Getting prepared for Easter is an important task. You will have people there who haven’t been in worship before, at least not with you. So you need to put your best foot forward. Here is a list of things you need to do to be ready.
Prior to the Service
- Begin by deciding who your target audience will be. We suggest you start with “unchurched” then proceed to what age group, and if you’re demographic savvy, what lifestyle might be in the majority. Your target audience may vary from service to service. For example, an early service might be made up of mainly churched older adults, whereas the main service is more likely to include a younger audience.
- Next, you need to make sure your sermon, music, and liturgy connects with your target audience. This means you may have to alter the sermon, music, and style of each service. (If your church doesn’t do this normally, this is a good opportunity to “try” something different for this special occasion.)
- Update your website so that people who are looking for a church will be drawn to your message. Make sure the message, location, and time is located above the scroll.
- Work with the Religious Editor of your newspaper to have a news release about the service. If your budget can stand it, plan on sending out a direct mail piece to every home within a targeted area based on your targeted demographic. You may want to place an ad in the Personal Column as well. And if you have a big advertising budget, get a prominent billboard for the month prior to Easter and only put the message, name of church, website, and worship times.
- Don’t overlook the importance of an Easter egg hunt for the children. Publicize it anyway you can afford, but do your best to make it a big event with big air balloons, super prize egg, etc. Don’t forget to offer a “valuable” door prize that guests must register for in order to win (what of “value” depends on your immediate context). Then make sure you follow up with each household with a postcard, phone call, email, etc. … but refrain from the standard “form letter” response.
- Try to secure the witness of some well known celebrity in the area who is a Christian. This witness would become part of the worship service. Of course, if you do be sure to leak it to the press. The press might show up or better yet, they may write an article for the paper or do a broadcast on the local TV News.
- Make sure you have a trained parking lot team with walkie-talkies to help people feel welcome and find a place to park. Use the walkie-talkies to communicate names of new people to the greeters who can then call guests by name.
- Give some extra training for your ushers and greeters about the importance of making people feel welcome without overwhelming them. This is not the time to use your regular rotation of volunteers. Your greeters and ushers must be the most gregarious, friendly, smilers in your congregation.
- Be involved in the selection of the music and special music. Don’t leave this to chance. The music needs to integrate with your message. Make sure you have the biggest choir or best band possible.
- If you offer a contemporary worship service, spend time and money designing the stage to fit the message, especially if your target audience is under the age of forty.
- Make sure the worship folder will appeal to your target audience. Include information about the service, about your hospitality services (coffee, child care, etc.), and especially about upcoming events that your target may be interested in. Expunge the folder of any “insider” announcements or events (no board meeting dates, etc.).
- Launch a multiple part sermon series on Easter Sunday to help entice guests to return for part 2. In addition, spend extra time making sure you have your best sermon possible. If you still use a manuscript or notes, this is the week to break that habit.
- Train enough people to take a gift to the new visitors so that they can do it on Easter afternoon.
- Make sure you have connection/commitment cards in every worship folder.
- The best option to increase your visitor return rate is to arrange your order of service so that your offering is collected after the sermon. This will allow you to use your connection cards effectively.
- After the opening song, welcome the visitors and point them to the connection card. Tell them you will come back to it at the end of the service. To ensure you get nearly 100% of guest information, we recommend that you announce that you’ll be making a $5 donation to the local food bank (or another community-favored charity) for every connection card that’s completely filled out by a first-time visitor.
- Keep announcements to a minimum and put them at the end of the service just before collecting the connection card.
- Immediately following the sermon, walk the congregation through the connection/commitment card and give them time to fill it out.
- Then ask them to put the connection card in the offering plate as its passed. If they are a visitor tell them they are your guests and you don’t expect them to give this morning – Instead put the connection card in the plate.
- Make a doorstep visit with each new visitor within two hours of the service. The laity should make these visits, although if you have a small church and are committed to growth, the pastor and whomever else served “up front” where people could see them should make these visits.
- The pastor should handwrite a card to each new person welcoming them and inviting them to hear next week’s message (be sure to include the title). In addition, if your target is a younger crowd, invite them to be a part of an upcoming, hands-on mission project that your church is hosting. Many young adults will enter the church through these kinds of hands-on opportunities.
- If you have the budget, send them a FedX including a short CD of the pastor and family, a $5.00 gas coupon, a list of places to plug in, and a brochure just for visitors. A FedX cost and is somewhat expensive if you look at it as a cost; it’s not if you look at it as an investment.
- On Wednesday, send an invitation to an upcoming Meet the Pastor and Explore Our Church luncheon or dessert. This event does not need to take place the following week, but should be scheduled within four weeks of Easter.
- If the guests return at least one other time in the next month, during week four or five following Easter, the pastor (churches under 250 in worship) or a paid staff person (churches over 250) should call, email, or text the new family inviting them to consider becoming part of a small group.
- Over the next three months monitor their progress. The goal is to get them connected to some aspect of your church beyond worship. This is the critical time for deciding whether to join or not.