What will Guests Remember This Easter?

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Every church I know works hard to create a great Easter experience. Traditional churches are practicing their choirs and cantatas. Others put and an enormous amount of work into a passion play.   Contemporary churches are learning a new song and decorating creatively but all of us are trying to put our best foot forward.

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Here’s the truth

The frustrating part of Easter is:  With all those hours put in, most guests will not remember what songs we sang, if the drama was good or recall most sermons.

So what will a guest remember about your Easter service?

They will remember how they FELT in your church.

I know it’s important to preach the gospel.  I know it’s important to praise the Lord and to pray.  If guests are nervous of feel unwelcome they are less likely to receive the gospel or the presence of God.

I hope if you’re reading this blog, you don’t make the mistakes that some declining churches make, of berating those that only come on holidays.  I once heard a preacher say, “It’s nice to see a full church for Easter but what would be great is if you all came back next week.”  While I agree with his intention (to get people to come back) that’s not the way to do it.  What guests were hearing was that the preacher was mad at them because they only came on Easter.  Guess what will happen?

Next Easter they will choose another church or worse…choose not to go to church at all!

Make guests feel welcome, as you would do in your home.  Give them free coffee and a cookie.  Most important greet them.  Smile, shake their hand, and introduce yourself.  Encourage your members to do the same.

People who feel welcome will like your church but not remember why.  They’ll have an ’emotional memory’ that will make them more open to returning when you invite them back.

When I talk to someone who has been attending our church for a month or more, and I ask them about the music or sermon they day they first attended they hesitate. They have trouble recalling those details but they can always recall how they felt.

I hear phrases in our church such as “I felt safe.” or “I genuinely felt like people were glad I was here.”  What they are describing is an emotional memory.

How will they feel on the drive home from your Easter service?

Church Leaders should also read: What is the Most Important Part of Easter?

Creating a Welcoming Culture part 2- Guest Story

This is the story of how I was able to help one person feel welcomed in the parking lot.

One day I was leaving the church office about 6:30pm when I saw a man on a motor cycle looking at the sign on our youth sanctuary door.  The sign said, “12 Step Program was Cancelled Tonight.”  I called out, “If you’re here for the 12 Step program it’s cancelled tonight.”  “I’m not here for that.” He responded.  “Although I have been to one before.”  I asking him, “Well can I help you with something?”  He became defensive saying he wasn’t doing anything wrong.  I told him I didn’t think he was.  I asked his name, for this blog we’ll call him Mac.

This began a significant conversation in Mac’s life.  We actually talked for over an hour. After talking a lot about church, God and life Mac finally got to the real issue. With tears beginning to form in his eyes, Mac asked me an extremely honest question, “Would your church accept me?”  “Of course they would.” I responded without hesitation.  Mac then told me how he had found the Lord in prison and was recently released but since getting out he couldn’t find a good church.  Mac told me that the two churches he had been to so far made him feel very unwelcome.  In one church the usher actually came up to Mac as he stood in the back of the church and asked him what he was doing there!  I assured Mac that the House of Praise is full of people that genuinely love God and love people.

To my surprise, that Sunday Mac came to service.  According to him, Mac was warmly greeted and given a gift by our greeters.  The ushers smiled at him and introduced themselves offering assistance finding a seat.  It happened to be friendship Sunday so there was a spaghetti dinner after service.  I told Mac, I bought his ticket.  As I stood talking to someone I saw Mac sheepishly walk into the youth building looking around as to where he should go.  One of the seasoned members grabbed Mac and said, “Hey sit with us.”  I watched Mac loosen up over the next hour until he was laughing freely and meeting new friends.

That was over a year ago.  I’ve had the privilege of baptizing Mac and seeing him become a member.  He is in a small group, serving in the church has made new friends. He now regularly meets new people and tells them “You will love it here!” 

When I think of his story I think, “That’s why we’re here.” How would Mac’s have been treated if he walked into your church?