I love Easter Sunday. When our children were little, I loved the excitement of Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts and new clothes. My wife loves to sew, and she always made these incredibly beautiful heirloom outfits for our children. Smocking. French Hand-sewing. Lace. I don’t know what any of those words mean, but I know that she put in a lot of time and creativity to produce outfits that I’m positive we could never have afforded to buy from a retailer. Funny thing is that she never let me see how much she paid for the fabric, lace, ribbon, etc. I know it was expensive, but her work on those outfits was a labor of love.
In most of our churches there is an intentionality that precedes Easter services – a labor of love. In one church I served we had a member who rarely got involved in anything, but in the weeks leading up to Easter she and her husband made it their personal mission to clean out the most prominent flower bed between our main parking lot and the sanctuary. They cleaned all of the weeds, planted fresh flowers and put down new straw. They even created a small seating area with pavers, potted plants and a park bench. It was beautiful.
We also go to a lot of trouble to encourage attendance on Easter Sunday. Whether we are running Facebook ads, providing invitation cards for our members, running ads in the local newspaper or something else; we want to get the word out about our Easter services. In a previous article I wrote about the need to have excellent guest services on Easter Sunday as well. Having a great Easter Sunday takes a lot of work. It takes a labor of love!
Contrary to popular opinion, in spite of our hard work most churches do not experience a huge jump in first-time guests on Easter, but most do experience one of their highest attended Sundays on Easter. In the church where I am currently serving as interim, our attendance this Easter was more than double that of a normal Sunday. We did not have a single first time guest.
Think of it as if there are five groups of people who attend. Group A comes almost every Sunday. Group B comes two times a month or less. So does Group C, but Groups B and C rarely come on the same Sundays. Group D are guests who show up at random times. Then there is Group E, the marginally active church members. Group E is often called CEO members (Christmas & Easter Only). In some churches these CEOs make up as much as 50% of the total church membership (that’s a topic for another article on another day). On Easter Sunday people from all five groups show up at the same time.
We know what to do about follow up with non-member, first time guests. That is where most of our follow up is directed. But what about the marginally active church members? How do we follow up with them? How do we make them feel welcomed and encouraged to return before Christmas, their great aunt’s funeral or their cousin’s wedding? Here are some ideas that churches are using this week:
PRAY – This is an excellent opportunity to gather some prayer warriors from your Sunday School classes, community groups, small groups or whatever you call them. Have them pray for the marginally active members who were there on Sunday. Pray for them by name.
IDENTIFY – This will actually have to happen before prayer, but I wanted to emphasize prayer’s importance! Identifying who was present is crucial. Hopefully you are having members and guests complete connection cards on Sundays. If you are not, this may be a little harder, but it’s not impossible. Have some conversations with people who sit in various areas of the worship center. Ask them who they saw, especially which marginally active members were present.
CONNECT – The fact that we have so many marginally active church members is partially the result of ineffective assimilation. There are other factors as well, but most of these folks never truly connected with a small group. Find out who their friends are and get those friends to reach out. Encourage small groups to plan parties in the next few weeks, and make sure they invite the marginally active members who attended on Easter!
COMMUNICATE – This could be as easy as an email or a text message, but it needs to be personal. No mass communication allowed! Also, no guilt-tripping. I heard someone tell a marginal attender one time, “I hope you’ll come back since the church didn’t fall down when you came in!” Another said, “You know we have services other than Christmas and Easter.” No guilt-tripping! Be encouraging. “It was great to see you Sunday. I am praying for you.” This should come from the senior pastor or other pastors on staff. It is important for marginal church members to hear from their ministers in this way. They also need to hear from the folks in the small group where you want them to connect. Again, be encouraging. And don’t let the communication stop after this week.
Having a great Easter Sunday took a lot of hard work. Now, what are you going to do with those who came? What is your plan for Easter Follow Up?