When we put all our eggs in the Easter basket, we do a disservice to our community. Consider your ministry from a holistic perspective: overall, you don’t want people to come for just one day. You want them to come back, become part of your community, and be discipled. So today, we’re going to give you some ideas for how to get people to take that next step.
Here’s an interesting tidbit that might help you change your mindset: in liturgical churches, Easter begins on Easter Sunday, but it keeps going afterward.
Easter isn’t the destination. When done well, it’s a bridge or the start of something new for the people visiting your church for the first time. Take time to dig into that and help people understand it better.
Here are our top tips for getting people to come back the week after Easter:
Give Time and Attention to the Week After Easter
This tip is going to require you to change your mentality when it comes to Easter. Here’s what we mean: Sometimes, we focus so much on Easter that we forsake the week after Easter. Take half of your time, energy, and resources that you’re used to devoting to Easter and put that toward planning the week after. Make the next Sunday just as good: just as special, unique, and intentional as Easter Sunday. When you begin to do that, that can begin to open up opportunities for Easter Sunday to be a giant evangelism tool for your church. Suddenly, it becomes a bridge, not a final destination. Easter can be an avenue that connects people to what God’s already doing at your church every single week.
Here’s how you pull this off: take 50% of the time and effort that you spend getting people to Easter Sunday itself, and spend that on helping them get connected. Usually, follow-up is kind of an afterthought where we think, “Okay, we’ll get them to fill out a connect card.” and then we don’t do anything with it. Instead, spend time, energy and resources asking yourself, “What can we do to let people know that this is a place where they belong and that we want them to come back next week?”
Create Opportunities for Connection
As the pastor, it’s good for people to feel like they’ve connected with you, personally. You don’t have to shake everyone’s hand that walks through the door, but you do have to be able to connect with them on a personal level. The rocket company produced a study several years ago where they said something like 93% of people will decide if they’re going to come back based on the preaching of the pastor. With that in mind, one of the things you can do as a pastor on Easter Sunday is for you to share, not just personal stories and illustrations, but really the heartbeat of the church.
Someone who’s new on Easter doesn’t know the backstory. So, if you can take a little bit of time during your service, perhaps during your sermon, to say, “Hey, I know several of you are new here. Let me just share, for a few moments, how this began and what our heart is for the future.” Share something personal, so that they feel like they can connect with you personally, but connect it to the larger community and vision of the church.
Whether or not you can shake everyone’s hand and get their name, make sure they leave feeling like they could and did connect with you and your church on a personal, emotional level. That goes a long way. If they’re deciding whether or not they’re going to come back based on you, as the pastor, they need to feel like they know you at least a little bit.
Beyond that, get creative with finding ways to connect with people. Whether you’re shaking hands and sharing a story from the stage, or you’re getting greeters to connect with people for 5 minutes in the lobby.
Showcase your children’s and youth ministry on Easter
People will often choose a church based on how connected their kids or teenagers feel to it, so intentionally introduce and showcase those ministries on Easter.
Kids ministry is the easier of the two- make it a smooth check-in process, showcase how safe the environment is, and give children handouts they can show to their parents. A lot of times, people are dropping their kids off, but not necessarily seeing the environment that their kids are in- if you can be intentionally transparent about this, it’s going to stick out in people’s minds and reassure them that their kids are safe with you. One idea is to cut to live video of what’s happening in the children’s area- although you’d probably want to be fairly confident that it wasn’t going to look like chaos when you did!
When it comes to youth, you’re going to have to get more creative. For example, you could show a video about the youth group. Alternatively, you could have students involved in the service and point out their involvement, or have them in your announcement video.
In business terms, we’d call this “Creating social proof.” In more churchy terms, we would call this a creating a “testimony video” Either way, the basic concept is the same: don’t be the only voice sharing your story of how God has transformed your life. If there’s a couple or a person where God has transformed their life, and you’ve been able to see it and walk alongside them in that, you need to share those stories!
