About this time every year, most church planters are already thinking about and planning that great sermon for the greatest day of the year: EASTER! But planning a great Easter celebration is more than having a great sermon. Here are the top questions I'm responding to about Easter.
1. What should I speak about on Easter?
The sermon must center around the difference Jesus makes. What does his resurrection matter and what does it mean for every person? I think simple and clear is far better than complicated and cute. Your guests and those who invited them are expecting you to talk about Jesus. Deliver!
2. Should I add services for Easter?
YES! Absolutely yes! You can be sure your attendance will multiply on this day. Statistically, the research is overwhelming that more people will say "yes" to an invitation to attend church at Easter than any other time of the year. It all depends on how easy you make it for the congregation to invite.
Adding another service to create options and makes it easier for your people to invite their family and friends. People love options! Options will allow your church to grow.
Adding another service gives people who are serving the chance to serve at one and experience one. Your volunteers will love you for it.
Adding another service helps your church "see the future." You might try adding a service at Easter and then add it permanently in the fall. Use the reason of a high attendance day to lead change.
Most do not come every week. Some research indicates that for every person who attends your church today, there at 2.1 people who identify as an attender of you church, but they just don't come every week. That means, at any given time, more than half the people who identify with your church are not present. Your MOST faithful core members will probably miss 6 to 8 Sundays a year for illness, work travel, vacations, kids activities, etc. How many Sundays will your regular member miss? 12? How about the crowd of attenders? Probably every other Sunday. Add occasional attenders who come only once a month at most and you realize your influence is much greater than what you see each week.
This is why you should not fear adding a service or services on Easter. Design opportunities to make room for your current attendance multiplied by 2.1. Remember that service attendance will not be distributed equally. Plan for 80% capacity at the highest attended time of 11 a.m. Factor that a second service will have at most 50-60% of the prime service attendance.
Plus, you are going to motivate your attenders to invite friends and family, and advertise for guests. Easter could be a big day. So you need to plan big.
There will always be the objection from someone that it's not going to be the same if we can't all be together. My answer is to ask the person who doesn't want to add services to stand at the door and when we reach capacity, tell guests, "You can't come in. We're too full." We can't do that. We are here for those who are not here yet. Let's make room by freeing up seats at the optimum time.
3. Is it a good idea to start a new series the week after Easter?
No. A big attendance day like Easter will cycle all your guests and attenders onto a single day. The following Sunday will typically be a low attendance day because most do not come to church every week. Instead, start the new series the second week after Easter. Make it a "come and see" series that will interest guests to come back. On Easter Sunday heavily promote. "In two weeks, we start a brand new series on Love, Sex and Dating." If you preach through books of the Bible, give the series a title that answers the question, "Why should I come and hear this?"
4. What are leadership essentials for Easter?
Love. Love. Love. Love people well! It's not what you say, it's what do. Love is in the details. Think through every environment from the eyes of a guest. How will you love them well from the street to the seat and back to the street again? The sermon begins in the parking lot. Details matter.
Exude love and peace. What will it take to be rested and at peace on Easter. How will you show with your whole body, your tone, the expression of your eyes, that you are experiencing the grace and love of Jesus? Too many pastors get stressed out about the big day and communicate anxiety to everyone. The messenger must match the message. Details matter, but a calm, non-anxious you matters more.
Don't just sing AT them. Include them. Choose at least one song that everyone will know and can participate on, like Amazing Grace.
Do an Easter survey. This is the one chance that you have everyone one Sunday. Ask them to write down on your connection card, "I'd like to hear a message on what the Bible says about ___." This will give you great material to preach on all year.
Cast vision. Tell them about the next series that starts in TWO weeks. Why does it matter? For example, "So many families are falling apart. In two weeks I start a new series called God's Dream for the Modern Family. In this series we'll talk about starting over, navigating a spiritual mismatch and how to discipline without anger." Show a promo video if you can.
Honor time commitments. Start and end on time, when you say you're going to start and end. This forms a huge credibility impression for good or for bad. Love is in the details.
How will you capture decisions? You do this FOR them, not because you need numbers. Help people take the next step wherever they are on their spiritual journey. I use the Spiritual Journey Guide developed by my coach, Gary Rohrmayer. Put one of these guides in everyone's hand and walk them through it. It's 100 guides for $10 — one of the best investments for Easter. Show people the clear next step you want them to take. For example, if you're ready to believe in Christ today, (next step). When you make it clear you'll be amazed at the response.
5. How much advertising is best?
First of all, it's not "advertising." It's evangelism. You are inviting people to hear the gospel. Therefore, use every means at your disposal to tell people the difference Jesus can make in their life.
Personal invite cards. This should be a business card size or double business card size folded in half. For example, #Jesus ... He's Not What You Expect. Find out more on EASTER at (church name). Add times, locations, map, website.
Social media. Have an Easter Invitation page on your website. Do an in-church text invite. During church pause and ask people to text or Facebook all their friends in church. "Will you join me for Easter? (link)" Mass send.
Update your website! (Fix broken links and remove old items).
Yard signs (check local ordinances)
Community billboards and circulars
*If you plan to use a direct mail postcard, don't waste the money on one postcard. It's not enough. You need to do at least five in a row for five weeks: Three to get awareness, and five to create action. This can seem expensive, but it's pennies per person in your community to reach people. It works! That's why you still get so much junk mail at home. Success is in the mass numbers and repetitions.
Bonus: And one question I'm not being asked: What is the role of prayer in preparing for Easter?
I wish more pastors were thinking about this. Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing." You cannot expect God to bless what you've not prayed for.
Darryn Scheske, Founding pastor of Heartland Church
Darryn Scheske is the founding pastor of Heartland Church, a multigenerational, multiethnic, multiplying church in Indianapolis.