It’s Easter morning and the sanctuary is full. You see faces that haven’t shown up since Christmas, and plenty of new ones scattered in. You’ve worked hard to make this day a memorable and impactful one for your congregation. But, all the while in the back of your mind, you know so many will walk out the doors and disappear until the next holiday.
It’s an age-old problem church leaders face year after year. We typically asked ourselves, “How do we get people to come back to church the week after Easter?” While that’s an important question, we can take it a step further. After all, getting people to come to church one more time isn’t the goal. As church leaders, we don’t just want to fill a bunch of seats on Sunday morning. We want to mobilize a body of believers to impact our communities.
With that in mind, maybe we should instead ask, “How do we move a guest from being an Easter only attendee to an active member of our church?”
Step one of answering those two questions may look pretty familiar. After all, if you want someone to be actively involved in your church, getting them to come back the next week is a good start. But, we want it to be just that- the start. The start of growing from being a spectator in the church to becoming an active player in the work of the church.
Spoiler alert: it won’t happen overnight. But we can intentionally walk people through a series of steps to help them naturally become engaged in the ministry of the church. As individuals become part of ministry work, we’ll see them grow closer to Jesus, find a greater sense of belonging, and our churches will reach more people.
Let’s dive into six steps to take our Easter visitors from holiday only attendees to fully engaged members of our church.
1. Make Easter Great
The groundwork for engagement after Easter is laid on Easter. While creating a great Easter service is an important aspect of getting a guest to return to your church, that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
The groundwork for engagement after Easter is laid on Easter.
Easter Sunday is time to ramp up hospitality. Cast vision for your greeting or hospitality teams so they remember the impact their warm welcomes have on every person that walks through the doors. As guests are checking their kids into your children’s ministry, reassure parents that their kids will be well taken care of and have a lot of fun.
Capture your guests’ contact information. As you’ll see in the next section, follow up is key. But, before we can follow up with our Easter guests, we must get their contact information. There are several ways you can do this, and using a collection of these methods will return the best results.
- Connect cards – Have physical cards placed around your sanctuary and direct guests to fill them out during the service.
- Online connect cards – Direct guests to a simple website to fill out an online connect card (this “card” can be as simple as a basic web form). Pro Tip: put a QR code on screen to make it easy for guests to get to your online connect card using their smartphone.
- Leverage your church app – If you have a church app, direct people to download it and fill out a connect card in your app.
- Children’s check-in – it’s commonplace to collect parent contact information when checking in kids to a children’s ministry. This is valuable information for connecting with these guests later in the week
- Information desk – If your church doesn’t already have an info desk or “guest services” area, consider setting one up for high traffic Sundays like Easter. This creates an easy place for pastors to direct guests to following a service.
When we effectively execute Easter services and the surrounding opportunities, we set ourselves up for success as we work to engage our guests in the ministry of the church.
2. Make Direct Contact During the Week
One of the biggest reasons people don’t come back to church after Easter is that it’s so easy not to. They show up to a packed service and feel like just another face in a crowd. They feel like they won’t be missed if they don’t show back up. Prove them wrong.
Make direct, one-to-one contact with every guest you have on Easter. A direct phone call is still one of the most effective ways to do this. While it may seem outdated and low-tech, it’s personal. A personal invite back to church is the best invite.
Your staff probably won’t have time to make all of those calls, and that’s ok. There are volunteers in your church equipped and eager to make phone calls and extend a personal invitation. If you don’t already have a team in place, let your volunteers know you need their help and they’ll step up.
Another way to make direct contact is to have your children’s team write notes directly to the kids telling them how great it was to meet them and how excited they are to see the kids in church again. This will make an impact both on the kids and their parents. Young children get excited when something comes in the mail just for them. You’ll also show parents you genuinely care about their children through this simple yet impactful message.
But, you don’t have to stop there. You can also implement some additional, more scalable measures. Emails, text messages, and push notifications through your church app are all easy ways to get the message out in bulk. But, let this be a supplement in addition to the one-to-one personal invite.
3. Engage the Children
The benefits of engaging the children in your church are two fold. First, it’s an opportunity to minister directly to them. They aren’t just the future of your church, they are your church right now. As church leaders, we have a chance to equip them to show the love of Jesus to the kids they interact with every day.
