Updated: Jan 16, 2019
Easter is April 1, 2018.
On that day, across America, churches will experience an increase in attendance. First-time attenders and delinquent attenders will make their annual pilgrimage to church. Many will come and go, just as they have in years past; and, yes, they will wait 12 more months for Easter, 2019.
But do not be dismayed. That will not be the case with all!
What you do in extending your church’s Easter Welcome could play a significant role in decisions of your first-time and infrequent attenders to return sooner than later. With that in mind, consider 5 ways to improve a church’s Easter Welcome:
#1 Expand your WELCOME MESSAGE:
I have found, in my First Impressions Ministry visits to churches that not every church communicates a very convincing welcome to those that are visiting. I get the impression that some churches assume a few ill-prepared words spoken from the platform will convey a sufficient welcome to their intended “guests.” Here’s a fact: a true welcome is much bigger than a few quick words. To expand your church’s Easter welcome message, you could start before Easter Sunday even arrives: 1) The public will search the internet for a church to attend before Easter. (According to Google Trends, there is a spike in searches for the word “church” just before Easter.) I did a curious little test prior to writing this blog. I Googled “church in Colorado Springs” and reviewed the results; then I searched “Easter church in Colorado Springs.” Do it yourself and note the difference in the results; it is significant. If you want to communicate “Welcome” to an unchurched audience prior to Easter, add the word, “Easter” to your Key Words for your Website pages. Not only will you increase your welcome message, you will also get noticed. 2) Use attractive invitation cards for distribution by your regular attenders among their unchurched friends, coworkers, and family to invite people to church on Easter Day. (Samples and templates are available online) A simple exchange of this card provides a personalized welcome to the church and provides all the pertinent information needed to make a visit (who, what, where, when, and how). 3) Hang an Easter banner on the building or along the street in the weeks before Easter announcing “Easter Worship” times. I am convinced that to the motoring public, an Easter banner with worship times says Welcome as clearly as it can be said. 4) Number four is really good; but I am getting long in this blog. Check the Comments below to read it.
#2 Broaden your WELCOME PRACTICES: This is about turning it up a notch or two. It is about being fuly prepared, i.e., ready in all areas! Are two greeters typical for a normal Sunday? Then what about 4 on Easter? Or 6? That kind of thing. Here’s an example: Even if you normally don’t have parking lot greeters, do it on Easter. You might like it. Intentionally expanding your welcoming practices like this (or other ways, below) will do several things for you. It will: 1) provide multiple exposures to the welcoming message of the church, as well as 2) raise awareness among your attenders to the church’s vision for reaching people, 3) plug more people into the church’s ministry, 4) build confidence among attenders that the guests they personally invite will be well received, thus increasing the Invitations extended. So, I suggest that you get your church’s brain trust together and think: what can we do over and beyond the usual to extend a welcome to those who will visit us on Easter Day? (specialized Easter gift, super-fast child check-in, clear and attractive and well-placed signage, exit greeters, etc.) Keep in mind the unique needs and interests of your potential guests and you will be more effective with the expanded welcome practices you choose.
#3 Sensitize your WELCOME EXPERIENCE: The Easter visitor will, not uncommonly, have some level of anxiety during his time in your church. He may be fearful; he may feel awkward or uncomfortable. Lost. He may even wonder, “why did I do this to myself?” The church’s challenge is to not pile on to that emotional distress unnecessarily. Here’s a few things that your church might do to demonstrate sensitivity to your guest. 1) Identify the program personalities. You know who is leading worship and preaching but your guest doesn’t, unless you tell him in the program, on the projection screen, or by way of verbal introductions. 2) Help your guests to understand the various elements and expressions of the worship time, e.g., offering, Responsive Readings, stand up/sit down or hands up, Bible Reading, etc. 3) Have a friendly approach to guest registration. Don’t ask too much info; give adequate time to complete the registration; explain how to “turn in” the information; don’t embarrass the guest by drawing unwanted attention to him. 4) Don’t press in too tight on your guests; give them some room to breathe; show interest but not like a lion on its prey.
#4 Extend your WELCOME TIME: You want your guests to carry with them the sense of welcome as long as possible. It has already been noted above that your church can demonstrate “welcome” to guests even before they arrive by way of the online welcome and Easter banner and the Easter invitation card. Done well, those early expressions of welcome will open opportunities for the church to continue welcoming while the Easter visitor is attending. 1) Let me suggest that pastors carefully craft a welcoming message for your guests on Easter day (and every Sunday). Words matter; and a heartfelt acknowledgement of your Easter guests supported by genuine appreciation for their visit will go a long way toward making your guests feel at ease during their visit. 2) Of course, those words must be matched by friendliness, hospitality, and smiles. Encourage your regular attenders to be welcoming. A prior blog titled “Ten Foot Rule” might be helpful prior to Easter to train the people in the pews. Finally, your guest should sense they are welcome after the Easter Sunday visit. Insure that each registered guest is provided appropriate follow-up (quick, personal, and informative). Invite guests to return. Offer incentive to visit again on the Sunday following Easter, e.g., a free BBQ for returning guests, a new sermon series starting the next Sunday, or a special event designed to appeal to Easter guests.
#5 Re-visit your WELCOME TRAINING: If there is ever time to have your leadership, your volunteers, and yes, your regular attenders tuned in to properly engaging your guests, IT IS EASTER. Here are some realities: 1) The same groups just mentioned do not always understand or appreciate the opportunity for reaching new people on Easter; 2) neither do they necessarily think they can or should make it their business. 3) And, by the way, many don’t know how, e.g., what to say or do. Consequently, they say and do nothing. Every church would do well to consider improving their welcome training with the people in the pews. Provide training for your volunteers so they are ready to function in their unique roles (parking, door greeters, welcome booth, worship entrance, childcare, exit greeters, etc.). But don’t stop there. Offer some training that elevates the regular attender into the team. Youtube training video? From the pulpit on pre-Easter Sundays? Whatever works. Each church is different. Figure out what works for you to get your people actively involved in some welcome training.
There is still time; Easter is April 1. Make sure your church’s welcome mat is fully in place.
I am always interested in your comments. If you have additional input and ideas that might be helpful at another church, please share it in the comments below. Let me know if I can help. Thanks!