Executive director of creative arts at Eagle Brook Church
Point Magazine // January 2019
Christmas and Easter happen every year. We’ll take care of them when we get around to it, right? Plus, there’s always “the next” weekend to plan, prepare and deliver. It’s not easy to find time to start thinking early about Christmas or Easter when you’ve always got the next weekend to lead.
Trust me, in my role as executive director of creative arts at Eagle Brook Church, I know all too well the difficulty in trying to plan, prepare and deliver each weekend experience, let alone the “Big 3 Weekends” – Christmas, Easter and fall kickoff.
But here’s the thing: Those weekends are too important to treat just like the other 49. Why? Because regardless of what’s happening in culture, those weekends are the times unchurched/dechurched/rechurched/CHREASters/non-Christians/lost (insert your own word here) will show up. In your church. Attentive to your experience for 60 minutes. Following along with your music. Listening to your message. And wondering, Is this for me? Do I belong? Am I intrigued enough to hear more about God?
In other words: Don’t waste the opportunity.
Here is how you can leverage big weekends at your church in order to introduce more people to Jesus.
Start planning now
Taking an old saying and using it for our benefit, The best time to plan a “big weekend” was six months ago. The second-best time is now.
Start planning now.
At Eagle Brook, we had 52,225 people attend our Easter services in 2018, which is 2.5 times more people than a normal weekend. Because of the significant attendance increase, we start planning these big weekends about four months prior and start creating content about 2-3 months before them.
Whether 150, 500 or 10,000 people attend your church, it’s almost guaranteed you will have more people than normal during Easter, Christmas or your fall kickoff weekend. So start planning for it.
Use your best marketing and evangelism team
Utilize the people who love your church. They are owners. They will be there on Christmas and Easter whether you convince them or not.
We recently surveyed our church, and almost 85 percent said they came for the first time because someone invited them. Help those people to invite others.
During the four weeks leading up to the big weekend, we remind our attenders of the service times that weekend and ask them to make plans to attend a service that is NOT on Easter Sunday or Christmas Eve. These are the busiest services and when the majority of new people will show up.
Then we challenge people to think of someone who needs Jesus and to begin praying for that person and for invitation opportunities. Often, we provide our attenders with a tool they can use to offer the invitation. Use your best marketing tools to make it easy for your people to invite someone to join them.
Dangle a carrot for the weekend after
The weekend after the big weekend must have some sort of appeal for a person to come back. First and foremost, that means our upcoming series content must be enticing to non-Christians.
Every year, we offer some sort of relationship series – topics include dating, marriage, parent/child, single and wanting to date, friends – right after one of those big weekends. Everyone has relational issues that need to be addressed.
There’s always another weekend, but there are just a few BIG weekends. Don’t waste your opportunity to reach people for Christ.
Second, many people are hurting and looking for hope or healing. We strategically plan a series that addresses a felt, universal need everyone can relate to. During Christmas and Easter services, we use 2-3 minutes to speak directly and creatively about why someone should come back the next weekend.
We don’t have weekend services the week after Christmas. I know that sounds heretical, but we want to pour our best efforts into making Christmas memorable. So we put a lot of effort into marketing the series the weekend after Easter and the second weekend after Christmas.
Sure, we create marketing tools for Christmas and Easter specifically. But because we want new people to come back, we almost always include a promo for the weekends after the holidays on the same marketing piece.
Make it memorable
We invest extra time, money and energy into making these weekends memorable. They each have a specific budget line. We prepare sooner, rehearse earlier and make sure our very best goes into these weekends.
Besides the three big weekends — Easter, fall kickoff (back to school) and Christmas — use significant cultural events such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the Super Bowl, etc., to create memorable weekends. You can leverage what people already know is happening in culture to create outstanding experiences on these same weekends.
No matter what your resources are, there are many ways you can make these big weekends special. Figure out a way to get people talking about the weekend and add to the experience. What can you do to go above and beyond to make it memorable?
Present the gospel and invite people to make a decision
Remember when I wrote: Don’t waste the opportunity? More than anything, don’t waste the opportunity to present the gospel and provide an opportunity for people to make a faith decision to follow Christ. Don’t miss the harvest.
On Easter, we saw 561 kids and adults decide to follow Jesus. During our fall kickoff weekend, we saw 180 adults decide to follow Christ. What if we just did the usual stuff on those weekends? It makes me shudder thinking about it.
Even if it is for one person who comes to faith in Christ, don’t miss your opportunity to clearly communicate the gospel.
Pray like crazy
It goes without saying, but maybe you need the reminder: Pray. Pray. Pray. We challenge our staff and volunteers to begin praying the month leading up to the big weekend. We pray most of all for people far from God to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
There’s always another weekend, but there are just a few big weekends. Don’t waste your opportunity to reach people for Christ.
Watch this Whiteboard Leadership video to learn more about how you can make the most of big days.
John Alexander, Executive director of creative arts at Eagle Brook Church
John Alexander is the executive director of creative arts at Eagle Brook Church, which has nine locations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.