How to Free Yourself and Your Church from Easter Insanity

Apple with EarbudsOur church doesn’t participate in Easter Insanity any more.

You know what I mean. Churches spend weeks of time and buckets of money for Easter Sunday services. Flyers go out to the neighborhood, ads runs in the “Easter ghetto” of the local newspaper (ask your parents). We hold extravagant musicals, add extra service times, perform Passion Plays, and give special gifts to first-timers.

It’s not that we shouldn’t celebrate or promote Easter, of course. And if the crowds will be big, by all means add services to accommodate them. But what is it about Easter Sunday that makes many otherwise normal churches act like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday, fighting each other over one-time Easter guests?

This is especially insane when you look at the typical results of all this extra work and expense. The week after Easter, what do most churches see? The same people sitting in the same seats they did the week before Easter.

Our church opted out of Easter Insanity several years ago.

It happened after I’d placed an ad in the local paper. I was quite proud of the graphic design we’d put into it. But when I found our ad in the newspaper, it was right next to the most impressive Easter ad I’d ever seen. Another church in our area took out a half page to tell the community they were doing a very special giveaway on Easter Sunday.

Every first-time guest would get a free iPod Mini.

That’s right. Not just one iPod for one lucky winner of a drawing. An iPod Mini for each guest, pre-loaded with a message from the pastor. This was a large church with a massive budget. They’d get hundreds of guests on Easter. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

I closed the newspaper and thought, that’s it – whatever I do will never measure up to that, so I won’t even try.

We never participated in Easter Insanity again.


There’s No Competition

Strangely enough, I was relieved.

The pressure was off. Since I couldn’t come close to matching that kind of giveaway, I no longer felt the unbiblical need to compete with other churches for “customers” on Easter Sunday any more.

But what to do instead? That was the question.

Here’s what we talked about in our next church staff meeting. No one can give away free iPods every week so, once they’ve got theirs, what will bring people back the following Sunday?

And the same went for our special pageant, music or drama. It might be nice for that week, but Easter visitors know they won’t get the same spectacle next week, so why would they come back?

From that day on, we decided not to do any extra music, extra dramatic presentations, extra anything on Easter Sunday. We decided to give everyone what usually brings people back to a church to begin with – and what we happen to do well, already – a joyous experience with the risen Christ, in the company of loving people.

We decided to be who we are. At the highest possible level.

Then we’d do the same thing on the following Sunday. And the Sunday after that.

Instead of using Easter as an excuse for a one-time extravaganza (or what passes for an extravaganza on a Small Church budget) we would use the opportunity to sharpen our skills. Fix what’s broken. Get better at what we do well. Think long-term.


Always See the Bigger Picture

Here’s an amazing Easter Sunday idea to try at your church this year.

Be yourself. Your best self.

Give your congregation and guests a taste of what a church looks like when the people in it are passionately in love with the resurrected Jesus and care deeply for each other.

Let them see what worshiping Jesus is like in your church, not just on Easter Sunday, but every week.

You know that money you have in the Easter budget? Spend it on things that won’t be gone the following week. Put on a new coat of paint instead of buying lilies. Re-tar and restripe the parking lot instead of hiring a special musician. Replace that women’s room toilet so no one will have to jiggle the handle again. You know, spiritual stuff like that.

If your church has Easter traditions that mean a lot to you, by all means keep them going. Have that Easter egg hunt for the kids (we still do that). Dress in your nicest clothes. But let’s stop the competitive insanity, shall we?

Give Resurrection Sunday the special attention it deserves. But give it the best version of who you are every Sunday, not just something they won’t see again until next Easter.

Let your guests see Jesus in you. Make that your Easter focus. That will bring people back for more.


So what do you think? Will you put your best foot forward on Easter in a way that makes people want to come back for more?

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(Apple with Earbuds photo from Nina Matthews Photography • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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9 thoughts on “How to Free Yourself and Your Church from Easter Insanity”

  1. Amen, Karl!! We usually have a video presentation, like “He’s Alive” or “Rise Again” – something special for the kids we do each year and that’s about it. Strangely enough, our crowd is sometimes SMALLER on Easter Sunday. Folks going to OTHER churches to see their family in a play or something…or folks preparing for Easter Dinner with family. It used to really bother me, but not any more…it’s just the way it is…usually everyone is back the following Sunday. lol

    1. Cindy, that phenomenon of Small Churches having fewer people on Easter is what I plan to write about on Friday this week. I’m planning to call it “Only In a Small Church: The Easter Sunday Blues”.

      I’ve experienced it, too. It can be very discouraging. I’m glad you’ve been able to move past the discouragement.

  2. LOVE IT!!! I knew we were cut of the same cloth!
    We’ve been doing the same thing for years now. Every other year we do join up with another small church for a community service, but we still stick to a basic format. We actually have folks from other churches that do the big production come visit us.
    I am always blown away at how well the part of Scripture I am teaching through coincides with whatever holiday comes…uh, guess its because its from the same Author. Don’t know, I may be going out on a limb here!

  3. Once again, great article. I believe for the most part it may be much better to have a “regular” service because if or when they return they will not be disappointed. They are getting a better picture of who you are all the time. Let’s just be our best for Christ every week.

    1. Thanks, Marcus. I’m a big believer in Truth in Advertising. Give people an accurate picture of who your church is every week, not a false front like people on a first date.

      I’m not against special Easter services, especially if the church has a great tradition that people love. But if a church doesn’t have a set tradition, being your best self takes the pressure off the church leaders and gives guests a better idea of what the church is really all about.

      I’ve also found that starting a sermon series is a great idea for Easter. Leave them wanting to come back to hear Part 2.

  4. The last time we did the big extravaganza thing, it was a total disaster. Some of us actually stuck it out to the bitter end (yes, people were leaving in the middle). And we decided to just be ourselves next time — wild worship, deep message, and all. It’s better that way.

    1. I love it, Chris. Some churches do the big event really well, and more power to ’em. But what works for most of us is a simpler approach. We all need to do what we do well.

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