“Let’s be candid: Merely extending an invitation to come back to church the following weekend is not enough.”
Easter will soon be here, and I’m confident you are deep into prayer and planning. But here’s my question for you:
What do you want to be different about Easter this year?
If you don’t do anything different, you won’t experience anything different. What is your vision for Easter? Are your plans clear?
There is still time before the weekend of April 16 to have the greatest kingdom impact possible. There is still time to work on all that you are praying for.
For far too many church leaders, Easter is secretly a great disappointment every year. Not because of the attendance—that’s usually very strong—but because so few visitors return the following Sunday.
That is frustrating.
I’ve not met anyone who has had all the “answers” to solve the great post-Easter exodus, but I’ve learned some mistakes we can all avoid. Avoiding them will help you move in the right direction.
1. Designing Your Easter Service Primarily for Christians
Easter is an incredible celebration of the resurrection of Christ. We often quote the words, “He is risen,” and the congregation responds, “He is risen indeed!” I love that tradition. As Christians, we worship and celebrate with profound gratitude.
But for the many people who attend and are far from God, it’s likely that they don’t fully understand what’s being said during Easter services. It’s a mistake to assume that all those who attend will understand the message.
To you and me, the gospel is clear, simple, powerful and life changing. But in a country where religious pluralism is the cultural norm, it’s important to think about how people interpret what we say and how we act.
The good news is that the Holy Spirit can cut through in a moment to reach someone’s heart. But it’s also true that we should make it as clear as possible for anyone that the message does not make sense within their worldview.
Do everything you can to think through the worldview and life perspective of those who don’t know God, believe in him or even care. Design your service to include them and make them feel comfortable and eager for more.
2. Emphasizing the Wrong Numbers
We all get fired up about the largest attendance of the year. Why wouldn’t we? We share the mission to reach people for Christ. But be careful, because you might just get what you aim for—a large attendance. But that’s it.
Leveraging the majority of your energy primarily toward attendance may ultimately yield less of what you really hope for. That would be a leadership mistake.
What might happen if you leaned into a different set of “numbers” as your primary emphasis? Such as these three:
- Baptisms (to follow)
- People who come back to church
I’m not suggesting that you dismiss the importance of a huge invite into your community. A larger attendance potentially, but not automatically, means a greater harvest. So, go for it! Invite big. But it may also be wise to place emphasis on another measurement: how many people return and continue to pursue their faith in God.
Let’s be candid: Merely extending an invitation to come back to church the following weekend is not enough. If it were, enormous numbers of people would return every year.
Give people a reason to come back. Speak to a felt need in their life that is compelling. Make a connection that makes them feel at home. Make sure you communicate that they are loved unconditionally by both you and God.
There is no easy solution here, but we need to give it our best.
3. Comparing Your Church to Others
Comparison is natural but not helpful. Comparing your church to other churches rarely results in something positive or productive.
Comparison to smaller churches can lead to pride or complacency. Comparison to larger churches can lead to disappointment or discouragement.
Instead, pray for the other churches near you. Pray they have the best, most life-changing Easter ever. Write the pastors notes of encouragement. Celebrate all God did for them on Easter.
Even before Easter Sunday, begin thanking God for all who will come to your church, and especially for those who say yes to Jesus.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (Matt. 28:5-7)