For those of us who lead local churches, Easter is our Super Bowl. More people attend. More people come to Christ. There’s excitement. There’s hope.
And then there’s the week after Easter. One of your lowest attended Sundays of the year.
Why? Because everyone attends on Easter. All of your Chreasters, all your once-in-a-whilers, once-a-month-ers, and twice-a-month-ers.
Having done their religious duty, they’re going to take the next week off.
This is the law of unintended consequences at work. The consequence of getting everyone to church on the same weekend means that not everyone will show up the following weekend.
Don’t fret. They haven’t left you. They’re just following their normal pattern.
What can you do to attract your Easter visitors back?
It just means you want to look beyond attracting your community to church on Easter. You need to figure out how to keep them coming back after Easter. Here are seven things we do.
1. Launch a new Sermon Series.
If you were thinking of doing a stand-alone message on Easter, think again.
For years, I preached a Resurrection message and invited people to return for a new series the following week. But CEO’s (“Christmas and Easter Only”) are a hard bunch to persuade to return.
Instead of telling them about what you’ll be preaching the following week, let them sample it. Tie your topic to the Resurrection, but center it on the need-oriented topic you’ll be tackling over the next few weeks.
Almost everyone wants help with their family or marriage. Those two subjects are a universal draw. Another relevant topic is purpose. Rick Warren sold more books with this subject than any piece of literature short of the Bible.
A matter that’s on everyone’s mind these days is The End Times. With turbulence in the Middle East and earthquakes in the Pacific Rim, everyone wants to know if we’re approaching the end of the world.
As you advertise the series, generate a sense of urgency by impressing on everyone how relevant/important/life-changing the next Sunday’s message will be.
2. Give an Invitation.
More people come to Christ on Easter Sunday than any other day of the year.
If you’re rusty on how to present a salvation invitation, practice on your congregation once or twice between now and Easter.
And then connect those new believers in relationships that will help them grow in Christ.
3. Build a Follow-up Team.
The first twenty minutes after a person receives Jesus may be the most important twenty minutes of his or her life.
Recruit and train a team who know what to do to help new believers begin their new relationship with Christ. As you give your invitation, these follow-up counselors should have material in their hands to begin a three or four week discipleship process.
At my church, whenever someone raises their hand to indicate they’ve received Christ, a counselor comes to their chair immediately and introduces themselves. Before the service ends, the new believer and counselor have begun a dialogue on what it means to walk with Jesus.
4. Give Visitors a Reason to Come Back.
We all know that it takes a few weeks to build a new habit; so we schedule some events for the weeks following Easter that might appeal to non-churchgoers.
We schedule a newcomers lunch the week after Easter. We host WOW weekends, like special guest Bethany Hamilton, two weeks after Easter. And we hold our quarterly FX – Family Experience three weeks after Easter. We might also start Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University or launch a date-night Marriage Experience.
Our Easter guests will be invited, of course.
5. Impress your Guests with a Gift.
One way to impress them is to do something unexpected for them. Most non-churchgoers think that the church just wants their money. So instead of asking for something from them, give something to them.
We offer them a copy of The God Questions Gift Edition.
It’s a mini-book that answers the four major questions pre-Christians ask. We say, “If you’re a guest with us this morning, we have a free gift for you. Just take your Connection Card to the table in the lobby to get yours.”
The guy at the table then introduces himself. As they hand over the book he says, “This book does a great job of answering your questions. But I have found that the best way to get your questions answered is to start coming to church. I hope to see you next week.”
6. Connect with Newcomers the Following Week.
Some of your Easter visitors will return – if you give them a reason to. Reason one would be that they develop a relationship with you or someone from your church.
For that to happen, you need to get their name and contact information. That’s why we collect their Connection Card when we give them the God Questions book.
I email all first-time guests the next day, asking how I can pray for them. A volunteer calls to invite them to a free lunch with our staff the following Sunday. And I send a hand-written note telling them about next week’s sermon and why they’ll want to attend.
Pray for your guests by name. Pray for your city with passion. Refuse to surrender to discouragement or the patterns of this world. As you’re praying, listen to God’s Spirit. He wants to direct you. He wants to show you the next steps for your church.
John Knox prayed, “Lord, give me Scotland or I die!” I pray, “Lord, give me North County” with similar fervor. My job is to cooperate with God’s Spirit as authentically and strategically as I can.
We can’t personally change a single human heart, but God can use all the good of Easter for lasting good in our lives, our churches and our cities!
Make a list of what you want to do this year to attract your community to church on Easter, and then to be intentional to welcome them back.
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