Is Your Church Ready for Easter in 2021?
Easter is often referred to as the Super Bowl for churches. Not only is it the most attended day of the year, but more importantly, it represents the foundation of Christianity. On Easter, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through this act, he freed us from the burden of our sins, allowing us to have a direct relationship with God.
While churches should always be reflecting on the love and compassion of Jesus, Easter provides a special opportunity to remember and proclaim what we believe and why we believe it. However, it’s important to remember your audience. Easter services aren’t just filled with regular members, but first-time guests and out of town visitors as well.
For many, Easter might be the only time they attend church the whole year. It’s critical that your church is accommodating to everyone, regardless of where they’re from or where they’re at in their faith journey. After all, Jesus died for each and everyone of us. By making your Easter service accessible and unintimidating, you can serve as a reminder of this fact.
After the last year that all of us have experienced, we need the unifying love of Christ now more than ever.
What Will Easter Be Like This Year?
Easter 2020 looked a lot different than it normally does. Just weeks before the biggest Sunday of the year, most communities across the country went into lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. It was like nothing we had ever seen in our lifetime as churches found themselves unable to meet in person. Seats that would otherwise be filled were found completely empty as churches held services exclusively online.
“I was the only person in the pews,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. “It was my opportunity to sing and I heard only one voice in the cathedral. That really made it real that these are different times. But Easter will go on. Easter has to go on.”
And it did go on.
Churches of all sizes and denominations rallied, streaming their Easter services across Facebook, YouTube, Zoom calls, and more. Rather than putting on their Sunday finest and heading into packed church buildings, attendees sat around computer monitors, phones, and TVs with their immediate families and friends. Despite the overwhelming circumstances, Easter continued.
“It’s not the church we know,” said Senior Pastor John Hierlinger of Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul. “But we know it is the church.”
A year later, we face a unique situation yet again. Though churches are allowed to be open, many still face capacity limits. The threat of COVID-19 still lingers as well. For those who haven’t contracted it and haven’t received a vaccine, attending service online might still seem like the best option. After all, more and more people have become comfortable with the idea of attending church online this past year.
As we head into Easter 2021, churches need to take all of these factors into consideration. They shouldn’t be trying to simply recreate Easter from 2-3 years ago. Instead, they should be embracing new tools and strategies that have proven affective at connecting with people in a post-COVID world.
Whatever your plans are, it starts with this…
Provide Clear, Easily Accessible Information
Now more than ever, it is critical for churches to clearly communicate times, options, and requirements for Easter services. Don’t assume that people will know when your Easter services are or what they will look like. Go above and beyond in providing clear information that’s easy to find.
In addition to providing a broad overview, it also gives times and dates for services at all of their locations. It includes a link for registering online as well. For churches that tend to max out their seating availability, providing online registration is a must this year. You can find some guidance and options for online church registration functionality here.
The River Valley Church page also features links to their Good Friday services, which will be virtual only. For churches who normally have a good Friday service, it’s not a bad idea to go digital this year.
Once you’ve created an Easter page for your website, you should make sure it’s easy to find. We would suggest making it the main call-to-action on your website. You may even want to add it as a link in your main menu. The easier it is to find, the more likely people are to find the necessary information and attend your service.
Of course, you don’t want to just put it on your website. You should also…
Leverage Social Media
Social media is a powerful tool for churches throughout the year. After all, 72% of people actively use some form a social media. With social media posts, you can share details about your Easter service that will appear directly on the feeds of members, as well as the feeds of people they’re connected with. Social media provides a simple, yet effective way for your own members to share Easter service details.
In the Sundays leading up to Easter, you should encourage your members to be sharing your social posts as a way of inviting their own friends and families. You may even consider creating a “press kit” of sorts that members can download. This could be a link to a file that contains social media images designed and properly sized for various social media platforms.
Of course, you should also be connecting with church members outside of social media. There is still a quarter of your attendees that don’t actively use social media of any kind. Additionally, it’s possible for even the best crafted social media messages to get lost in the shuffle of endless scrolling feeds and timelines.
Email communication is a powerful tool for churches. 91% of people check their email at least once every day, and 61% of people consider it their preferred method of communication. Utilizing a platform like Mailchimp can allow you to easily email thousands of people simultaneously with messages addressed directly to them. By organizing your addresses into different lists or segments, you can send entirely different emails to targeted groups of people.
