This week, I had a “blast from the past” moment. I was sitting in my chair at church (you know, one of those “newer” churches that doesn’t have pews), collecting my belongings as the sermon was drawing to a close. As I was preparing to make my exit, I heard something very familiar. My pastor laid out a sample prayer (you know, the kind for starting a relationship with Christ) and then actually said something along the lines of, “I want every eye closed, and if you just prayed those words I want you to raise your hand.”
I’ve heard similar instructions hundreds of times at worship services throughout my life, but not recently—not at my church (you know, one of those “modern” churches that doesn’t offer an invitation on a weekly basis). If your church is like my church, you’ve probably noticed the disappearance of the formal invitation but haven’t exactly heard an explanation detailing the current state of practice. My hunch is that invitations often felt like an antiquated practice that, in many consistent churchgoers’ experiences, felt a little more manipulative than genuine and thus got the boot from the typical weekend worship experience.
That familiar refrain from the lips of my pastor this weekend instantly took me back to the Sundays of my childhood, but it also made me think about a reality that is true for many of the non-churched young adults we encounter. Increasingly, young adults lack a church background and don’t have a reference point for a typical route to respond to a gospel message. I’m not suggesting we make every worship service more like an old-fashioned “tent revival,” but I do think we need to think through the best ways to make it easy for young adults to respond to the gospel.
If you are regularly proclaiming the gospel during worship gatherings, here are a few ideas you might want to consider as you seek to create an atmosphere where young adults can respond to the truth of that message:
- Prayer Leaders—Place some leaders (could also be other young adults) in strategic places in the room to receive individuals who may want to pray with someone. It can be an invitation to express prayer needs, but often those with burning spiritual questions will use this time as an opportunity to connect with someone who can help them talk through their questions.
- Raise Hands—Like the example from my church, simply asking people to raise their hand if they would like to respond to the gospel message gives you an opportunity to then follow-up with individuals who expressed an internal decision.
- Response Cards—Perhaps having a card in place for individuals to fill out and indicate a decision could work best in your context. If you really want to make newer people feel comfortable filling out a card, provide decision options that would fit everyone in the crowd, and ask everyone to fill out a card to drop in a designated area.
- Walk the Aisle—You don’t want to manipulate young adults into a making a decision, but inviting them to take a physical step can help solidify a spiritual decision in their hearts and minds.
None of these suggestions are meant to be an “every week” sort of routine, but they serve as potential ideas to help you create an environment where young adults can process the truth of the gospel in a setting that might not be as familiar as it was for past generations. Young adults long to have leaders pouring into them to help them navigate life and its major decisions. Let’s make sure we are intentional in helping them navigate life’s MOST important decision.
Bill Noe is the Collegiate Ministry Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. A former campus minister (and current collegiate ministry volunteer at church), Bill loves being a part of seeing college students grow in their walk with the Lord. Connect with Bill on Twitter.