Altar Care Ministry
We are looking for guidelines, resources, and training ideas to help make our workers more effective in helping those who have responded to altar calls. What procedures do other churches use to train their altar workers? What process do you take people through who respond to altar calls, and how do they do it? Are there any resources or outlines available for training altar care workers? What materials do you put into the hands of new converts, and how do you follow up on them? We want to see our altar care team better trained, better equipped, and more effective. What suggestions do other pastors have?
Pastor Mike Cameneti – Canton, OH
1. What procedures do other churches use to train their altar workers?
At Faith Family Church, our volunteers must first complete our membership class. This helps new people understand the basic doctrines of our church and gives them knowledge of specific policies and responsibilities that all volunteers must follow in order to operate in their areas of ministry effectively while keeping the pastor’s heart for the ministry.
Once the membership class is complete, we have a seven-week training process for prayer room workers. The prayer room trainee is assigned to a prayer room trainer who begins the training process with an informal interview that gives the new prayer room trainee a chance to explain their heart and give any personal information about themselves. While the prayer room trainer gets to know the new trainee, they are instructed to be attentive and look for any areas, displays or discussion that might be a red flag and may cause areas of concern if the trainee is permitted to minister in our prayer room.
On a weekly basis the prayer room trainer will cover the information in our prayer room manual in detail. Simultaneously, the new trainee will shadow a prayer room trainer they are assigned to during regular service times. Our prayer room manual contains information from dress code and hygiene to scripture and other information pertaining to Prayer Room involvement.
At the end of the training session, the trainee is asked to complete a review test covering the previous weeks of study and shadowing. Upon successful completion, they will begin to work alongside seasoned prayer room volunteers. They will not yet lead in the prayer room, but will help assist until we feel they are confident and prepared enough to lead.
2. What process do you take people through who respond to altar calls, and how do they do it?
People that respond to the altar call are brought to the prayer room where they are addressed concerning the three invitations given for salvation, rededication, and baptism in the Holy Spirit. People are only ministered to for these areas. Salvation and rededication are covered first. Scripture is given to those who have responded for the invitation that pertain to each area they came for and then they are prayed for. These people are then dismissed and we address those who came for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The group that responded to the altar call is usually addressed by just one prayer room volunteer (the leader), rather than one-on-one with all volunteers. This helps keep the flow smooth while ministering and gives the “leader” the ability to orchestrate the flow.
3. Are there any resources or outlines available for training altar care workers?
At this time our training is all done in house with a prayer room training team as mentioned above.
4. What materials do you put into the hands of new converts, and how do you follow up on them?
We give those that answered the altar call a CD by our pastor that is both encouraging and instructs them on the decisions they have just made. They also receive a book by Kenneth Copeland entitled, “He Did it All for You,” as well as a few mini books by Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin titled, “In Him,” and “Why Tongues.”
5. We want to see our altar care team better trained, better equipped, and more effective. What suggestions do other pastors have?
When choosing who is right for working in your prayer room it is important that volunteers are trustworthy, knowledgeable, and personable. Prayer room leaders must be confident in knowing how to keep the prayer room flow focused and have the scriptural knowledge of how to help people receive what they came to the altar for.
Pastor David Emigh – Sand Springs, OK
I believe Altar Care is one of the most important ministries in the church. We have developed a manual that we use at Word of Life and we have the seminar on CD. Anyone who works with the people that respond to the altar call must attend this class. We have everyone that responds to come to the front where I pray a general prayer for them and then release them with our team leader of that area. They take them to a room where the counselors are waiting. We minister to them, take all information, and then give to them mini books on the subject they came forward for. We do a follow up phone call the next week. They also receive a letter from me reinforcing the decision they made.
We do the same thing with our teens and children. We give out materials to them that they can relate to. We give anyone a Bible that needs one. I would gladly sow one of our workbooks and a set of CD’s to anyone who desires a set. You can e-mail me at email@example.com.
