Next to Christmas, Easter weekend is the highest attended weekend in the church world; It’s like the Super Bowl for Christians. But like Christmas, there is also a steep decline that next weekend. It’s natural and should be expected, but we get so disappointed when the people who raised their hand Sunday, don’t show up next week.
I want to show you how to have your best Easter ever, so you can stress less and enjoy the season more.
But first, some context.
- 75% – US population identifies as Christians
- 51% – US population with a desire to attend church Easter weekend
- 18% – Actual church attendance per weekend in the US
- 23 – Years left before mainline church engagement is negligible
- $17.3 BN – Amount spent in Easter-related activities every year
- 5% – Economic growth in Easter-related activities YoY
- 5% – Average drop in church attendance YoY
What do the numbers show?
There is a large population of self-identified Christians in the US who show a strong desire to attend church Easter weekend, but who are more regularly choosing to spend their time and money on Easter-related activities outside of the scope of church engagement.
I won’t sugarcoat it for you: the numbers do not look good. More and more people are checking out of church and Christianity every year, and that trend will surely continue.
Time to give up, right?
No; not a chance. But it does mean we need to hone our message and figure out how to say what we want to say better. That’s why we want to give you ten tips on how to have your best Easter ever.
- Know your audience. Understand that while you want to reach all people across every spectrum, you’re not going to do that very well if you try to win everyone. If you try to reach and teach every person in your audience, you’re minimizing your potential impact by watering down the message. I recommend focusing in on your perfect guest, and hitting a home run with that archetype. You can’t reach everyone, every time.
- Define your win. Is your win is butts in the seats, sign ups for a future class, or hands raised for lives changed? Is it the amount of new families, prayer requests, or total giving increases? The greatest wart to you having your best Easter ever is a lack of definition. If you can define your win, then you can rally your team to embrace that goal and track it every step along the way, from Easter Sunday to that next Monday.
- Plan your marketing calendar well in advance. Some churches plan a year in advance, while others plan that same year. It doesn’t really matter unless you are unable to get the word out on Easter and have enough time to rally the team around your win. And if I’m being honest with you, most of it is null and void because there is an expectation of Easter built into the year. Most of the US population knows the Easter story (to varying degrees), your target audience and the people you have expect you to do something special for Easter, and your team knows their job is going to get a tad bigger for a few weeks during there Spring. So understand that if you do nothing in regards to marketing, you can still have an effective Easter Sunday if you are united in what you are doing as a church.
- Spend your capital wisely. My mentor in college used to say, “What you win them with, is what you win them to.” If you have this amazing show on Easter Sunday and then the following week have services that are toned down to such a degree that it is unrecognizable, then your audience does not know what to expect and in turn, does not know who you are. That’s why we are always saying that, “Your method is the message.” Today my mentor says on the regular that your vision should always exceed your resources. If you spend all your capital on Christmas and Easter, then you’re taking away from fifty other weeks of the year. So if you plan on spending big this Easter, make sure it stays in brand, focused on your win, and is measurable, so you can know if it worked or not. Speaking of branding …
- Branding. There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to Easter messaging: A single stand-alone message or one that is tied into an overall series. Both work. That’s not the question. The question is: How are you branding your Easter message, from door-hanger to Sunday bulletin? Content is king but context is queen. That’s why your Easter visuals are so important. They’re almost a rallying point from Easter invite to Easter in-person. Your consistent brand allows your message to communicate more clearly and gives you a greater chance to have a stickier Sunday. While this happens, just remember that the most important branding a church can have is the people that call the church their home.
- Focus on your sermon, not the show. While it’s important for your worship service to be on-point, it is more important for your sermon to be dialed down. Studies show that if a person likes the sermon, they are 40% more likely to return the following week. It’s not the kid’s ministries, your student services, the fresh hand-crafted coffee and avocado toast that gets people to come back next week; it’s your sermon; and it makes sense too. The only point on any given Sunday that you have someone’s undivided attention is during the sermon. Dull them to death, and they’re done. Give them a chance to connect, and they’ll think about next week. Combine that with affinities (ministries that connect to them on a personal level) that speak to their context, and they’re in.
- Make it easy for people to take their next right step. But first, have you defined your next right steps? If you have, then what are you doing to make it easy for them to take those steps? We have found that it’s best to give people three options to take their next right step: 1) in-person, 2) online, and 3) in-app. People will take these steps both actively (now) and passively (later). They’ll only take these steps if you make it clear that they have a next step to take. That’s why we recommend a single next right step. You cannot have a win if you’re throwing spaghetti on the wall just to see what sticks. Have a singular CTA (call to action) and a simple way to engage it.
- Set next week up with a great comeback event. Put all your eggs in the Easter basket, and people will be wowed and stay home next week. Don’t do anything for Easter, and people won’t show up in numbers. Plan something that makes sense to your audience the next week, and watch as people stay engaged. Marketing is all about funnels. While it seems weird to be thinking like this, you need to understand that marketing is all about crafting a message that meets a real (or perceived) need. If you can identify the needs of your community and merge it with your Easter messaging, then you will see higher returns the next week.
- Make sure every person makes at least one meaningful connection. If you can give a person five meaningful connection points, then they are 90% more likely to show up next Sunday. But what do you do if five is out of the question? You do your best with what you have. Here’s where people-branding comes in: you need to activate the individual member to help bring guests to a common goal. In a world of total inauthenticity, a warm greeting and genuine introduction can make all the difference. Stop putting all the pressure on your volunteers to make sure guests have five clean handoffs and activate your people to be nice people.
- Do your best and take a nap. No amount of stressing will get people to come back next Sunday. None. So stop stressing about your sermon, whether or not the worship music hit that sweet spot, and if your children’s and youth ministries served well. You’ve done your very best at crafting a complete message, and now the hard part is up to God. Let Him stir in people’s hearts and minds, while you pray and catch up on all that sleep you lost Easter week.
Easter can make all the difference in the world for those you are trying to reach. There is no greater story then the Jesus-story, and there is no greater time for people to hear it than Easter weekend. You can be a part of someone coming back home to God. Your church can make a difference.
You can do this.
Looking for more on Easter? Our friends at Church Marketing University have developed a tool that will help you think through the Easter opportunity step by step. Their Rethinking Easter 6-part video series will help you double your attendance. But more importantly, it’ll help you see more people come back in the weeks that follow, giving you a long-term impact. Check it out today!