Top 10 key focus items to prepare for Easter services

By Ken Whitten

(1) Clarify your objective

Easter is a celebration of believers because we serve a risen Savior, but do you also want your Easter service to be highly geared to assist lost people to say an eternal “yes” to Jesus? Of course, there are many non-frequent church attenders who will be there on Easter, and certainly there will be many who do not know Jesus personally. I have found that God has smiled on our Easter worship services when we have celebrated and made personally receiving Jesus the ultimate objective. If your objective is to cast the gospel net wide to the unchurched that day, you need to design an invitational receiving process that is very friendly to the unchurched. While we typically have a “walk forward” gospel invitation, on Easter we have a “walk out” invitation. We have tents set at all our major building exit points, equipped with gift Bibles for new believers and gifts for first time guests as well. Gospel counselors are stationed in these tents, although the response rates are so high we typically do a very basic gospel counseling during rush hour, then follow up with them as a next step to further clarify their decision to accept Jesus.

(2) Pray

Please do not fall prey to the “I got this” notion, because we can program a celebration and process to manipulate people to a gospel response. We know we can do the “sharing,” but only God can do the “saving.” Mobilize your church, weeks in advance, to pray for Easter weekend services — that Satan would be bound, Jesus would be glorified, members would bring lost friends, and the church would repent and be clean before the Lord.

(3) Inspire the church to bring the lost

For people to be saved at Easter services, church members must invite them. There are many ways to inspire members to invite the lost, but the church staff’s job is to support this effort. In the weeks before Easter, there should be a blitz on messaging church members to first identify who they are going to invite and then pray for them. Our job is to be sure members take this responsibility personally. We are to inspire our members to just see people they work and associate with as souls who hang in the eternal balance between heaven and hell, depending on whether or not we love them enough to invite them to church. There are many ways to inspire the participation of members, like launching a campaign of “Who is your One?” Create a wall where members can write the name of “The One” they are going to invite to church on Easter, so they and other members will pray for them. Once they have invited them, they can go back to the wall and circle the name. It is highly encouraging and motivational for other members to join when they see this visual display of how members are reaching out to their associates.

(4) Service times

I would encourage you to make the time options very friendly to the regular and non-regular attender. Pray and plan for a 5% to 15% attendance increase and add enough services so that if the same number of attenders came to each service, you would never be more than 85% full. Be sure the time between services is adequate to get the larger volume of traffic on and off the property comfortably. Of course, you cannot control when they attend, but do what you can so services are not uncomfortably full as that may create an overwhelmingly bad first impression for unchurched people. It’s also a good idea to have an overflow area already set up so if you need to “call an audible,” you are set to initiate this backup plan. It’s okay on Easter weekend to cancel some of your regular programming, like small groups, in order to prioritize corporate worship and having some of your most choice leaders opting into some First Impressions posts they normally could not do because of other responsibilities.

(5) Get the word out

The word ‘blitz’ comes to mind when I think about how to get the word out about your Easter services. In general, we all know that the main reason people come to church is that someone invited them. While U.S. church attendance is becoming less frequent for saved and lost people alike, Easter is different. Praise God that our U.S. culture still knows that Easter and Christmas are about more than bunnies and trees. So this is one of those rare times in the year where you should allocate some funding to support advertising. Of course you don’t want to pour money down a drain for the sake of getting the word out, but we have the found the following to be very helpful to promoting attendance to Easter worship services:

Brand. Create a brand and logo that can be thematic to all your promotional materials, i.e. “Risen” or “Alive,” etc.

Invitation cards. Create inexpensive business cards that members can hand out to people wherever they go. You also can do a short training video for your members on how to invite someone to Easter services. The invitation can be very warm and natural, far from arm twisting.

Photo booth. A few weeks ahead of Easter, you can set up a photo booth equipped with an Easter backdrop and signs members can hold that say things like, “Come sit with us on Easter at Shiloh Church.” The digital pictures can then be shared via email, social media, etc. to make an invitation seem very direct and personal to the recipient.

Signs. Wherever you have the opportunity around your campus to post signs highly visible to the passing traffic, go for it. Be careful to obey sign ordinances and follow the appropriate permitting codes in your region. Signs can range from renting those big road construction type signs to the “push in the ground” signs that members can put in their yards and wherever permitted.

Other. Of course the sky is the limit in this area if you have the funding, i.e. TV, radio, billboards, direct mail, public service announcements through news outlets, all social media, a prominent space on your website, the church bulletin, etc.

(6) Be very kid-friendly

Your preschool and children’s areas need to have extra staffing and be very inviting to unchurched people. If you don’t have a children’s church, but were thinking about launching one, this would be a good day to do it. A Bible-based, gospel-centered, highly engaging and fun worship service for elementary-aged children might be just the thing that brings a family back. Be sure to have very clear signage on where the children’s suites are, to make it easy for non-attenders to find them. Be sure to have your check-in process ready for a heavy load on this day. Additional volunteers for check-In can be good, but you may also need a back-up system, if the primary system is overwhelmed at “rush hour.”

(7) Outside and inside the worship center

A good friend taught me one time that if you want to catch fish, you need to think like a fish. In the same way, if you want to invite lost people that day, it is great to think about innovative incentives you can use to get them to come to Easter Services. If someone starts doing the right thing for the wrong reason, many times that will turn to doing the right thing for the right reason. Whether inside or outside the worship center, the First Impressions Team needs to bring their “A” game for these services. In all the posts of parking, ushering, and greeting, everyone needs to come prayed up, not grumpy, and ready to love on people like never before.

Outside the worship center: There are a myriad of things you can do outside the worship center to attract the lost, i.e. egg hunts, egg drops from helicopters, food, outdoor music, food trucks, free family pictures, etc. We have done many of these. I think they can be effective, and they do have their place. You need to be sure the timing of these events are complimentary, not competitive, with your Easter worship services, because your main objective is to get people to attend the service.

Inside the worship center: The reason I make the distinction between inside and outside the worship center is because I view inside as the home turf of God’s people to celebrate and worship a risen Savior. Although it is great to pull out all the stops with music, artistry, and preaching that weekend, let’s keep it holy to bring glory and honor to Jesus.

(8) Follow-up

On this day, you will have many guests and people accepting Jesus. Please be sure to have a robust registration process so you can follow up with them on a timely basis. It’s a good practice, within 48 hours of attendance and or making a spiritual decision, that they hear from a pastor or church leader. Today many will say digital follow-up is best, as people don’t want to be bothered with a phone call. Call me old school, but I am a “both/and” kind of guy. We make the phone call and then follow up with emails and text. Today, a personal phone call from a warm friendly person is a huge differentiator to all the 24/7 digital deluge people experience. The script for the call can range from “Thanks for attending and we would like to invite you back” to “We are so happy you prayed to accept Jesus, please let me help clarify your decision and share with you what the Bible says about being baptized.”

(9) Come back one more time

With a large influx of new or infrequent attenders, your simple goal should just be to get them back one more time. To support this goal, you should establish a “Next Step” plan and provide communications collateral you can give as you follow up. The Next Step plan can involve things like informing them of the next sermon series (which is designed to be inviting to them), dinner with the pastor, a preview session to share what the church is all about, a card for a free cup of coffee on your next visit, etc.

(10) Debrief

Within two weeks of the Easter services, be sure to pull the key leaders of the major areas together to share what went well and what you can improve for next year. Document these finds right away, so you can pull them out next year to ensure you are getting better each year at achieving your objective.

Published May 30, 2018

Ken Whitten

Ken Whitten is the Pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida. Idlewild Baptist Church was among the top 100 evangelistic churches in the country in 2014.