What do you feel when you realize that Easter is right around the corner? I get excited, but I also get a little anxious. The reason for conflicting emotions is because I realize what's at stake. More people come through our church doors that weekend than any other weekend of the year. There's no better time to have a clear presentation of the gospel than on Easter, so we better bring our A- Game. Here are 5 ways to make sure your Easter experience is awesome this year.
1. Grab Their Attention
It's so important that you have something in the first few minutes of your service that will capture their attention. Something that will wow them or make them lean in. This doesn't always need to be up and flashy it can also be something very simple that makes them lean in. Last year our opener was very high energy starting with five or six people on video retelling the story of the resurrection. Behind it, the band was playing the chords to Hillsong’s “Alive”. When they finish telling them the story the band had built to a crescendo and we went right into the singing of that song.
On the other extreme, a few years back we started with a video that just had words telling the story of the crucifixion and then a single light came up on the stage with someone singing acappella the old Andre Crouch song, “I Don't Know Why Jesus Loved Me”. Both were powerful, both captured their attention but they were done in very different ways. It doesn't necessarily matter if the energy is up or down but it does matter that we capture their attention.
2. Limit Congregational Music to 10 Minutes
This is one that, on occasion, I may get some pushback from people. I can just hear some of you as you're reading this saying, “How is 10 minutes enough worship time on Easter?”. I had an assistant years ago that felt this way. She would always say, "Two songs ain't enough for my Jesus on Easter”. Ha ha ha....now, thinking selfishly, I agree with her because I love to worship and I especially love to celebrate on Easter. But this goes back to asking ourselves the question: “Who is our target audience for that day?”. On this day, more than any other, we're going to have a lot of nonbelievers in our services, so we can't spend 30 minutes singing songs that they don't know or understand. So what I like to do is spend about 10 minutes in congregational singing and then use the other time that I have before the message to craft meaningful moments to inspire, to connect, and to challenge those that are in attendance.
3. Help Them Face the Agony of the Cross
I think so often on Easter we only focus on the resurrection but not on the cross. Yes Easter is about the resurrection but without the cross, without the death of Jesus, there is no resurrection there is no Easter. I always want people to have that moment of gravity when they come face-to-face with the facts of how Jesus took on our guilt and shame. I always like to find a creative way to tell the story of the cross and allow them to sense the pain Jesus faced, but then move them past the pain so that they recognize that it was temporary...that because of what Jesus did on the cross... because of the pain and agony that He suffered, we can be free. I want them to know that sin has lost its sting, death has been defeated, and that we can be raised to life just as Jesus was. Without The agony of the cross there is no celebration of the resurrection.
4. Tell Stories of Life Change
This is a very important element to use on Easter. We want those that don't have a relationship with Jesus to hear stories of people who were broken, and to hear that when they found Jesus their lives were forever changed. It is very important that you have a game plan when you are interviewing people for their stories. Wes Hennings is our technical director at Stevens Creek and he always uses these three questions to shape the interviews in the stories that we tell about life change: 1. What was your life like before you met Jesus? 2. How did you come to know Jesus? 3. What's your life like now after your encounter with Jesus?
Those three questions are a great template for you to use as you’re crafting your stories.
I realize that some of you don't have a Wes who can capture a story like that on video. I would encourage you tell the story in other ways. We've told those stories by reading them during the sermon or having the person script their story out with those three questions in mind and then having them read it. You could also do a live interview as long as that person is comfortable speaking in a live setting. There's all kinds of ways to tell people’s stories, and the method is not as important as making sure that we are telling them.
5. Let Them Leave With the Hope of the Resurrection.
Make sure the message ends with bringing Hope. Let people know that no matter how far from God they think they are that because of the Resurrection they can be raised to live through Jesus. We will always end the message with an opportunity for people to receive Christ. After that prayer we will lead into the offering time where one of our pastors will give people their next step. If they received Christ, they will be asked to check the box marked “I received Christ today” on our worship guide and then drop it in the offering bag. We can then follow up with them and help them as they start their journey of faith. We will also share whatever series may be coming up next, so that we give people a reason to come back the next week. While receiving the offering we always like to end with a high energy, hope-filled song. I want to make sure people are leaving with the hope of the resurrection echoing in their hearts as they leave our time together.
I'm so excited about what God is going to do through our churches this Easter season. I hope this post will be helpful to you as you are praying, dreaming and planning. I pray that this Easter will bring life change for many, and that you and your team will walk away refreshed after pouring into those looking for this hope that we have found! The hope of Jesus...the One who changes everything.