Pastor John White – Decatur, AL
This has been an always evolving process ever since I have been pastoring. What works today might not work next year. Our culture dictates how we minister to the people. The following is what we have found to work best for us at this time.
When I give an invitation I do not call the people forward. I have response cards on the back of every row. At the end of every service I give an invitation and lead the entire congregation in prayer. I then have those making commitments to please fill out one of the response cards and leave it on their chair or give it to an usher at the conclusion of the service. I then call my altar workers forward and let the people know that we will be available to pray with anyone needing prayer. I then dismiss the congregation. Those who come to the altar for prayer, after praying for them, we give them material that pertains to their needs. We have several mini books by different authors that we use. We also give a Bible to those who need one.
Since I have started this procedure we have had more response to our altar calls than ever before. Multiple people are saved in every service.
The day after the service, we contact those who filled out a response card. I have a person on staff who does this. We also write a letter and have started including a mini book, “Welcome to the Family,” by Kenneth Copeland, or “In Him,” by Kenneth Hagin, or “Why Tongues,” by Kenneth Hagin, depending on the need and whether or not we gave them that material at the altar.
I have a person that is in charge of recruiting and training our altar workers, but I always have to approve their selections. We have at least 12 altar workers available for every service. This number would depend on the size of your congregation. However, I have found the more workers available, the more people will feel free to come for prayer.
Our procedure might not work best for others but it is the best thing we have ever tried. Anyone who would like more information on how we do things, please feel free to contact me.
Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA
Altar care is a direct extension of the pastoral ministry and must have the pastor’s heart. Our altar care team is made up of home cell group leaders creating a natural invitation to further fellowship and follow-up. Home group leaders or other pastoral leaders are preferred over “gifted” people because you want to help people connect to the church for continued care.
With new salvations we make sure they understood what they prayed, reinforce and encourage them, invite them to meet the pastor and sign up for the next baptism, and invite them to a home group. It usually works best when the altar care worker is a home group leader inviting them to their own house. We have bibles to give away if they don’t have one. We also give a copy of Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty’s mini-book, This New Life.
With healing or other prayer needs, we let people talk for a few minutes but then ask them to be specific as to how we can pray for them. We ask our altar care team not to give counsel but to offer prayer. Many times people will ask important questions like “Should I quit my job?” These questions are forwarded to the pastor. Afterwards, they’re invited to a home group if they’re not in one.
So, the main things are, first using existing pastoral or home care leaders, or at least loyal people with a long track record of faithfulness to the church (because we have had difficulty with “gifted” people trying to attract people to themselves). And secondly, it’s important to create an easy invitation to connect with the church through a cell group or other ministry.
The altar care team is a vital extension of your pastoral ministry in the first line of care for the harvest and taking them to the next level with Christ and the local church.
Pastor Matt Beemer – UK & North Africa
We called it ‘After Care Ministry’ once I realized we didn’t have an altar in our church and most of the people we were raising up as leaders in our ‘Altar Care’ had never seen one. Also, something that worked well on many levels is that I would turn the service over to someone on our leadership team to give a ‘Call to Action’. This came out of my realizing that we gave the offering a ‘slot’, and shouldn’t we put more emphasis on the more important spiritual aspects of the service by having a really focused slot for a strong ‘Call to Action’. This was especially good when we were doing multiple services – I found that by the end of the 2nd and 3rd services on a Sunday AM, I was a little drained to really minister from my heart during these important times. When a ‘minister in training’ was given a chance to do the ‘Call to Action’ they gave it their entire focus and, especially with practice, did a much better job than I would have done after ministering the Word.
Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV
Our church is small, yet we have seen a lot of people saved in the last seven years. Less than 5% of those receiving salvation have been adults. We have had over 50 children, pre-teens, and teens saved. So, really, altar workers, per se have not been involved. We encourage the new convert to immediately tell someone that they have received the Lord. They need to make that confession out of their mouths as soon as possible. It strengthens them to say it and of course encourages them when others immediately want to rejoice with them. At times we have given out Kenneth E. Hagin’s book concerning the New Birth. It is an excellent resource and is simple to read and understand. We encourage other children and youth who have been saved for a while to keep in contact with the new convert between church meetings.
