By Kyle Bueermann
We just celebrated Easter Sunday, when millions of Christians gathered to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s very likely you saw a significant spike in your Sunday morning worship attendance.
As Dean Inserra says in The Unsaved Christian, “For most churches, Easter and Christmas Eve are the local church versions of the Super Bowl. From small rural churches to suburban megachurches, the crowd will likely be larger on these days than any other services of the year.”
If you’re like me, you probably get very excited after Easter as you sift through the visitor cards. You send notes, make phone calls, and you might even make a house visit or two.
“Wow, look at all these new folks,” you think. “I can’t wait to see them next week!”
But as we all know, that rarely happens. Next Sunday will be here before you know it and you’re already preparing your heart to sink as you realize they aren’t coming back. At least yet.
For many pastors, this is where follow-up from Easter ends. “Well, I tried,” you may say to yourself. And, if I’m frank, I’ve been there before.
The elation of Easter is followed quickly by a crushing dose of reality. In fact, the Sunday after Easter is often—at least in my experience—one of the lowest-attended Sundays of the year.
If you’ve experienced this roller coaster of emotions this spring, let me assure you that you’re not alone. And let me also plead with you not to let your Easter Sunday follow-up strikeout after April 28.
Allow me to offer three tips to hit your Easter visitor follow-up out of the park.
1. Remember who your visitors are.
I don’t just mean you should remember their names (although you should do that, too). Dean Inserra adds in The Unsaved Christian, “It is not unchurched people who show up to church for Easter in droves—it is unsaved Christians who walk in the door.”
He means the folks who show up in droves will typically have some background in church. They’ll show up on Easter Sunday because that’s what “good Christian” folks do.
So, many of the people who come to your church on the big holidays (Christmas and Easter) will claim to be believers, but they (1) often don’t have lifestyles that reflect that claim and (2) they’re probably not regularly involved in a local church.
It’s likely most of the people who visited your church on Easter Sunday will claim the name of Christ. Now, it’s possible (perhaps even probable) many of these individuals haven’t turned from sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
So keep this in mind as you follow up. The biggest need in their lives isn’t to be in church more often; they need to surrender to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives.
2. Play the long game of follow-up.
For many of your Easter Sunday visitors, the only time they’ll be in church each year is on Christmas and Easter. No matter how dynamic your service or how powerful your message, it’s unlikely a cultural Christian’s pattern of sleeping in on Sunday morning will break because of one service (notice I said unlikely…not impossible).
Keep in mind the opportunity to speak into people’s lives will only come as you earn their trust, and this doesn’t happen in one Sunday or even in a 10-minute phone conversation.
It takes time. Are you willing to spend time following up with families for several months to gain their trust? Now, a lot of this can happen with other events your church already has on the calendar.
For example, many of our churches already have Vacation Bible School on the calendar. If you had Easter Sunday visitors with kids, an invitation to VBS provides a natural follow-up.
Our church is hosting an end-of-school bash near the end of May, so we’ll have another opportunity to follow up as we invite people to that event.
3. Don’t overthink follow-up.
Follow-up doesn’t have to be complicated but it does need to be intentional. You don’t have to get giant thank you baskets for every family, but a simple plate of cookies or brownies is a great idea.
A simple phone call to say, “Thank you for visiting our church on Easter. Is there any way I can pray for your family?” might be incredibly impactful.
And keep in mind that you, as pastor, don’t have to do all the follow-up. Nor should you. Your Sunday School classes can bake cookies and adopt a couple of visitor families. Deacons can help you make phone calls.
Above all, don’t forget the most important thing with Easter follow-up is to let folks know that 1) God loves them and 2) your church loves them. Don’t strikeout on the follow-up, my friends. Let’s swing for the fences with our follow-through.
KYLE BUEERMANN (@kylebueermann) is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Alamogordo, New Mexico, director of replanter development for the North American Mission Board, and co-host of Not Another Baptist Podcast.