Easter. There’s a lot of pressure surrounding this day for pastors, isn’t there? You’ll most likely see people you haven’t seen in a while, and hopefully some you’ve never seen as well. You need to be prepared for them.

I personally believe that Easter is the best time to reach and assimilate new people into your church family. But it doesn’t happen just by chance.

Here are seven tips to help set you and your team up well come Easter Sunday:

1. Be intentional – This is an “all hands on deck” Sunday. Plan every detail you possibly can and expect excellence from your staff and volunteers. It’s that important. Hopefully by now you have already started talking about it and casting vision, but people need to know the importance you are placing on the day. Make it a big deal, because it is a big deal.

2. Ask members to sacrifice – For this one Sunday, ask your most committed people to serve in ways they may not otherwise. I always used the weeks leading up to Easter to ask people who had never served in our church to commit to help us out for just that one Sunday.

In the long run, it built up a lot of our volunteer teams, as many of them had so much fun serving that they served on a regular basis after Easter. You need to be fully staffed from the parking lot to the baby room. You need extra greeters. You need people willing to attend a non-traditional service time to accommodate for growth. You need people willing to park further away to clear close parking spaces for new guests. For Easter—if no other Sunday—think for your guests.  

3. Share hope –  Don’t overthink it. For years, I used to beat myself up thinking I had to have a new twist on the resurrection or to make each year’s service better than last. What I started to realize, is that the simplicity of the hope for their future and forgiveness for their past, offered to them through Jesus, resonates far more than any glitz and glamor I tried to wrap around it to make it feel more creative or theatrical. That’s a message everyone can identify with, so try not to dilute it.

4. Start a new message series –  I would always use Easter Sunday as an opportunity to invite new guests to come back and be a part of this journey we’re going on as a church. Plan a three-week series that starts on Easter Sunday. Then make an intentional invite. Say something like, “We hope that today has been helpful and if this message or the music or something else you’ve experienced today ignited something inside of you, why don’t you make a commitment right now that you’ll come back and finish this three week series with us.” Joke with them and tell them you’re not asking them to commit to attend until Jesus returns, but to just try it for a few weeks.

5. Make people feel welcome – Please, please, please don’t use this as an opportunity to beat up on people for only attending once a year. That is never helpful and it doesn’t work. Give them hope that will help them want to return more often. And that’s not just a “sermon” thing. Feeling welcome should start in the parking lot. I used to say all the time that I needed every volunteer to partner with me in creating irresistible environments for guests. Long before they would hear a word come out of my mouth as the pastor, they had more than likely already decided whether or not this was the kind of place where they felt welcome.

6. Plan a follow up – Something we started doing a couple years ago was offering our first-time guests a gift (which many churches do). We did this for a couple reasons. First, we had discovered that over the years, fewer and fewer first-time guests would actually give us their information. They were leery, and who could blame them? So we set up a table and offered them a gift (maybe a coffee mug or a water bottle) that they could pick up when they dropped their information card off at the “welcome” table. Now, whatever you do don’t take that information they give you and just sit on it. Reach out to them and communicate about all the different things your church is doing in the community and talk to them about how they could become a part of it.

7. Take a day off – (Stop laughing. I’m serious.) This is a stressful time, and if you aren’t relaxed and rested, you’ll find you spent all your best energy on preparation and have no strength left for the real thing.

We're excited to hear all your stories of impact and hope as you work through all of your Easter planning. While there can be a lot of work and busyness that goes into pulling off that Sunday with excellence, try to keep your eyes open to the actual people walking through your doors that weekend. At the end of the day, making them feel known and loved is the biggest win of them all. Happy Easter planning!

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