Stories are powerful because they have the potential to show people in real, relatable terms that this Jesus thing is for people like them. When you can connect with parts of someone’s testimony, all of a sudden the service becomes real and so much more personal. It’s real people telling them that God wants to make a difference in their life. That He is able.
So having videos that create social proof is really going to go a long way toward having people connect and want to come back. It makes the service more tangible and sticky.
Use a Sermon Series to Bring People Back
When you think about TV series, they always end on a cliffhanger. They leave you wanting to come back to the next episode for more. You can create the same effect with a sermon series if you pitch it right: Let people know that the Bible is relevant for their life. Pick something they’ll be interested in, and don’t package it in churchy language. Instead, pick something that speaks to their needs, and preach and speak to that.
Many churches start a new series after Easter Sunday, but other churches start it on Easter Sunday so people get a preview. We’re not sure which is the best practice, but we do know that you need to say, hey, the Bible speaks to you on this particular hurt or need you’re experiencing, and we’re going to be talking about it and it’s really helpful for you to hear. Create tension by revealing just enough to catch their interest, but leaving enough mystery that they want to come back to find more! In other words, build excitement, but don’t give away the next episode.
Pray Like Crazy
This one probably seems obvious, but sometimes we miss it or pray for the wrong things. Pray for the service, that God would speak and that people would come back. So often, we focus on the polish of our services. We want the technical proficiency to be there, but we have to remember that it’s nothing without the power of the Holy Spirit.
At the end of the day, we need to be praying that God would move in people’s hearts. That’s what we really want, more than we want a “perfect” service. We want people to not only commit their hearts to Jesus but to come back the next week and become part of our community in order to become a disciple of Jesus. And so really take the time, form teams, and pray about it. Pray about your service, pray about your sermon, and pray that God would move.
Have an Intentional Follow-Up System
Of course, while you’re praying, you’re going to be praying over the people who fill out connect cards. But you shouldn’t stop there- make sure you have an intentional follow-up system.
Automation trumps determination- in other words, having a no-fail (automatic) system in place for this beats good intentions, every time. So let us ask you this: do you have automated email sequences that are pre-written and pre-scheduled? Are you using pre-recorded voicemails? Do you, perhaps, have a system of human beings making phone calls and following up? Whatever you do, make it varied, and have something intentional in place so that there are several points of contact. And make sure that, as you’re planning your follow-up, you don’t use that momentum you gained on Easter.
To that end, once you receive those connect cards, email them on MONDAY. Thank them for filling out a connect card. Reach out and see if they have any questions or prayer requests, and let them know that someone does read their responses. Then, on Thursday or Friday, send them an email reminding them of the upcoming series. Touch on those pain points that you’ll be covering. Re-engage with them and continue to build excitement about Sunday, while making an official invite to the next service.
Depending on the amount of information you get from somebody, you can tailor the message to fit them. For example, if you know a family has teenagers, have the youth pastor call them to invite them to service. Bottom line? Let them know someone’s there to listen or help if they need more information. That goes a long way for most people.
Bonus Tip: Do Something Big
When we say, “Do something big,” we mean BIG. If you want to make sure people come back the week after Easter, create a little bit of a spectacle.
For example, Justin’s church in college did a contest where attendance prior to the week after Easter equaled entries. If your name was called, you had the chance to try to shoot a layup, a free throw, and a three-pointer in 24 seconds, you could win 25 thousand dollars!
Your church probably doesn’t want to do something that big for the week after Easter, but if you have something to create excitement the week after Easter, you’ll have an easier time pulling people back.
Thank you for listening to this episode! We hope these ideas spark something. Whether you use them as-is or they lead to something else, we hope that they’re helpful and that you have an amazing Easter Sunday and Easter season. We pray that as you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, more people will join your church and become disciples of Jesus.
If you have more ideas on this topic, you can tweet us at #HelloChurchPod, or you can leave a comment on the Youtube episode! We love hearing from you.