Why Easter?

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Bryan Haley

An overview of the Easter season, and why churches put so much energy and attention into Easter services.

Can you believe it's time to start talking about Easter already? It seems like just last week we were finishing up Christmas plans, but the Easter season is officially here—Lent begins this week!

Today we're kicking off season 2 of the Church Juice podcast, giving an overview of the Easter season and giving you a sneak peak about what we'll be discussing, and with whom, this season on the podcast.

Episode Highlights:

If you are a church with median ages of attenders in their 20s and 30s attendance may actually drop on Easter Sunday. (01:50)
Why do Americans find Easter a big deal, and why do they show up on Easter Sunday? (03:40)Listener Question: What should the call to action should be for a new person in a service? (06:10)Even if you’re not going “all out” for Easter, it should receive a concerted effort in planning & preparation. (10:17)What's (and who's) coming up on this season of the podcast. (12:19)

Statistics mentioned in today's episode:

  • 81% of Americans planned to "celebrate" Easter in 2018.
  • 50% of consumers planned to attend church on Easter in 2018.
  • "Easter is much more than an occasion to break out your Sunday best or hop into a bunny costume. It is a day of great religious significance for the roughly 71% of Americans who classify themsleves as Christians, marking the resurrection of Jesus." – WalletHub, citing Pew Forum
  • Easter is the most popular church day, followed by Christmas, Mother's Day, then other special events.


Josh: Can you believe it's time to start talking about Easter already? Churches vary so broadly in their planning and execution of Easter. Some do nothing extra on Easter. Others go all out and treat the day as if it's the Super Bowl of the church. So what's the right way to treat the most sacred day of the Christian calendar. Why is communicating Easter so important? Welcome to season two of the Church Juice Podcast.

Bryan: Hey there church communicators. We are excited to be back at it with season two of the Church Juice Podcast. I am Bryan Haley the producer of Church Juice and I'm joined in studio with Josh Rickard, my co-host.

Josh: Hey oh.

Bryan: Alright, so we've taken a few weeks off from the podcast. We've been busy planning and preparing and doing all that sort of stuff, and I'm really excited for what this season of the podcast has coming. Lots of churches prepare for Easter in a variety of ways. I used to be at a church that went all out for Easter. Easter Sunday was known as the Super Bowl of church Sundays. It was a huge deal. We knew that our attendance would spike and so we wanted to do everything we could to fit as many people in the building as possible.

Josh: On the other hand, I know churches that do absolutely nothing extra. Our own church has traditionally not done anything out of the ordinary, so basically our liturgy, our gathering, everything is planned and executed just like it was any other Sunday. I think there's just a level of a desire to just be authentic and be who we are on that Sunday so that guests and first time attenders don't experience anything different on that Sunday that they would any other Sunday. So if they come back the next week or the following week they're not going to experience a completely different church than they did on that Easter Sunday. So it just begs the question, why is Easter such a big deal?

Bryan: I was reading a bunch of articles and studies preparing for this series and for this episode too and something that I read showed, which I think rings true for our church, showed that if you are a church with median ages of like 20s and 30s attendance may actually drop on Easter Sunday because people like us in our 20s and 30s we're going home to see our parents or grandparents, or taking more family time, so we're away from our home church. But if your average attendance is a little older like 30s to 50s that's where you're going to see a lot of the increase in attendance and that's where those churches see those spikes. So I would say that definitely is in align with what we see. Just being there one Easter so far. I think that we saw with most holidays attendance kind of goes down because people leave to go home.

Josh: Yeah. That presents its whole different element of difficulty, especially someone who's planning the gathering and design liturgy and things like that. You kind of have to do the reverse when you plan for events with age group set. We have because a lot of times college age kids, people that participate and volunteer in the gathering through setup or audio or music or hospitality, different things like that, those people are going home. They have a college break and so they're going home to see their parents. They're going home to their home churches. It is difficult even if you wanted to plan something big. Even if you wanted to quote unquote do some sort of Super Bowl Easter. It kind of prevents you from even wanting to do that.

Bryan: I agree with that, but I think that's probably not the majority. I think studies show that Easter Sunday is the largest attended Sunday of the year, right? So the majority of churches are going to see a spike in attendance or at least a little bump at some level. So why do you think that Easter is such a big deal for Americans?

