Engaging Beyond Easter and Christmas

Walt Bennett

February, 2024

One of my brothers (not a Christian…yet) is married to a wonderful Jewish woman.  What I have observed regarding their family is that they are very much cultural Jews, not practicing the Jewish faith.  Their identity as being Jewish does not include actually living the life of a family practicing Judaism daily, monthly, or even annually.  They were married by a Rabbi (they had to search far and wide to find one that would marry a Jew to a Gentile).  They had their children study to prepare for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.  But they do not go to Temple, follow Kosher laws, or study the Torah beyond that.

 

As we just finished celebrating Christmas, and we are rapidly approaching Easter, It is sad to see how many cultural Christians there are versus practicing Christians.  We see the swell in attendance on these two celebratory days, only to see a return to normal attendance the following week.  Even if these “Chreasters” (people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter) that are behind this attendance bubble are truly practicing Christians they are clearly missing out on the blessing of Christian community.  As for those who are not practicing Christians, they apparently see no value in coming to church outside of those two celebrations. 

Perhaps you are one of those who attend church regularly and have people in your life that you bring with you on these two holidays.  As Easter approaches, I strongly encourage you to deepen your relationship with those folks and keep an ear out for ANY opportunity to lead into a spiritual conversation: 

  • Share with them how much your faith has impacted your life. 
  • Give specific examples of where you have seen God working in your and others’ lives. 
  • Share with them the peace that you have even in the most difficult situations – not that it makes them easy to deal with – but that you can have peace amidst the pain and struggle. 
  • Talk about the joy you have – especially when you are in community with other Christians.  
  • Listen to what is happening in their lives/families/jobs/etc…  
  • When they share about a struggle or trial they are facing or in the midst of, ask if you can pray for them.
  • If there is a specific sermon topic coming up that you feel would be helpful to them, invite them to come that week specifically to hear that topic.

Don’t try to do all these things at once.  Do it as it makes the most sense in the conversations you have.  As you focus on this aspect of your relationships more and more, it will get easier and easier to lead conversations in this direction, and it will become perfectly natural for you to be engaged with this mindset.  Whether or not any of these friends (and/or family) end up coming once or twice, start bringing up Easter in your conversations.

  • Ask them what their traditions are around the hol(y/i)day.  Do they have a special meal, do they hunt Easter eggs, do they go to church….
  • Ask what they know about the origin of Easter.
  • Share your approach to Easter and what it means to you.
  • Use plain language when you explain things – not Christianese.

     

For those of you who are pastors and church leaders, I suggest you think about Easter (and Christmas) a bit differently.  Approach it in the context of your members doing what I have outlined above.  Consider having some sermon topics leading up to Easter that would speak directly to listeners facing various life struggles (sickness, emotional pain, physical pain, stress, depression, etc…) and make sure everyone knows what is coming up so they can invite others accordingly.

 

Something else to consider would be to change up the message a bit.  After all, your members know the Easter story well and should be celebrating Christ’s return in all His glory every day.  Chreasters typically also know the story, since they hear it every Easter.  I am not suggesting you don’t share what Easter is about, but build time in to present other compelling reasons to explore Christianity more.  After all, Easter doesn’t really mean anything to those who do not know Him.

"As Easter approaches, I strongly encourage you to deepen your relationship with those folks and keep an ear out for ANY opportunity to lead into a spiritual conversation."

 

Finally, develop some sermon topics for the 3 to 4 weeks following Easter that would be enticing enough to draw people back to hear them.  Promote these upcoming sermons heavily on Easter Sunday.  Give them a compelling reason to come back before Christmas.

If the Church would approach these “attendance swell days” as I outline above, leaders and members working together, I am certain that you might have higher attendance than normal on the following Sundays.  After all, as Einstein famously implied, if we keep doing the same thing we have always done, why would we expect to have a different outcome?

Happy Easter!

He is Risen!

Walt Bennett is the Executive Director for Organic Outreach International.  Walt shares teaching and coaching responsibilities with Kevin and Sherry as well as overseeing all of our day-to-day operations including content and systems development, and church and international partnerships. Walt is located in the Houston, Texas area and leads that hub of our operations in addition to his overall organizational responsibilities.

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