Christmas and Easter. We all know those Catholics, right? They go by many (not so nice) names and acronyms that churchpeople like to throw around this time of year. But seeing as name-calling is a reliably ineffective strategy for increased attendance, it’s time for churches to re-evaluate our attitude towards Easter guests.
- Easter Starts on Your Website
Whether they’re coming from a personal invitation or Google search for the closest church, my guess is 99% of first-time guests will go to your website before they go to your church. You don’t need an award-winning site, just one that is user-friendly and clearly updated.
When it comes to Easter, put the most important information front and center- the basic times and locations people want to know. Guests aren’t likely to go hunting around under tabs and links loaded with liturgical lingo. Your website’s first purpose is to get guests to your church.
- Greet Your Guests
On the Resurrection morning as the two Mary’s ran back to share the news with the disciples, we read, “Jesus met them on their way and greeted them” (Matthew 28:9). Even in the Bible, Easter begins with a greeting.
All told, greeting is possibly the cheapest, easiest, yet most effective thing a church can do to provide a memorable experience for guests. How are guests greeted as they come to your church? Just the simple act of holding the front door open, and smiling can put the unchurched visitor at ease. And Father, you don’t have to do this yourself (in fact, please don’t). Let the parishioners do it instead.
- Prepare for a Crowd
It might seem like a nice problem to have, but if you’re expecting big numbers on Easter, with people standing, consider how you might expand your seating or get your regulars to give up their seats for the morning. Even better, offer a “video venue” somewhere else on your campus in which Mass can be broadcast or livestreamed. There will be those who prefer to stand in the sanctuary, but you might be surprised how many people will find the video venue a better option, and they’ll appreciate the extra effort.
- Do Something for the Kids
The best way to serve young families is to create a great environment for their kids. Even if you don’t have kids programs during your weekend Masses any other Sunday, try it this Easter Sunday. A children’s liturgy of the word, a pop-up nursery, a “kid friendly” seating area (in which little kids are free to move around and generally act like kids). If you do something for their kids, you’re doing something of great value for their parents.
- Offer a Relevant Message and Good Music
The unchurched don’t really understand or value the Eucharist. So the sum total of their experience is going to rest on the music and the message. Even if you are struggling with music Easter Sunday is the one Sunday of the year where extra effort (and expense) are great investments. And when it comes to the message its all about extra effort. Make sure it’s relevant. Make sure your answering questions unchurched people are actually asking.
For even more ideas, I recommend Carey Nieuwhof’s take: careynieuwhof.com