A strong, clear conclusion will help an audience internalize and act upon the valuable truths from your message. For this reason, don’t follow the pattern of some speakers who attempt to “wing it.” While you should remain flexible and obedient to the Holy Spirit, you should still plan what you will say and what type of response or altar call you will issue. Preparation will help you avoid these common pitfalls:4
The Uncertain-Landing Conclusion
The speaker states repeatedly that she is ready to conclude, but continues to give just one more illustration or restates the message again. The audience begins to lose interest.
The Rambling Conclusion
The speaker wanders aimlessly as if lost in a fog. She seems unable to find a place to conclude her message. When she finally reaches her conclusion, she is exhausted, the audience is exhausted, and the clock chimes an opportunity lost.
The Broken-Promise Conclusion
The speaker gives the invitation and individuals respond, only to get to the altar and find the speaker fails to give them opportunity to make a commitment.
The Confusing Conclusion
The speaker vaguely states what the altar call is for, and few people respond because they are confused. She proceeds to convince people to respond, but does not clearly restate what she wants them to do and why. She becomes frustrated and embarrassed.
As you can see, it is important for you to be succinct and deliberate with your words. Keep the conclusion brief. Review the main concepts of your message, provide a story or illustration if necessary, and clearly state how you would like the audience members to individually respond.
You can decide on an appropriate response by being sensitive to the Holy Spirit before and during your message. Also, consider the layout of the room (if possible, view the room before the event takes place). Is the altar area easily accessible and large enough for everyone to fit? Be sensitive to your audience as well. Would they benefit most from praying individually rather than praying with others?
If people remain motionless in their seats, you should precisely restate the cause or need for which you are asking them to respond (i.e., salvation, healing, prayer, etc.). Restate what you would like them to do in response (i.e., come forward, pray at seats, find a partner, etc.). Then relax and allow the Holy Spirit to direct you regarding how long to keep the invitation open. Incorporating worship songs or instrumental music during this time helps to promote an attitude of prayer.
Think of a previous service when you were in the audience. What made the conclusion and response effective or ineffective?
The Apostle Paul gives public speakers wise advice: “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17, NLT). If we want to represent God in excellence, we will take time to prepare and practice the message He has laid on our hearts. We will also use creative techniques to connect with our audience the way Jesus did.
But let us also remember that polished techniques can never replace the presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul testifies about himself, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power” (1 Corinthians 2:4,5). While Paul was knowledgeable of the Scriptures and skilled in communication, he knew that God’s power was the real force behind his ministry. He and the other apostles made it a priority to saturate everything in prayer.
As Christ’s ambassador to today’s woman, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand your audience and develop your speaking ability. Allow His love to flow through your unique personality, experiences, and communication style. And after you have offered your best to Jesus, thank Him for what you see Him doing in women’s lives.
1From “19 Surefire Ways to Connect with Your Audience” by Doug Stevenson. Copyright 2003. www.dougstevenson.com
2From The Encore Effect: How to Achieve Remarkable Performance in Anything You Do, by Mark Sanborn (WaterBrook Press, 2008).
3From “Communicating So People Will Listen,” Advanced Speak Up Seminar. Presented by Carol Kent on August 11, 2008 in Springfield Missouri. Copyright 2000 Carol Kent. www.carolkent.org
4 Adapted from Program Plans for Successful Women’s Events, produced by the National Women’s Department at www.women.ag.org. No longer in print.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®. COPYRIGHT ©1973, 1978, 1984 BY INTERNATIONAL BIBLE SOCIETY®.
“Engaging Your Audience” is published by the National Women’s Department at www.women.ag.org, 2020. Permission to reproduce is limited to personal use or within a teaching setting. All other forms of use are prohibited.