Everybody loves Easter, especially your pastors. For at least a few short hours, they get to daydream about parking problems, bulging pews and extra services. But for the vast majority of churches, it’s back to reality the next week, back to the single service, the empty pews, the lackluster crowds. But it doesn’t have to be. If any of your Easter guests show back up this next Sunday, it might be because of one of these three reasons:
1). They were welcomed and embraced by your regular church attenders. This is why the parking lot trumps the pulpit. People yearn for community. They want to be at a place where they are loved, welcomed and embraced, where they are known and accepted. This is the frustrating part for most pastors, because this in many ways is out of their control. A pastor can we warm and welcoming, but everyone expects him to be. If the church members are warm and welcoming, if they go out of their way to greet guests, make them feel like a future part of the family, that makes an impact far greater than even a sermon can. A pastor can model this but the church needs to embrace the mindset of being an intentionally welcoming church.
HOW YOU CAN WORK ON THIS: As a church member, make it a goal to meet and talk with 2-3 people you don’t know every week. Invite guests to lunch with your family after church.
2. They were given a reason to come back. How often do you celebrate a birthday? How often do you celebrate an anniversary? Once a year. To many guests, Easter is like a birthday or an anniversary, something you celebrate once a year out of respect. So what reason did your church give them to come back before next year’s anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection? Is there a new sermon series launching this week that might be of interest to people on the margins of Christianity? Is there a clear and identified spiritual pathway you’re offering for people who are interested in growing in their faith? Why should they come back? What specific reason did you give?
HOW YOU CAN WORK ON THIS: Assume they’re in the room. Speak to guests from the stage and be intentional with your programming, your sermons, your small groups. Assume they’re at your church because they’re somewhat interested in Christianity and give them a practical next step to take.
3. God is doing something in their life. At the end of the day, you can preach, love, hug and invite all you want, but God does the transforming. God does the changing. That doesn’t mean that we sit idly by, but it does mean that we acknowledge that we can’t manipulate or force life change. Our job is to plant the seeds, but God gives the growth. If God is powerfully stirring in their lives, you can’t keep guests away if you tried. If their hearts are cold and dead, then all of your perfectly choreographed programs won’t penetrate past the hard surface of their hearts. God has to do something in their life.
HOW YOU CAN WORK ON THIS: Plant seeds and pray like crazy. That’s all you can do. Be faithful to love, to invite, to share, and then pray like you’ve never prayed before that God would do what only He can do.