Put this in Your Easter Basket
I still pick out an Easter dress. While I am well past the age of ruffles and bows (mostly), it is a tradition that I just can’t bring myself to discard. It’s the last of these kinds of traditions from my childhood that survived into my adult life. And though my vehement grasp on my Easter clothing habits may seem a little silly, if you are in any way familiar with church, you are most likely well aware of the unspoken difference between Easter and every other Sunday of the year. Traditions vary, and memories are as individual as the people that possess them, but generally Easter is a day set aside for family, fun, and, at its core, taking a moment to really reflect on and celebrate the massive sacrifice that saved us. So yes, I remember the dresses and the overflowing Easter baskets, but more so I remember my mother sitting in the floor with us reading the story of the crucifixion, explaining the verses to us so that we could begin to really understand the gift we have been given. Easter Sunday is not just another Sunday, and that distinction can be felt across denominations, locations, demographics, and most any other factor, and if you are someone involved in church planning, it stands to reason that you have experienced the stark contrast between preparing for this particular Sunday as opposed to the rest. After all, on top of being a day that marks such an integral and sacred event to the Christian faith, churches can expect a doubling or even tripling in attendance by many visitors for whom this will be one of two church visits (including Christmas) over the entire year.
So how does that factor that in? Where do we find the balance between a new audience with an entirely different set of needs and the spiritual journey of the regular Sunday morning crowd? With such an emphasis placed on this day, questions and concerns arise from just about any staff of any church dedicated to making the most of this exceptionally unique opportunity. For insight on how to steward this chance, I spoke to Michael Farren, a Grammy nominated writer who spends almost every Sunday with the congregation he has been leading in worship for upwards of a decade.
AAW: Just to start, what are your overarching thoughts on Easter?
Michael: I love Easter, but the reality is, the power of Easter is there every Sunday, and every other day for that matter; it just so happens that culturally, Easter is a day where people actually slow down long enough to remember that something significant happened.
AAW: So how do you plan for Easter differently knowing that there is a cultural weight assigned to the day?
Michael: There’s no way around the fact that, again, culturally, people tend to go to church on Easter and Christmas in Western Civilization and in our context, America for sure. So, churches have just come to use it as an opportunity to introduce the gospel, or at the very least, remind people of the gospel when they walk in that one time a year. So, we do try our best to optimize the simple telling of what Easter is about and so, whether that’s songs or generally. Also, the message during our services on Easter, it’s very intentional that we present the gospel again because we know that there will be many, many there that haven’t been to church in a very long time. If you haven’t been to church in a long time that can be for a lot of reasons, but more than likely its because you don’t have the connect with the God of resurrection
Me: What specific measures or actions do you take that differ from a regular Sunday when planning for Easter?
Michael: We’re going to make sure that all songs and all conversation that day reflect the simple gospel that people that particular day especially. We don’t run with other topics, we run with this is what happened on Easter, this is the power that was released on Easter, just knowing that there’s going to be a ton of people there that don’t know the message, or have forgotten the message or don’t know the power of the message and you don’t want to squander that opportunity to reach more people.
In the end, each church is different, but whether you meet in a school, a warehouse, a one hundred year old church, a barn; whether you are leading six people or six hundred; the gospel remains the same. The power of what we celebrate on Easter is unchanging. The God at the center of the story is unwavering. As daunting as the facts can be, as wildly unpredictable as the attendance is, as intimidating as it sometimes sounds, Easter truly is an unparalleled opportunity. One Sunday in April, churches everywhere get to open their doors to people who may not have set foot in a place like theirs for literally decades, people who might not even know why they wandered in, people who may even be hearing the story of their redemption for the first time. While the incredible significance of what we celebrate on Easter is present every day, it can’t be denied that this holiday carries a special weight. So, churches, as you dive into the process of planning for this day, I would encourage you to take a moment, step beyond the set lists, the bullet points, the logistics, and every other minute technical aspect of this visitor-heavy service, and just let it sink into your spirit how beyond amazing it is to not only have received this gift beyond measure, but to have the chance to give and re-give it to every starving heart that still needs to receive; and on Easter, they come right to you.Comment on Facebook Comment on Twitter
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