You don’t have to be an astute analyst of the culture to understand that we live in a far different world than Baby Boomers grew up in. Many Boomer church leaders may be aware of the changes in life, technology, and culture (“You can show that on TV now?), while at the same time planning for Easter church celebrations the same way they did when Ozzie, Harriet and family was the target audience. Being shocked about TV is one thing, sticking with outdated and ineffective ways to promote and celebrate Easter has far more serious consequences.
If you want share the power of our risen Lord in ways that will change people today and forever, you may need a new strategy, but before we get into that, let me be clear. . . .
This isn’t about Boomer bashing, any age group can make the same incorrect and ineffective assumptions
The mindset that needs a new strategy isn’t confined to any one age group, though many leaders in the Boomer generation seem to be stuck in it. I’m not bashing Boomers, this is my generation and many of my peers in ministry provided the inspiration for this article. The mindset (not the age range) that I see with Boomer friends and church leaders of various ages, but similar mindset, assumes:
- People outside the church know the basics about the Christian faith and what’s in the Bible.
- Your community members know the story of Easter and are looking for a place to celebrate it.
- All we have to do to get them to get saved and be part of our church is to have the biggest, loudest, most colorful Easter service in town, complete with a petting zoo for kids and brunch served on the premises.
These assumptions range from totally incorrect to ineffective.
As we plan Easter outreach and celebration, we need to realize that contrary to the assumptions above:
Our world is no longer Christian in its mindset. The world has shifted away from not only a Biblical conscience (the obvious departure that makes anything OK on TV and all media), but from basic Christian values. This isn't limited to lax moral standards. Many people today have no idea of the value of churches or why church attendance is important.
Most people do not know the facts about the Christian faith, and that includes many people in your church. Many articles over the years show most people don’t know who the disciples are, or what the books of the Bible are, or their contents and it follows that there is little chance they know much about what is in the Bible itself. Unless your church has an intentional program of Bible teaching for all ages, the people in your church will be little different from the community at large in their knowledge of the Bible. In the past, the Bible was often required reading in school, the classics of literature were filled with Biblical references, families read the Bible together because they had few other books or types of entertainment before radio and television—this is largely gone.
You can't assume understanding of the true events of Easter by all of your audience. It is hard to comprehend that people may come to your church with no understanding of the Biblical reasons for Easter celebration. Even if they have a vague idea that it's about Jesus rising from the dead, they may not understand what his death was about, what it means that he paid for our sins and the power of his resurrection. What believers in Jesus celebrate, visitors who came in answer to a family plea may only tolerate as the price of admission to the big ham dinner waiting at mom's after the service.
Because of this lack of Biblical knowledge, few people in your community will come to your Easter celebrations for strictly spiritual reasons
But they will come. It is a holiday that the culture advertises and supports and people want to do something different; something for family and kids. They will come for a number of reasons that include:
- fun for the kids
- free food
- great music
- that’s what you are supposed to do
- vague childhood memories of Easter
- in spite of life's distractions, there is a loneliness inside
- the reality that people are praying for them and the Holy Spirit is drawing them
We probably can’t change the culture before Easter, but there are some things we can do
With the situation being what it is, how can we formulate a strategy that will be effective at Easter in not only bringing in a large number of people into our church services, but that will enable them to meet the Risen Christ they are celebrating and to begin a journey towards a personal relationship with Him? Every step of the way we must remember that we have a great opportunity to interact with people who do not know Jesus, but who need him. We must never forget they are people with no innate understanding of anything we do in the church, why we do it, and what is expected of them. Because of this we must be very thoughtful and intentional about everything we do as we plan and celebrate Easter.
First, be continuously in prayer for wisdom, understanding and compassion for our world today. The Lord promises to give it to us. The attitudes of people in our world today don't surprise him and he loves our world just as much today as when all the stores were closed on Sunday. There are some positive things we can do and here are some specific ideas:
We need to start with our congregation
We need to review in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and in small groups why we celebrate Easter. We need to discover anew the incredible miracle of the Resurrection and its central place in the Christian church. The observation of Lent, even for non-liturgical churches can be an excellent practice to focus on the traditions of the church, self-denial, and the importance of the coming of Easter.
We need to instill in our people the reality of the fate of those who do not know Jesus as Savior.
If our people believe that their friends who don’t come to church on Easter, miss out on nothing more than free chocolate and brunch, it isn’t a very big deal. But if they truly believe that friends who die without knowing Christ will spend an eternity in darkness and conscious suffering and regret, they may take inviting their friends to hear the Easter message more seriously.
This is not a fun reality to remind people about, but it is our duty to do it. To explain this more and for a free bulletin insert that you can use to motivate your people, go to the article: “Why it matters if you invite friends to church for Easter, and a FREE bulletin insert to help you do it” It is available at this link:
We need to equip our people to be inviters
Rather than buying advertising from a company that promises to bring you people on Easter, which means in reality sending the same postcard out from a number of churches in the same community to every household in the area, equip your people with invitation cards, postcards, door-hangers that YOU create in the church that reflect your church and how you are going to uniquely celebrate Easter.
Teach your people that they are responsible to invite in person, with paper business cards and invitations and digitally. For it to have lasting impact, outreach for Easter is not something the church purchases, it is an activity that involves the whole church.
Create communications on paper and digitally that follow-up after the Easter service
If you really want to use Easter to reach people for Jesus, be VERY INTENTIONAL about using the Easter service as a time to connect with people and get them to return, to become involved with your church or to explore a relationship with Jesus. You should do this with printed materials you give out at the service, that explain what your church is about as well as providing resources on the web and in print for those who want to know more.
Here are two articles with examples that will help you do this, available here:
There are lots to do and communications to create, but help is available
I pray this article has helped you think and challenged you to pray in new ways about how you approach your Easter celebrations this year. I know what I am suggesting here is a lot of additional work for church staffs already stretched to the limit, and I honestly don’t know how we will do all we want and need to for our church. But I do know that what we do is vitally important if we want to introduce our communities to Jesus in an eternal relationship instead entertaining them for one Sunday.