For example, you might send one message geared towards official church members, while another message might be geared towards new visitors.
Text communication is also a great tool for providing general info, last minute changes, and more. 98% of text messages are opened, and they’re typically opened right away. With a platform like Clearstream, you can create a text list specifically for Easter. This allows for people to text in a keyword that will then provide them with information and action steps relating to Easter services.
Be Welcoming to Guests
As you know, Easter Sunday tends to have the most visitors of the year. While this creates a great opportunity to reach more people with the gospel, it can also create a potential problem. With everything that’s happening, not to mention all of the people filling the church, it can be easy for guests to be missed. It also increases the chances of them feeling overwhelmed and unwelcomed.
Special attention and focus should be given to connecting with visitors, keeping them at ease, and making them feel at-home. It’s not always easy, but it is possible.
There should be an established process for how people enter and move through the church so that they are connected with greeters and identified as visitors. In addition to door greeters, try and have multiple “first-time visitor” stations near the entrance. These should be easily identifiable and approachable.
Additionally, you should be empowering regular members to be on the lookout for guests. Even if you have a fully stacked welcome team, it can be possible for them to be overwhelmed. By having your members step in to greet visitors, you shouldn’t have to worry about missing anyone.
Make It Accessible In-Person and Online
Before 2020, Easter was largely seen as an in-person event. We live in a new-normal now, and churches will need to actively work at changing that perception. Even as vaccinations are increasing and COVID rates are going down, many are still uneasy of attending crowded events. While cleaning measures, social distancing, and spacing out services can help increase the likelihood of physical attendance, there will likely be more people than usual attending online.
It’s critical that you make your online Easter experience as similar to the in-person experience as possible.
By doing so, you’re not decreasing the likelihood that people won’t attend in-person. Rather, you’re increasing the odds of connecting with someone who would otherwise not attend at all. For many, attending an online service is their first step towards checking out a church. It’s certainly less intimidating, and it’s easier to schedule around.
For some, it may just be the only way they can attend church. As Annica Cook says:
“Let’s not forget those who cannot or possibly will not enter a physical building. There were many prior to COVID who were homebound for various reasons now because of COVID there are even greater numbers who do not feel comfortable attending public worship. Additionally, there are those working and serving overseas who are looking for a little taste of home. These groups still deserve to be ministered to and discipled.”
Depending on your live streaming capabilities, it might make more sense to record an Easter service separately for online viewers. Pre-recording worship allows for more control, as well as improved quality. It can even allow for the pastor to specifically address those watching from their homes. You can also try preaching from a different setting. Last year, Rev. Tom Biatek from Path of Grace Methodist in Maplewood recorded an Easter sermon during sunrise.
Finally, it can be good to offer pickup items for those who plan to attend from home. Many churches allow people to come and pickup communion elements during the week. If you’re doing any activities for your children’s ministry, you can also provide take-home packets for parents.
Never Forgetting What It’s About
With all of the extra time and effort that goes into putting together Easter service, not to mention the expectations of all of those attending, it can be easy for churches to feel overwhelmed. It’s natural that you want things to run smoothly, and that you want your Easter service to feel special. But what should always matter most is that the Gospel is preached, and the Resurrection is celebrated.
“We know that the first Easter did not look like a packed sanctuary with brass quartets and fancy Easter dresses, but was a small, quiet event, held outside of an empty tomb,” said Pastor Ali Ferin of St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Roseville.
Whether your service is for 10 or 10,000, you should never lose site of why you’re gathering.
It’s equally important that you don’t gloss over what actually took place 2000 years ago. The teachings of Jesus are important. The sinless life that he lived is important. But without his death and resurrection, these things would lose their true fulfillment. As 1 Corinthians 15:21 says, “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.”
Your Easter service should be open, accessible, and accommodating to all, but this should never come at the cost of watering down the Gospel or diminishing its true message. For it is only through that message that we might have a relationship with God and hope for our future.
From all of us at Torrch, we wish you a blessed Easter.
Making It Easier for Churches to Organize and Connect
We know it isn’t always easy for churches to coordinate large events and schedule volunteers. That’s why we’re creating a platform that will make this much easier. Torrch is an app that will provide tools for churches to better connect with their local communities. It’s not live yet, but it will be launching soon to both Apple and Android devices.
If you want to know as soon as it’s available, make sure to fill out the fields below!