They aren’t just the future of your church, they are your church right now.
Second, when the children want to be there, the parents will be there. Engaging the kids gives us an opportunity to also connect with and minister to their parents.
Provide something fun for the family within the first few weeks after Easter. The late late April and May weather provides a perfect time to host an outdoor event. Throw in some free snacks and an outdoor movie and you have an evening that’s great for families.
Whatever kind of event you do, make sure parents know about it before they leave church on Easter. One easy way to do this is by handing a small flyer or informational card to parents as they pick up their children and letting them know you hope to see them there.
4. Plug Them Into Small Groups
Small groups are what can make a big church feel small. As trite as that might sound, it’s true. When we feel like a random face in the midst of a crowd we won’t naturally have a strong sense of belonging. But, conversely, when we are an individual who’s name is known and has a heard voice, we find connection. This is why small groups are so important (and should be) in our churches. Yet, we hesitate to directly encourage or invite our Easter guests to jump in.
If we can get holiday guests to take the small step of joining a group, their likelihood of sticking around shoots through the roof. Whether that means a Sunday school class, a stay-at-home moms group, or a weekday Bible study, the goal is simply to connect people with other people in the church. When your team makes follow up calls to invite guests back to church after Easter, go ahead and invite them into a small group. Sure, they might not be ready to commit to a group, but you also might be surprised how many are eager to find that community.
If we can get holiday guests to take the small step of joining a group, their likelihood of sticking around shoots through the roof.
Now, you might be thinking, “Easter leads right into summer, and that’s the hardest time to get people into a small group.” That’s a valid point, but there are some options.
First, offer a Bible study that only runs from Easter through the end of the school year. This type of short-run small group will still give a chance for newcomers to connect with others in the church in a more personal way. An added bonus to this is that there’s a smaller time commitment. When someone signs up they don’t feel locked into a long-term group. It’s only a two month commitment.
Second, gather information from those who aren’t ready for a group right now but might be interested in a fall small group. The low commitment level felt with this makes it more likely that an Easter guest will show interest. In doing this, you’ve created a connecting point to engage that individual which ultimately opens the door for continued engagement after summer ends.
5. Invite Them to Serve
The unexpected benefit for so many volunteers in our churches is the community and sense of belonging they find by serving. It shifts their mindset from observing church to participating in church. Much like in small groups, we become a known person amongst a team rather than a face in a crowd.
We become a known person amongst a team rather than a face in a crowd.
There are lots of ways to go about inviting people to serve. But, here are few to get you started:
- Talk about it from the stage. Don’t wait weeks to do this, start talking about serving/volunteering regularly the Sunday after Easter.
- Empower your volunteers to invite others to serve. If your volunteers find themselves seeing the same people come and go every week, encourage them to invite those people to join the team they serve on. There’s no invite quite like a personal invite.
- If you send email newsletters, include opportunities to get involved.
- If you have a church app, send push notifications to invite people to sign up to serve.
- A few weeks after Easter, have a serving “open house”. Intentionally end your service 15 minutes early and designate that extra time for attendees to meet staff and volunteers, ask them questions, and sign up to serve.
It’s obvious to most how serving benefits the church. However, what many miss is that serving benefits the individual. Be intentional about inviting Easter guests into an opportunity to serve.
6. Challenge Them to Give
Giving is a biblical call placed on all believers. When someone is giving to your church they’re much more likely to also be actively involved in the ministry of your church. For many, it’s the final step they take as they become fully rooted in that local church.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to make a huge push for your guests to give on Easter Sunday (but for tips on how to have a great Easter offering, check out our previous article). However, as these individuals gradually become more and more involved in the ministry of your church, they should be given the chance to take that next step of giving.
Whether you talk about giving weekly from the stage, include invitations to give in church-wide newsletters, or showcase opportunities on social media, it’s important to make it clear how to give and why we give.
Easter is the time of year our churches see an influx of new faces and people that haven’t attended since Christmas. It’s easy to go ahead and accept defeat and expect them to walk out and not return for another six months. Or, we can instead intentionally walk people through a series of steps to help them naturally become engaged in the ministry of the church. As a result we’ll see them grow closer to Jesus, find a greater sense of belonging, and our churches will reach more people.