Dads put on ties, moms put on dresses, and if the kids are below a certain again, their outfits match.
The cross is draped in white. Banners taut the phrase “He Is Risen Indeed.” And white lilies with purple foil-wrapped pots line the platform, filling the sanctuary with their headache-inducing fragrance.
It’s that one day of the year where our attendance magically swells, much of it by those we’d categorize as “lost” or “unchurched” or even “dechurched.”
It’s on this day that our augmented audience is somehow struck with the idea that they need to go to church.
And have ham for lunch.
So we roll out the best for them. We up the ante with our music, often requiring one or two extra rehearsals. We put on a live drama or produce a video just for that Sunday.
We might even have a cantata!
(Which no one is sure what that really means, other than the choir gets a few extra numbers and a few people sing solos who probably shouldn’t.)
I think the comment I heard the other day in a meeting sums it up:
“Easter is our Super Bowl.”
It’s our Big Sunday. Our one chance to reach the lost and pull in the stragglers. By the time it’s over, our budgets are blown up and volunteers are burned out. And the worship leader finally gets to see her family for the first time in two weeks.
But, hey, it’s worth it: It’s our Super Bowl.
Does this bother anyone else, this putting all our proverbial eggs in this one basket (lined with green plastic grass, of course)?
Please don’t get me wrong: the resurrection—it’s a BIG deal. And we should make much of it. But should we really be making this much of Easter Sunday?
I get why we do it.
First, it’s the apex of the Christian calendar. The first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox is the Sunday we’ve set aside to celebrate the resurrection for centuries. It’s ingrained into our church culture.
Second, it seems like too big of an opportunity to waste. Unsaved people actually walk through our doors and give us 60 to 90 minutes of their time. Why would we not want to make the most of it?
There are two big things that bother me about how we treat Easter Sunday.
1) Bait And Switch
In many churches, Easter is a bait and switch. They create a caliber of event that isn’t sustainable or repeatable, at least not until Christmas.
It’s designed to be entertaining, engaging, impactful, moving, etc. But what happens when someone comes back the next week? Will they find that those same adjectives describe the worship service?
The second issue is actually a question of stewardship.
2) The Cost Of Discipleship?
Many churches view their Resurrection Sunday services as an outreach and thus are willing to pull out all the stops to see conversions.
But how many of those “decisions” end up as true disciples, and how many are just numbers on a year-end report?
I hear this often in the church: If only one person comes to know the Lord, it’ll be worth it.
Yes. A lost person coming into the Kingdom is worth an immense amount. But doesn’t it seem like we should be more effective at disciple-making?
What if we invested the same amount of effort and dollars that we put into Easter Sunday throughout the year on intentional, relationship-driven discipleship?
What To Do With Easter Sunday?
So what do you do if you come to the conclusion that your church might be participating in Easter Overkill?
The first thing you need to consider is this: What is your place of authority and influence in your church?
Lead appropriately from there. If you push for a different way and the leadership above you says no, you need to honor that.
If you do have some ability to influence the approach to Easter, here are some things to think about and discuss with your leadership team.
1. Are we putting too much expectations on this one service to accomplish outreach?
One follow-up question that might give you an indication: Is this one of the few worship services we push people to invite their friends to?
2. How effective have we been in the past at moving people from Easter guests to committed disciples?
I can’t give you numbers by which to measure this. You have to decide what “effective” is for your church.
But if your attendance swells for one Sunday with the “Chreasters” (Christmas/Easter-only attendees) and then dips back to regular numbers with no new faces, that could be an indication of effectiveness.
3. Does our service have elements of a bait and switch?
How differently does Easter Sunday look when compared to your other services?
It’s absolutely not wrong to have a special service on Easter. I think it’s the motivation behind it. Consider these two motivations:
We have a unique Easter service to enable people to encounter the resurrection in a fresh or brand new way.
We want to capitalize on the inevitable bump in attendance to try grow our church.
Few churches will have the latter as their sole motive. But it can be an influencing factor in how churches design their services.
If you do opt to have a drastically different service on Easter, why not tell people that:
“If you participate with us on another Sunday morning, our services won’t have this same look and feel. This morning, we’re celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
4. Can we simplify our Easter services and still be as impactful?
I’ve been part of two churches that have simplified Easter. The only real push back we observed came from a few regulars who missed the pageantry of years past. We still offer an engaging service that helps people experience the resurrection in a fresh way.
But the difference is, we aren’t as fried on “Easter Monday.”
5. Do we need to emphasize the resurrection more often throughout the rest of the year?
As churches who believe in Jesus Christ as the only hope for the world, we can never make too much of the resurrection. And I can’t help but think our Easter services will be more impactful if we spend more time throughout the year teaching and celebrating the resurrection.
So here’s the thing: if you’re reading this around the time it posts, you’ve probably already have committed to plan for Easter. So I wouldn’t change that, unless you really feel God leading you that way.
But if you think your church might be dealing with Easter Overkill, take time to do an honest postmortem on your services following Easter. You may find some ways to simplify and still be as effective next year.
So I’d love to hear your thoughts on this idea of Easter Overkill. Agree? Disagree? Comment below.