Almost every church in the world will see an attendance spike this week. In the this-is-really-obvious-research-finding, we found that Easter was the highest attended day of the church year. (OK, really, it was about Mother's Day, as USAToday reported in a front page story on our data, but Easter was number one.)
If you work in ministry, you already know this and did not need LifeWay Research to tell you. You've been planning for it. But are you planning for next week, too?
Nicola Menzie, a reporter for the Christian Post, asked me some questions for her story, "How to Keep the 'Chreasters' Coming: Experts Say Preparedness and Follow-Up Are Key." The story has lots of helpful information, and the subtitle gets it right, "While Churches Look to Make Converts for Christ on Easter Sunday, Many Fail to Make a Connection." Her good questions got me thinking—so I turned my comments to her into a full post here.
Let me share some thoughts on what your church can do to follow up its Easter guests.
Seize the Easter Moment.
Easter is an opportunity, but it has to be seized. More people will hear the message this Sunday than any other of the year. If it is worth preparing a well-done service and great message, it is certainly worth following up with each and every person who attends.
Unfortunately, most churches don't follow up or they follow up poorly. They see a one-day spike in attendance and hope it continues, but they make little to no effort to engage their guests and encourage them to return.
They waste their spike.
Intentionally Focus on Easter.
First, we should focus on our Easter service for worship reasons. If you follow a liturgical calendar, this is the most important day of the year. If you don't, well, it still is the most important Christian celebration of the year and you don't need a calendar to tell yo that. As my friend Adrian Warnock explained, the resurrection changes everything.
Second, we should focus on Easter for outreach reasons. Ironically, whether you like it or not, people will be coming. Even grumpy pastors who complain about churches focusing guests will have them this Sunday.
Many of those guests will not know know you, your church, or the gospel. As such, your church should be, right now, getting "ready for company." If you are having new people over, you make sure everything is ready. Lots of churches will have company on Sunday and churches of all sizes are getting ready. But if your focus is entirely on the service, you will completely miss out on assimilation.
For too many churches, instead of post-Easter assimilation, they focus only on pre-Easter preparation.
Have a Plan.
So what should our post-Easter plans include?
First, work toward keeping people who visit—move them from visitors to attendees. I've never pastored a church that did not see a post-Easter bump that stuck. However, I've never pastored a church that did not have a follow-up plan ready and then implemented.
To do that, you need some planning. Churches need a way to gather names and contact info from people willing to give it, a plan to follow up those names with several points of contact (phone call, letter, invitation card to come again), and a plan to connect them into a smaller group if they return.
Second, remember that people do not move from being an Easter visitor to a growing disciple after one "awesome" Easter sermon. This is the start of a relationship with your church—and, like any other, that relationship needs to be cultivated. Part of that cultivation is that they need to then hear about the gospel your church preaches. So, it is a great time to begin a new series and encourage people to come back the following week.
So, Easter should not just be a one-time deal—after all, we celebrate the resurrection every day. As far as outreach goes, Easter can be the first step in well-thought process.
Have an intentional process in place. If you don't have it already, repent for that and then order Gary McIntosh's Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church. It's on Kindle if you need it right now.
Stay Focused on Jesus—His Message and Mission.
We all know (or should know) that Easter is all about Jesus. His death on the cross and his resurrection undergird everything we do. We must not let gimmicks to get people there at Easter distract us from the Easter message. The point of Easter is Jesus. As pastors, it is crucial that we don't get so caught up in the Easter work of the Lord that we forget the Lord of the work. Focus on the message and don't get distracted from that message.
Yet, you must seize the opportunity. The Christ we worship on Easter sends us out on mission to reach people. And, those people are more open and more present on Easter than any other day. So, focus on the mission.
Be intentional in your planning, execution, and follow up.
Don't waste your spike.