Easter is one of the biggest Sundays of the year in the life of any church. If you’re a pastor or church leader, you’ve likely grown accustomed to the months of planning and recruiting that precede your major Easter events every year. And you know about the all-out sprint to make everything come together in the weeks leading up to the big day.
But this year, some of you may be feeling a little lost.
And that’s because Easter will look very different this year. This will be the first Easter in my memory where I won’t be attending an in-person church service.
When I realized that we still wouldn’t be able to meet at church by the time Easter came around, I felt a sense of sadness and even mourning. I love Easter. I love the opportunity to see people at church who aren’t normally there. I love the anticipation. I love the big event. I love the crowd. I love the controlled chaos that comes with trying to pull off the most amazing weekend of the year and to see people come to faith in the midst of it. I love it all.
And I’m sad that it won’t be happening this year. Or at least not in the way that I’m used to.
But Church is about more than the big event happening at your building. It’s about the big event that happened 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem when it was discovered that there wasn't a body in Jesus’ tomb.
So while things will certainly look different for your church this Easter, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. In fact, it may be a unique opportunity for your community to encounter Jesus in fresh and exciting ways—and for your church to be a key part of that. This will surely be an Easter to remember either way. So let’s choose to make it memorable for how incredible it was.
Here are three ways pastors and church leaders can deliver a very special Easter, while we’re all staying at home under quarantine.
1. Instead of Thinking Big, Think Small
When it comes to Easter, most of us church leaders always believe that bigger is better. We want a large number of our most talented musicians on stage. We want to deliver the most impactful service we will host all year, with a sermon that will be remembered for years to come. We want big lights, colorful stage design, Easter eggs dropping from helicopters on the church lawn.
But we never stop to consider that bigger isn’t always better. In a time where people seem to be growing weary of hype culture, we have a chance to deliver not our biggest event, but our most authentically spiritual encounter.
Pastors and church leaders are being forced to rethink how we do church, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, our situation isn’t entirely unprecedented. When the early church was persecuted, they couldn’t meet in large groups either. They met in their homes, with very small groups of people. And through that network of home groups, the Church experienced explosive growth and spread literally throughout the globe.
So instead of thinking bigger this Easter, think about the ways in which you can make your Easter worship experience meaningful. In California where I live, we are currently observing a stay-at-home recommendation that may not be lifted before Easter Sunday. That means that our members and attendees will experience Easter with no one other than their immediate family, or possibly alone.
If you are experiencing the same limitation, see it as an opportunity to create a special moment that will turn into a lasting memory. Call it out during your service. Have families engage in an activity together, whether it’s at-home communion, a prayer experience, or some other creative idea you and your team dream up.
These small moments will make a big impact. Don’t waste that opportunity.
2. Think Outside-the-Box for Kids
While children are out of school, many of their parents are grappling with how to juggle working from home while being locked in with their little ones. You may be a parent yourself. And while you love your children, they’re probably experiencing some cabin fever—and you along with them!
So you’re probably aware that most parents in your church are looking for creative ways to entertain their kids and spend quality time with them. This is a huge opportunity for your children’s ministry to come alongside parents to provide activities that will encourage their kids and point them to Jesus.
Encouraging a game, providing ideas for a craft, or supplying curriculum for parents to use with their children can make a world of difference in the life of a child, as well as their parents. Don’t miss out on this time and see it only as a vacation for children’s ministry.
This could actually be a season where they do some of their most important work in the lives of the children in your church and in your community.
3. Empower Your People to Be the Church
During this time, many people have been saying “the Church has left the building.” And it’s such a valuable truth that we’re being forced to remember right now. When we stop going to church, what we begin to realize is that we are the Church. Church isn’t an event you go to. It’s a people you belong to.
What’s more, pastors and church leaders aren’t called simply to put on great events. They aren’t called to simply focus on having great stage design, professional-grade worship musicians, great sermon content, and weekend services that people love coming to. Those things are all important. But they serve a greater purpose. Paul talks about this purpose in his letter to the Ephesians.
“And [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Pastors and church leaders, you are not called to do the work of ministry. You are called to equip your people to do the work of ministry. And that ministry work your church is called to do consists of more than getting your people to invite friends to your building so that pastors and church leaders can do the ministering.
Find ways to encourage and empower your people to do the work of ministry in their neighborhoods and in their spheres of influence. If your area allows small gatherings in homes, encourage them to host a small 'watch party' for your church’s Easter service at their house. If your community is under a stay-at-home advisory, encourage them to host 'digital watch parties' and to lead online discussion and prayer. Someone who would never attend a church service at your building may be open to these invitations. Your time is now.
Use this Easter to actively expand your church’s influence in the community, rather than simply hoping it doesn’t shrink. You have the ability to do just that. But you can only do it if your people are empowered.
Your church building may be empty, but so is the tomb.
At the end of the day, Easter is about more than a big event in your church building. It’s about more than the community Easter Egg Hunt and record attendance numbers. Easter is a day that’s all about the fact that the tomb is empty. Jesus is alive, and in him we find our life.
This Easter will be different. But God works through all things to bring about good (Romans 8:28). And while we wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to do Easter this way, may God bless you with wisdom and courage to make it the best Easter your church has ever seen. I’m rooting for you!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages
Dale Chamberlain (M.Div) and his wife, Tamara, are authors and speakers who are passionate about exploring what it means to live life to the full in Jesus. You can connect with Dale and Tamara at herandhymn.com.