Would you invite people on the street to a graduation party for someone they don't know?
Would you ask strangers to celebrate the promotion of a person they never met?
Would it make sense at all to send out an impersonal bulk mailing for people to attend a wedding?
Of course, you won't do any of these things. You've all been raised better than that. You don't invite someone to an event that means nothing to them, attended by people they don't know when you don't know the person you are asking.
If that's true in our day-to-day lives, why is it we do that as a church for Easter or other special events?
Think about it. I'm asking because, after spending some time looking at current online advertisements created for churches to send to strangers for Easter, I realized that many of them would only make sense to Christians. Then I realized that outside of the brunch, many of the things that church people at the Easter service are only meaningful to the people at the church.
That Jesus rose from the dead is extraordinarily meaningful to those of us who know Jesus as Savior and Lord, but we can't expect people who don't know Him to get as excited about it, just like we wouldn't expect them to be thrilled because our brother got well from a serious illness and they did not know him. If we go on and on how worried we were, but how thrilled we are now that he has recovered and how great it is to be around him, our friend might listen politely, but be quite glad when that experience is over.
Sadly, that might be how many of our friends feel when they come to church if we jump up, wave our hands and sing praise songs that make no sense at all to them. An unexplained formal liturgy can be just as confusing to the unchurched. I'll never forget something Mark Mittelberg said years ago that for an unchurched person to visit your church is just like how it would be for you to visit a Buddhist Temple. You wouldn't have any idea how to act, what they got excited about, the meaning of what was going on.
What makes a difference
If we are going to have an Easter service where primarily Christians rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord--that's fine. What can be a problem is if we work hard to encourage our people to invite their unchurched friends, but then we conduct the Easter service as if they weren't there.
It can make a huge difference if we take time to pray, think, and then design our Easter service with the friends of the congregation in mind, here are some ideas:
- Do a survey of your congregation, ask them what they think is confusing to a visitor.
- Have them survey their friends (a way to begin inviting). Ask what is confusing or uncomfortable about coming to church and how it could be better.
- MAKE changes based on the feedback you get.
- Be sure to have clear instructions for visitors on your website, for people who check it out ahead of time (you did put your website on all your invitations didn't you?).
- A "Visitors Section" of some sort is essential on the home page. What is the proper dress, where to park, where kids go, all those things are important. ****BE SURE TO UPDATE your basic information before Easter.**** You probably don't have the same schedule or the same events that you do on non-holiday Sundays or weeks.
- Be sure to have some sort of printed information with websites a visitor can go to, emails, social media links, and phone numbers if they have additional questions. Here is the link to templates that can help:
There are many things you can do to make Easter a celebration for both the new and old friends of Jesus, but probably the most important would be a reminder to do unto others as we'd have them do to us. Think about what it was like (or would be like if you grew up in the church) to not know Jesus or anything about a church. Ask yourself what would draw you closer, make you want to explore, make you feel comfortable while you are at the church and then do that.