With all the cultural hubbub around Christmas, it can feel like a losing battle to remind people the real "reason for the season." Community events can get lost in the endless calendar of holiday happenings. Despite all the bunnies and Cadbury eggs, Easter has not been near so culturally hijacked as Christmas, and therefore presents even more of a wide-open opportunity to open your doors and show your community the love of Jesus.
Sure, people flock to churches on Easter like kids to a basket of marshmallow Peeps, but it takes more than one worship service to truly demonstrate—and invite people to participate in—the message and mission of Resurrection people. Here are a few ideas for showing the love of the risen Christ to your community:
"We're not hiding eggs—we're making them!" (I can just picture the ad with multicolored eggs being dropped into a frying pan.) Host a free breakfast the day before Easter. Post fliers in local stores and restaurants, and send out a van to pick up those who might not have a way to get there otherwise. It's a low-pressure way to introduce your congregation to new people, but even if they don't come back on Sunday, you will have blessed people with nourishment and kindness in Jesus' name.
Easter Clothing Giveaway
Many people enjoy dressing up for church on Easter Sunday, even in churches where jeans are usually the norm. Collect new and gently used dress clothes and create a "store" where people in need can acquire nice clothes for themselves and their children. Beyond giving people the pleasure and dignity of new clothes for Easter, you will equip people with appropriate attire for job interviews and professional workplaces. Make the event extra special with "personal shoppers" to help people find what they need and by offering refreshments to those who are waiting.
Stewardship expert Clif Christopher says that churches shouldn't expect Christmas-Easter visitors to give to the general church collection. They may put a few dollars in the plate as "admission to the event," but won't feel moved by the thought of keeping the lights on in your sanctuary. Offer people the chance to give to a good cause outside the local church, though, and they will jump at the chance to be part of something bigger than themselves. Set a goal of giving $2,500 to Blood:Water Mission or Heifer International. (For an Easter-animal tie-in: a lamb is $120, a trio of rabbits $60, or a flock of chicks $20.)
Pay It Forward
More fun and more disciple-building than a simple (even if special) offering is giving people the opportunity to be creative in how they bless others. As people leave the Easter service, hand out plastic Easter eggs with varying amounts of cash inside. Explain during the service that they are to use this money to help others, being a living example of the living Christ. Sure, some people may pocket the money themselves or forget to do anything special with it. Others may simply pass on the money to the first needy person they see. But with a little imagination, people can spread the wealth or even multiply the gift, paying for several people's meals at the drive through, or using the money to buy supplies for a project or fundraiser that will go far beyond the original amount. (Bay Community Church in Malbis, Ala. is just one church to try what they called a "faith stimulus." Read members' stories on their website.)
There was a trend a few years back of churches dropping plastic Easter eggs out of helicopters into a field full of sugar-hungry children and ringed with parents asking "What church is giving my kid this candy? 'Cuz I want to go there!" Catalyst Church in Greenville, S.C. even offers an "Egg Drop Manual" to help other churches host such an outrageous event.
Yes, it's gimmicky. Yes, it costs a lot of money to rent a helicopter, get "a large amount of liability insurance" (as the manual says), and buy thousands of pre-filled eggs and door prizes. (Catalyst Church actually closed its doors due to financial troubles about a year after its egg drop.) But whether you spend a lot or a little, the point of big community events is about more than keeping kiddos busy and getting butts in seats. It's a way of saying, we care about this community beyond the doors of our church, beyond those who share our religious convictions. As Larry Brey, Connections Pastor of Charlotte, N.C.'s Elevation Church, told Outreach magazine:
“We didn’t expect to see people at Easter services just because we had an egg drop, and we didn’t use it as a platform to preach,” Brey says. “We wanted this event to be a gesture of goodwill to the community.”
So whether it's a spring carnival, free meal, or community mission project, don't limit your Easter invitation to a single worship service. Take the good news of God's love—love so powerful it conquers death—out into your community this Easter.