Josh: Before I answer that question I would totally agree because I even have a guy that I work with that...he goes to our Community Group now but he visited our church one time and the time that he visited our church was last Easter, and he has since not returned. But just because he doesn't go to church. He's not a regular attender, any church any gathering. So he felt like I feel like most people do "Oh it's Easter", or "Oh it's Christmas", "I grew up going to church", or "My family still goes to church. I should probably go."

Bryan: Yeah tradition.

Josh: And so, "Yeah traditionally we've gone to church and so I'm just gonna go. I'm gonna get my one day a year or one week out of the year church attendance in and so I'm gonna go to church on Easter." And so I think that that's what I would say is why there's such a spike in America on Easter. I don't know Bryan what you think or if there's anything different that you can think of.

Bryan: Yeah I mean I would say there's a stat that says 50 percent of consumers planned to attend Easter last year and I would imagine that's probably about the same this coming Easter in April. So half of Americans are planning to attend some sort of Easter service. So not only do you have people who think that because of tradition I should show up on Easter Sunday or because the church is something moral and so we want to attend on Easter and Christmas, but you also have your regular church people who all show up. So that helps your attendance because the trend is that people who are regular attenders only show up once every I think it's five or six weeks is the average attendance now. So you can be a regular attender and not show up for a month and a half and still be totally fine, but on Easter everyone's gonna show up right because that's the one day, one of two days or one of three days a year that you know that you need to be in church and so that's a priority.

Bryan: So you get most of your regulars there. Then you also get their family or the friends or whatever and so that helps because there's some sort of tied to tradition or tied to what's always been done. And so that helps create this aura around Easter Sunday and that's why it's such a big deal. Outside of the fact that it's the most sacred day in the Christian calendar and all that obviously too. That plays into it.

Bryan: So when we come back we will talk about an application point and kind of one take away from this quick into episode to the season and we'll talk about what's coming up. But first we like to take questions from our listeners so let's break and take a question from one of you.

Josh: In a couple articles and on the podcast you've mentioned always giving people one practical call to action or next step, and so Bryan this question is, what do you think the call to action should be for the new person in a service.

Bryan: Yeah so we do mention, especially when we talk about guest assimilation and being prepared for your newcomers and that type of thing, we talk about simplifying our communication. Trying to make sure that we're giving people some clear next step or some clear call to action. And so outside of obviously the sermon being gospel centered, as far as guest assimilation goes or next steps outside of a call to repentance and all of that that you would find in a sermon, what I would like to see in most churches is something that is tangible for people to do next. So for a lot of churches that may be the connect card or whatever you call it, but I think giving them a tangible step to find out more information.

Bryan: So a lot of times a better way to give people a call to action or a next step might be to ask them to put a little skin in the game. What I mean by that is asking them to actually do something that pushes them slightly out of their comfort zone. Not to the point where you're asking me for all of my contact information and date of birth and things like that but asking me to go and actually talk to a person. So going to the connect table or the guest service desk or whatever you want to call it and there you have information for guests. You have information on practical next steps along the way that people can take, how they can get involved, things like that. In the service I would say that the one call to action or the one next step should be something like asking them to make some sort of small commitment. Such as going to the connect table or attending some small meetup right after the service where you talk for five minutes about what the church is about. Something like that.

Bryan: Something small where they have just a little bit of commitment not too much. Your not asking me for too much information or anything like that, but it's making me commit in small ways to get more information I guess.

Josh: Yeah, without adding much more to that I totally agree. I do think having like a single call to action that is slightly committal. You know, "We'd love to meet you. We'd love to get to know you. Ways to do that: visit our welcome table, visit the welcome area, guest table" whatever, or "We're gonna be down here at the end of the service come say hi we'd love to do that."

Bryan: Yeah. Exactly.

Josh: And then once they've kind of made that commitment of like, "Okay I'm gonna stop by and learn more. At that spot then I'll give you another action item."

Bryan: Yep exactly.

Josh: Now if you come to the welcome area it's like, "Great I'm gonna meet you and if you want another one then I will introduce you to our community groups or small groups or discipleship communities." Insert whatever you call it and you can get involved that way and so on. So you're just kind of giving gradual action item steps versus like just regurgitate it during announcements of everything that you should do.

