prepare to make a call to faith, keep in mind the general structure below. Of course, go as the Spirit leads you, but you can take the following as a starting point.
Cue the Students
At some point in the message there needs to be a statement of intent that lets students know ahead of time that they will be invited to make a public response of faith to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.
One example is something as simple as, “Later tonight, I will be giving you a chance to respond to Jesus’ call on your life to follow him.”
Or here's another example: “In just a few moments, you will have a chance to ‘get out of your boat’ like Peter and step out in faith to follow Jesus.” (This is an example based on Matthew 14 where Peter walks on water with Jesus.)
Play a Response Song
I always prefer to have one worship song immediately preceding the call to faith. I usually work with the worship leader to pick a song that serves as a reflective moment to help students recognize God’s voice speaking to them and prepare them to respond to the call to faith.
I may set up the response song in one of the following ways:
“I want to invite the worship team to come up right now. As the band plays this song, the chorus says ‘_________.’ I want you to reflect on what that means for you right now.”
“I want to invite the worship team to come up right now. As the band plays this song, I want to give us a moment to pause and decide if we are ready to make a decision to begin following Jesus (or recommit our lives to following Jesus) tonight.”
“I want to invite the worship team to come up right now. In just a few minutes, I am going to give you a chance to respond to Jesus. He’s calling out to you tonight. Will you receive him?”
Give the Call
I think the ideal length of a call to faith is 5-10 minutes. It’s a stretch to go longer. If it’s your first time, I strongly recommend writing out the invitation beforehand.
Connect the call back to the message or passage that has been preached.
Build off the momentum of your last 30-40 minutes of preaching. For example:
“Tonight we saw what happened when Jesus got into Peter’s boat. Jesus wants to come into your life tonight.”
“In the same way we see Zacchaeus transformed by his encounter with Jesus, God wants to transform your life as well....”
Make sure they understand that they have a choice to make, a decision to make, a step to take.
"Tonight, we saw what happened when Jesus got into Peter’s boat. Jesus wants to come into your life tonight, but you have to receive him. Jesus takes the initiative, but he always leaves the choice to us to either receive or put him off.”
“In the same way we see Jesus call Zacchaeus out of the tree, he wants to call you out tonight. And, like Zacchaeus, you have to decide if you want to let Jesus into your life or if you just want to remain hidden in the crowd.”
Clearly state the gospel.
This can be stated in many ways and there is no one formula. Even in the New Testament, different elements of the gospel are emphasized.
“Jesus died on the cross not just for the world, but also specifically for you. He didn’t just die, but he also rose from the dead, defeating the power of sin and death and evil. He has made a way for you to enter in to God’s eternal life right now, tonight.”
“Jesus died and rose from the dead, breaking the power of sin, so you could be forgiven of all your sin. There is nothing that you have done or that has been done to you that can stand between you and God. But you have to receive this forgiveness, and receive Jesus as leader and savior of your life.”
Be specific and direct about how you are asking them to respond.
For first-time decisions, you might say:
“If you are ready to accept Jesus as the Leader and Savior of your life, please stand right now wherever you are sitting. The act of standing is a step of faith. And Jesus said that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains. One small act of faith can become a life-changing movement of transformation in our life.”
“If you are ready to begin following Jesus, please _______________ [whatever you are inviting them to do].”
For recommitments, you could say:
“For some of you, you know Jesus, but you have lost touch with Jesus. And you know it’s time to make him the number-one priority in your life again. Stand up if you are ready to [rededicate, recommit, renew] your dedication to him.”
For those who grew up in a Christian context but haven't followed Jesus:
“For many of you, you have grown up knowing about Jesus, but you have never really had a personal relationship with Jesus. You’ve known God from a distance, but tonight, Jesus is calling you closer. If you are ready to take that step, please [stand, raise your hand, look up at me, etc.] right now.”
Ask three times.
When I first began giving calls to faith, I would ask one time, and then stand there, waiting in silence for people to respond. It’s awkward. I never do this anymore.
Instead, I give three distinct calls to “please stand/raise your hand/look up at me.” Each invitation is immediately followed by, at most, a three-second pause. After the pause, I give an encouragement or challenge, followed by the next invitation. Each invitation becomes more challenging.
I like to weave in at least one illustration for why it’s valuable to make a public response. For example, I might use a wedding analogy: “I know it may feel crazy to stand, and you may be asking, ‘Why do I need to be so public about this? Can’t I keep this private?’ Listen, our faith is personal, but never private. When I got married, I publicly proclaimed my love for my wife in front of 300 people. It was a profoundly personal moment, but it wasn’t private. In the same way, Jesus took the stand for his love for you 2,000 years ago on the cross, so that tonight you would have the courage to stand for him.”
Close with a prayer.
After you have made a few invitations, lead the students in a prayer, confessing their newfound faith in Jesus.
Once you have them standing, it’s so much easier to have them come down to the front so they can pray with a follow-up student leader and give you their contact information. Here’s how we do it:
“If you just prayed that prayer, please come down here and pray with someone on our prayer team. This will help solidify the experience you just had and make it more personal. We don’t want this to just be an emotional one-time experience; we want to help you nurture and grow your newfound relationship with Jesus.”
“So please, come on down and pray with someone. They’re going to ask you what your decision meant for you tonight and pray with you. It’ll be short and sweet.”
“If your friend is coming down, feel free to join them and come down with them as a sign of your support and friendship.” This makes it more comfortable for the new believers, and also sets up a natural follow-up method that moves along the lines of the primary relationships.
Prepare a student follow-up team.
Set aside some students who will be down in the front of the room waiting to pray with the new believers. I cue this team to come to the front when I step up to the podium after the response song, right before I give the invitation.
These students are trained to do the following:
They always ask, “What did standing up mean for you tonight?” We never assume why a student stands and responds. It also helps a new believer to articulate their own response.
The student leads them in a prayer appropriate for their response, whether they have made a first-time/adult decision, or they have rededicated or recommitted their lives to Jesus.
They fill out a contact card for the new believer by asking for the relevant information. They might say: “We want to be here for you to help you grow and take the next steps in your relationship with God. Can I get your info to catch up with you later to see if I can be of any help?”
We always ask for their name, cell number, email, and the type of decision they made. For this last category, we present a list of options. Sometimes the student leader knows which to circle based on the conversation; otherwise they ask the new believer, “Which one best describes your decision tonight?”
Different fellowships have different ways of following up. But, having them come forward is key, because you are more likely to get their contact info and more likely to get them discipled.
Ultimately, “the wind blows where it chooses” (John 3:8). Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit. Still, these steps can help raise the ministry sails to catch the winds when they come.