A Lifeway Research study released in 2012 asked 1,000 Protestant pastors for the three highest attendance Sundays, and 93% chose Easter, followed by Christmas and Mother’s Day.
Google Trends shows that more Americans search for the term “church” in the days leading up to Easter. And Gallop reports more than half of Americans plan to attend a church this Easter Sunday.
All of these findings, along with your own observations, means that Easter is one of the biggest days of the year for your church.
Weeks of prayer and preparation go into the planning the big day, and while excitement is warranted and celebration is called for, let’s face it. There can be a little bit of a let down in the weeks that follow.
You’ve probably thought, “I wish the Sunday after Easter would be just as well-attended.” You’ve likely wished that every Sunday could be more like Easter Sunday, both in your church and in your community. How do you get more people to come back after a great Easter Sunday? How do make every Sunday more like Easter Sunday?
Here are five ideas.
#1 – Treat every Sunday like it is someone’s first Sunday.
One of the reason churches are so excited about Easter Sunday is they know there will be guests in the house. Whether it’s people visiting from out of town or people in the community who feel like they should be in church, Easter Sunday is one of the biggest Sundays for guests.
What if you prepared for every Sunday like there would be many guests in the congregation? What if you looked at your facilities, bulletins, sermons and volunteers through the eyes of first time guests?
#2 – Plan your service with purpose.
Easter services tend to be great partly because of the extra planning that goes into them.
The music team spends a little more time in rehearsal. The pastor spends a little more time on the service. The order of service on Planning Center is a little more intentional.
On Easter, you want everything to fit really well.
No matter the style of your church, a Sunday gathering is likely an important part of your strategy, but I bet that big days like Easter and once-a-year events in the Women’s ministry get most of your planning time.
Church services happen every week – this means it’s worth considerable time and energy planning them. You should spend more time planning what happens all the time than planning what happens one time.
From the music to the environment to the preaching, every Sunday is an opportunity to impact and inspire people to follow Jesus.
And here’s the great part. Planning is free. This doesn’t cost extra money – it just requires intentionality. You’ve got 52 opportunities a year to gather with God’s people and invite the community. Take them all seriously and plan every element of every service with intentionality.
We’ve got a master class on service planning plus a case study on a church that does this really well for Church Fuel members.
#3 – Keep every message centered on Jesus.
I always thought Easter messages were some of the toughest to prepare because everyone knows what you’re going to say. Spoiler alert…Jesus is alive!
So in the weeks leading up to Easter, I’d look for some new angle and try some creative approach. Rough drafts ended up being complicated and convoluted. I’d try to bring in this obscure passage or this off-the-wall illustration.
But as the day got closer, things would get simpler. The fluff would get cut and the message would end up where it should have started.
There was a real person named Jesus who, even though he was God, laid down his life to pay the price for the sins of humanity. He was crucified and buried, but on the third day, just as he predicted, he rose from the grave. He was seen by hundreds of people, including the disciples, who boldly went into the known world to share a message. Not just a message of Jesus’ teachings, but about the resurrection. Because that single event in history changed everything.
Maybe you feel a lot of pressure to make Easter the most creative message in this history of sermons. I certainly did, but it’s okay, probably even helpful, to keep things simple and just proclaim the gospel.
Besides, if everything in your sermon would be true if Jesus didn’t die on the cross, it’s not a sermon it’s just a helpful talk.
#4 – Keep the focus on the inviting.
One of the reasons so many people visit a church on Easter Sunday is because there are more personal invitations that week.
It’s easy to ask your church to invite others on Easter. It’s almost expected.
But this is something you can work on and make a part of your culture year-round. You can make it normal for your church to expect and invite guests every week. You can keep the focus on inviting, reminding your church that you are there FOR the community. That your church exists for outsiders, not just insiders.
Wouldn’t it be great if your church had a culture of inviting? Wouldn’t it be great if people naturally looked for ways to invite their friends and neighbors throughout the year, not just on Easter?
Easter is special, partly because of the focus on the community in the weeks leading up to the big day. Keep that focus year-round.
#5 – Make Easter like Every Sunday.
One of the biggest ways you can help every Sunday be like Easter Sunday is to let Easter be like every Sunday.
A few years ago, I attended the grand opening service at Woodstock City Church. There were a few special moments in the service to celebrate the brand new building, but when Gavin Adams came out to do the welcome, he said, “Today is going to be like any other Sunday at Woodstock City Church.”
The rest of the service was intentionally normal. Not boring, not bad. Just normal.
You don’t have to turn Easter into the best thing ever (it already is). You don’t need a petting zoo, a helicopter, or a 3-act play with costumed characters to preach the gospel.
I’m not arguing against creativity or intentionality or even special elements. I am saying you don’t have to dial it up 17 notches which will result in an automatic let down the following week.
You don’t have to hype up Easter Sunday at your church. Shoot, the resurrection in and of itself is pretty amazing and nothing you’re going to do will really top that.
Help beats hype every time.