Timing is EVERYTHING!
Give them an opportunity when the atmosphere is right. Deliver a message and invite children to respond. Don’t expect them to go home and respond. Yes, some might do that too. But I’m not going to take the chance. The Holy Spirit will begin to prepare the hearts of the children as the Word of God is presented. If you don’t give children a chance to respond to the work that’s being done in their heart, then the Holy Spirit is being held… or bound from doing what He wants to do. Remember, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman – He will wait for you to invite Him to intervene and operate.
The timing and types of altar calls must fit the purpose and message in your service in order to determine how effective the time at the altar will be. In developing my children’s services, I start on an “up” note… put the serious things in the middle… and then progressively build the excitement and end on an “up” note.
In this way the intensity of the service comes to a very serious point about half way to two thirds of the into the service. Then it will pick back up again from there to the end.
The reason that I put the altar call toward the middle and then more stuff at the end is simple. The altar time needs to be given as much time as the Holy Spirit needs. We have already covered the other bases of a children’s service… Prayer time has now been allotted a block of time – with some wiggle room.
We keep the remaining events for after the altar time. But I always try to be strategic in choosing the last items for the service: review questions/review games, related story and closing songs can be sacrificed. Yep, that’s right – I plan stuff that may never happen. Because that will give the “right of way” to the Holy Spirit’s moving and timing to another 15 minutes if we need it. So now we have a lot or time for prayer and response. And those last items aren’t just time-fillers because we can throw them out. Children can still benefit from review and another Fun song that emphasizes the theme for the day.