How To Engage & Retain Your Easter Visitors
In the Christian world, there’s a category of churchgoers who fall into the “Easter and Christmas” category. These people may identify as a Christian, but only attend church twice a year. What keeps them coming back every year? It may be tradition, family, or obligation, but with the right perspective, they could be the very people on the brink of a whole new way of life.
Many pastors spend a lot of time thinking about how to keep these visitors coming back to church. How can you engage them in a way that gets their attention? Your Easter service may be a perfect time to do this. Easter is a beloved time of year - regardless of your faith walk - because, like Christmas, the traditions often have nostaglic value for people. But what if in addition to the tradition, your church could be an example of what christian community looks like for these twice-a-year guests?
Here are some practical ways you and your church can celebrate Easter with intentionality for reaching your new visitors.
1. Practice giving yourself away in radical ways.
When I worked at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston, the entire church lived out a specific set of values set forth in a church-wide campaign. These five values - easy to remember, thought-provoking, and engaging to anyone who hears them - were constantly mentioned and talked about. One of them was about generosity, encouraging all to practice the act of “giving themselves away in generosity and service.”
On Easter, this was particularly poignant to remember when the parking lot was overflowing and there were not an abundance of spaces to accommodate the regular members and the visitors. One of the things the pastor encouraged members to do was to park farther away and utilize the day’s special shuttle service, because this could be a tangible and practical way of practicing radical generosity toward our guests.
Give up your parking space? It seems like a simple thing and yet, when it’s still humid in Houston and you’re running late, it’s maybe a bigger sacrifice than it appears.
Encourage your church to practice similar radical ways of being generous. Giving up parking spaces, choosing the seats in the back of the sanctuary, consciously being last in the potluck line, or being the first to welcome visitors are all small things that will leave a big impression on a new person to your church.
2. Remember to celebrate the season of Easter, not just the day.
We celebrate Christmas as a season from December 1 to the 25th, but Easter doesn’t always get the same kind of attention. But the truth is, Easter and the liturgical season of Lent before it has a rich history. It can be a time of reflection and spiritual formation. It might even be that programming in the weeks leading up to Easter will engage visitors who might otherwise only show up on Easter morning. Great examples of this could be a published devotional, prayer calendars in the church insert, or special music services.
3. Plan activities that emphasize community & encourage follow-up experiences.
In the same way that celebrating Easter as a season and not just a day can bring visitors to your church on a regular basis and encourage them to stick around, planning church activities that emphasize community is another great way to engage visitors. Things like Easter egg hunts or church-wide meals provide tons of opportunities for moms and dads to find themselves standing next to other parents - visitors who might have come because they were searching specifically for an egg hunt for their child. Strike up a conversation, offer to invite them to lunch after or to your community group, or even exchange contact information to grab coffee later.
Look at Easter from a visitor’s perspective. When community is emphasized in your church, it gives guests a taste of what Christian fellowship is like - and the hope is, new people who come through your doors will want more of that, even after Easter is over.
How does your church engage and retain your visitors during Easter?