I had the privilege of attending the very first church service at Rhema Bible Church while I was a student at RBTC. I was an usher there for a couple of years. I always liked the fact that they had a separate room to take the new converts to after their salvation experience. They had people trained to answer their questions and had literature to hand them on the spot. I think that this is a wise way to do this if you are able.
I once served at a church of 700 people. I was an assistant pastor and there were two other assistants. The senior pastor always gave the altar calls and as people came forward. We assistants and our wives acted as the altar workers. It worked really well. We led many to the Lord in those days.
Pray and ask the Lord to send you people that have a great hunger to share the good news of Jesus. I believe that you will recognize them when they arrive. Train them with all the love and kindness that is found within you. Let them practice with saved people. Don’t be afraid to be real. The more comfortable they are when the time comes to make decision for eternity, the stronger your ministry will become.
Pastor Mark Garver – Madison, AL
I usually give a two-fold altar call for salvation and restoration back to God, and sometimes I give an altar call for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. After I pray with those who have responded to an altar call, our altar care directors and their helpers will escort them to a designated place to minister to them more thoroughly. The altar care team leads them back to a prayer room where they will greet them and find out which part of the altar call caused them to respond. Everyone is personally ministered to and talked to about salvation and restoration and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is introduced to them. We minister to each person quickly and effectively.
We have a packet that we give to each person who responds to an altar call. This packet includes an altar care form which they complete which has all the information we need to effectively minister to them. The Altar Care form is in triplicate: the white copy goes to church office for our database, the yellow one goes to our Faith Foundations leader, and the pink stays with the Altar Care worker for follow up. In the packet we also give them three different sheets of paper full of scripture references that will help solidify what the Lord has just done for them, one on salvation, one on restoration, and one on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. We give them four books, “The New Birth,” “Why Tongues,” and “In Him” (all by Kenneth E. Hagin), and “Welcome to the Family” (by Kenneth Copeland). They also have a personal letter from me congratulating them on their most important decision and encouraging them to take the next step and get established in church. I encourage them to read their Bible daily and become part our church if they live in our area. I then encourage them to become part of our Faith Foundations class. We include a brochure of our Faith Foundations class in their packet. Faith Foundations is basically our new believer’s class. This is a place they can get some very personal attention and meet some of the people from our church. We help them get acclimated to the Word of God by teaching five important but very basic classes. We offer these classes on a rotating basis so that no matter when they have answered the altar call they can immediately start the classes the next Sunday. These are the classes we teach: (1) What is a Pastor and Why Do I Need One?, (2) The Integrity of the Word, (3) The Holy Spirit, (4) Healing, and (5) Why God Wants You Blessed Financially.
We have found the follow-up to be the most important and the most frustrating for our workers. We have really encouraged those who invited the person who responded to the altar call to help us keep them in church and get them to the Faith Foundations classes. We also get our “Catch Team” involved. That is the group that follows up on first-time attendees. We are hopeful that with these three different groups (the friend who brought them, the Catch team, and the Altar Care worker) ministering to the new convert or those who came back to the Lord, we will get an opportunity to disciple them so they can fulfill the destiny on their individual lives.
As far as training the Altar Care team, many years ago, I personally trained our first Altar Care leaders. Since then, I have a staff person who oversees this area. I would say that the best way to get what you want is to train them to do it the way you would do it if you had the time and the ability to be in multiple places at once. I taught my altar care team to be warm and caring, not just clinical. I taught them to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I also taught them how to locate where a person is by getting them to talk to you. The leader has trained each worker that is currently helping, so the team is a cohesive unit. A book we have used in the past is, “Altar Work 101” by Rodney Lynch. I think this book will give you a lot of good ideas that you can adapt for your church.