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 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.
3 Mistakes to Avoid:
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" with the response "He is risen indeed!"
I love that tradition. As Christians, we worship and celebrate with profound gratitude.
But for the many who attend who 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 for whom the message just wouldn't 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, 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? Think about these three:
- Baptisms (to follow)
- People who come back to church
I'm not suggesting that you dismiss the importance of a huge invitation 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 to 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 compelling felt need in their lives. Make a connection that makes them feel at home. Make sure you communicate 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 life-changing Easter ever. Write the pastor a note of encouragement! Celebrate all God did for them at 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. For He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that He has risen from the dead, and indeed, He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him. Listen, I have told you" (Matt. 28:5-7)
Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.
This article originally appeared at danreiland.com.
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