Once your students are motivated to make calls to faith in their small groups, they will need to prepare. The practical steps below will help any student, staff person, or faculty member make a call to faith in their corner of campus.
BEFORE SMALL GROUP
1. Do it with a partner. If you don’t have a coleader, recruit someone from your group to pray with you. Or recruit a friend to keep you accountable to doing it.
2. Pray.On the week of your invitation, ask God to move in power in your small group. And ask him to lead who he wants to this small group and prepare their hearts.
3. Prepare.It’s crucial that you plan everything you will say, especially if this is your first time giving a call to faith. And don’t be afraid to simply read the script.
a. Your story:Connect your story to the passage to give your group a real-life example of how God works in someone’s life today.
b. The transition: “As we close our discussion, I would like to create a space for us to respond to God.”
c. The invitation:“We are a community that creates space for all of us to respond to God. Together we seek to know and follow Jesus every day. Jesus invites us into a relationship with him and into a story that is bigger than ourselves. All this is made possible by what he did on the cross. At the cross, all the power of sin and death died with Jesus; all the debts owed have been paid. And because Jesus rose again, it’s possible for us to start a new life with him. There’s two parts to this new life: one, receiving this new life, and two, surrendering our lives to him—acknowledging that he’s the leader of our lives. He gets to call the shots. And because he’s so loving, being submitted to his leadership is the safest and best place for us to be. If you are ready to start that relationship with Jesus—whether for the first time or as a coming back to him—I would like to invite you to pray this prayer with me.”
d. The response prayer:“God, I believe Jesus is your Son, the Savior of the world. I believe he died on the cross for me, taking away the power of sin and paying the penalty for my sins. I believe in my heart that you raised Jesus from the dead and that he is alive today. I ask that you forgive me for the wrongs that I have done. I receive your forgiveness into my life. By faith I receive Jesus as leader over every part of my life. Change me and make me the person you want me to be. I commit to be a member of your family on earth pursuing your healing purposes for the world. I give you my heart, I give you my life, and I want to know you more! In Jesus’ name, amen.”
DURING SMALL GROUP
1. Stick to the plan. You have thoughtfully prepared, so trust Jesus with the plan. Don’t let the Enemy talk you out of doing this at the last minute.
2. Give everyone a heads-up.Early in the small group, or even the week before, mention that there will be a time to respond in the end. This gives people some time to process and make an intentional decision. For example, you might say something like, “At the end of our Bible study, I will make some space for us to respond to God.”
3. Have them respond. Ask them to raise their hands, stand up, mark something on a piece of paper, or write their decision down and share it with someone else in the group. Whatever you do, make sure to give them an opportunity to respond. InterVarsity staff member Christy Gates shared this example from a community college small group: “As we shared the gospel, we wrote the gospel diagram on a piece of paper. Then we passed it around the group and had everyone mark where they were on the same paper. Then we had people share about where they marked.”
4. Tarry.Don’t rush this. Be present in the moment. Ask three times in three different ways. As people raise their hands, ask what that means for them. Pray for them as a group. InterVarsity staff member Shelly Scott explained what this looked like for a few of her groups: “They warned everyone beforehand, tied it into the Scripture they had been studying, tarried, asked about three times in three different ways for each group, and then gave everyone a chance to keep thinking about it and talk with the leaders any time about it. So they left it open for people to respond right then and there to choose to follow Christ, or they would give them a week and check back in with everybody individually. Everyone opted for the latter. As far as I know, none of the members have come to Christ, but it has led to some very good conversations between non-believers and the small group leaders.”
5. Pray. When you do invite people to pray with you to give their lives to Jesus, you can tell them to repeat after you, either silently or out loud.
6. Debrief and celebrate as a group. Take time in your small group to discuss what just happened for everyone and celebrate the responses. For example, you could say, “Thank you for your vulnerability and for your responsiveness to God’s work in your lives. Response is the most important part of our relationship with God.”
7. Close the group. At the end of the small group, make sure you have people fill out a response card so that you know what happened for them and can do a solid follow-up.
AFTER SMALL GROUP
1. Follow up. Using the response cards, connect with all who made a decision within two-to-three days. Set up a time to meet face-to-face, so that you can ask them what their decision meant for them and guide them with their first few steps in faith. The GROW: Learning to Follow Jesus guide can be a helpful starting place for a new disciple.
2. Debrief the decisions and non-decisions individually. Examples: “What did that decision mean for you?” “What do you need to make a decision?” “What are your next steps to follow Jesus more fully?” “What are your next steps in investigating Jesus more?”
3. Debrief with your coleader or prayer partner.Examples: “What was your experience of God in taking this risk?” “How have you changed as a leader?” “How is this affecting your faith?”
In the end, trust God and have fun! When you lead in a way that makes space for God to move, it will feel risky and joyful.
**Thank you to the following people who did some crazy risk-taking on the ground and wrote up their experiences so calls to faith could be done in every corner: Geoff Gentry, Casey Groff, Greg Johnson, Kelly Joiner, Shannon Lamb, Ryan Pfeiffer, and Shelly Scott.