Bryan: Right. Yeah and the reason I harp on that so much is because a lot of churches will spend their announcement time, or stage time, or the bulletin or whatever and give like four or five different ways for people to get more information, or to figure out what they're supposed to do next. The problem is, if that's your first time at the church, you have no idea what your one next step should be. Should I find information about small groups or should I find information about serving or one or the other things that you mentioned during the service? And so the reason why we talk about just giving one actionable step is to simplify our communication. Make sure that we're focusing on what is most important next and give people that clear process to help them become more involved in the life of the church.

Josh: We love hearing from you here at Church Juice and answering your questions. If you have a question for us there's something that you'd like us to talk about here on the show visit us at churchjuice.com/podcast.

Bryan: Sweet. So back to the discussion on why Easter is such a big deal. Josh if there's one take away that you think people could get from this episode, what would you say that is?

Josh: What I would want you to take away is even if you're not gonna go all out for Easter, even if it's not going to be that big Super Bowl, it should still receive a concerted effort in planning and preparation. You know just based on experience and then even the statistics that we talked about on the show today that people that don't usually come to your gathering, statistically speaking, are going to be there. And so even if you're not going to do anything outside of the norm as far as liturgically, it'd still just be good to just be aware that, "Hey we're gonna have a lot of new people potentially here on Sunday, so how should we prepare for that? What should our follow-up be? Should anything change about our service to be attentive to those potential new people?"

Bryan: Yeah and we used this first episode as an introduction to talk about kind of the Easter preparation as a whole, so in the coming episodes we're going to talk more specifically about different elements preparing for Easter. So I think knowing that for most churches attendance is going to be up. I think that there's something that we need to think through about Easter Sunday. Knowing that most of our regulars are actually going to be there and then there's also going to be a lot of new people, so how do we treat that Sunday different? Or how do we improve our processes and our follow-up for guests and preparing for new people? So if your attendance is down I think that there's also some way that you can either think through how to change that or think outside of the box on ways that you can serve on Easter. And we'd love for you to join the conversation tomorrow, Tuesday, at 12:30 Eastern Time we'll continue this conversation on Facebook. We'll be talking about it more in our Facebook group, so feel free to join us tomorrow 12:30 Eastern Time and that'll be live.

Bryan: But coming up this season want to introduce some of the topics that we'll talk about, some of the people that we're bringing on the podcast, and let you know what's coming your way. Every Monday through March and April we'll be publishing new episodes of the podcast. Some of the guests that will be on are Kyler Nixon, he is a StoryBrand certified guide, a graphic designer, church communicator, and a good guy. He will be talking with us about branding and Easter. Jeanette Yates is another church communicator and she will be talking with us about advertising at Easter time. Matt Hooper is a pastor in Pennsylvania and he will be talking about knowing who you are and how to know when to stay in your lane. We'll also hear from Jon Ackerman who's another church communication person here in the Grand Rapids area, and he'll be talking about quieting the noise and talking through a different perspective of what a large multi-site church does on Easter Sunday. And then we'll also talk about following up and what to do after Easter.

Bryan: Of course, we'll have a couple other episodes mixed in there and want to keep those kind of as a surprise to you, but be sure to subscribe, be sure to follow along for the next few months as we head through this season.

Josh: Teeing off Church Juice season two with a bang. I'm super excited about it. Church Juice's Podcast is available wherever you are. Subscribe from your favorite podcast service. Find the podcast on your Alexa device or follow along from our website.

Bryan: Get the latest resources, podcast information, and subscribe to our emails all on our website. Visit churchjuice.com to get the latest church communication resources.

Josh: The Church Juice Podcast is a production of ReFrame Media, a family of programs designed to help you see your whole life reframed by God's gospel story. Church Juice is produced by Bryan Haley with post production by audio engineer John Reeder in Grand Rapids Michigan. For more information about Church Juice visit churchjuice.com. For information about ReFrame Media and our family of programs visit reframemedia.com.

Bryan: Join us on our next episode when we talk with Kyler Nixon, graphic designer, church communicator, and StoryBrand certified guide, about branding your Easter events.