The pastor proclaims, “He is risen!” The congregation responds, “He is risen indeed!” We retell the wonderful biblical story of Christ’s cross and empty tomb. With heart and hands and voices, we give thanks and celebrate the gift of eternal life Jesus gives to everyone who believes.
Easter Sunday is the highest point of the church’s year, as God’s people proclaim our Lord’s resurrection. But after Easter, the question always arises: Now what?
If you have been a pastor or church leader for any time at all, you know both the elation of Easter Sunday and the deflation of the Sunday after Easter. Immediately after Easter, the crowd may become much smaller, and your spirits, along with those in your congregation, may feel slightly dampened.
So, how can you maximize Easter Sunday in order to keep your church’s momentum going? I would suggest five “after-Easter” strategies for pastors and other leaders to consider.
1. Connect with Easter attenders immediately and help them take their next spiritual steps. For some, Easter is a cultural holiday that comes and goes. Even so, you should assume that many people who come to your church on Easter Sunday care deeply about their spiritual lives. Your church can help people grow spiritually by connecting with them immediately after Easter Sunday is over. You may want to send an email, use social media or provide a text link to offer practical steps for following Jesus each day of the week following Easter.
2. Evaluate what just happened. The best time to plan for next Easter is right after this Easter. While the experience is still fresh in your memory, as well as on the minds of those who serve and lead with you, take time to evaluate your church’s Easter experience, including service times, order of worship, parking, guest reception, response to the message and follow-up. Decide now what you want to keep, add or change for next year.
3. Plan for a major baptism day in the weeks right after Easter. Easter Sunday itself is a prime time to celebrate believer’s baptism. You will also likely have people in attendance on Easter who need to follow Christ and be baptized. God can use seeing the baptisms of others to prompt them in taking this important step of discipleship. Plan for a major baptism emphasis two or three weeks after Easter, announce the date on Easter Sunday, and give people opportunity to schedule their baptisms. I have discovered that conversations about scheduling baptism almost always lead to deeper conversations about a person’s salvation.
4. Schedule and publicize a compelling sermon series. Use the high attendance on Easter Sunday as an opportunity to invite people to an upcoming sermon series at your church. I recommend preaching a shorter sermon series, perhaps four to six weeks. You might choose to begin a series that brings biblical answers to real questions or problems people are facing, or you might delve deeper into who Jesus is. I have one friend who regularly preaches for four weeks after Easter on the basics of Christianity. He announces the series at the beginning of his Easter message, and then says, “This may be your first time with us. Give us the next four weeks, and we’ll show you from the Bible what following Jesus Christ is all about.”
5. Keep the message of the resurrection in front of your people. While we celebrate the resurrection in a concerted way on Easter, believers live in Christ’s resurrection every day. The ancient church took the 50 days from Easter through Pentecost Sunday as a time to proclaim and remember the presence of the risen Christ and to celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. It’s important for us to show our congregations that Easter is more than one Sunday, and even more than a season. The resurrection of Jesus is a reality that informs and transforms all that we are, every day.
Remember: you have to plan for what happens after Easter before Easter. So, in the days ahead, think about what simple but effective steps you will take to honor the risen Christ by strengthening His church in the weeks following Easter Sunday. He is risen indeed!
Cover photo credit: Vince Fleming