“Is our signage clear?”
“Do we have enough sweet volunteers with a grandparent-vibe to rock babies?”
“Why can’t I find enough glow eggs for the Eggs-travanganzic-Helicopter-Roll after church?
If you volunteer or serve on staff at a church, you’re all too familiar with these questions. Regardless of the size of your church, you’re more than aware that there will be some new families visiting and the clock is ticking to have your fully developed strategy for welcoming them. According to a study from 2012, 93 percent of pastors indicated that Easter would be their highest attended worship service of the year. It is officially the Super Bowl of church and it is OVERWHELMING to say the least.
Church leaders aren’t the only ones overwhelmed on this day, though. You can be certain new families will be overwhelmed, too. Overwhelmed with the size of your church. Overwhelmed by their kids screaming about Easter candy. Overwhelmed by social media, election coverage, terrorism—life in general. Most dictionaries agree, to “whelm” is to bury or submerge something or someone. A lot of people are feeling this way. Submerged by their circumstances, Easter service may be a family’s only opportunity this year to come up for air.
So how will we welcome them without further overwhelming them by our limited supply of parking cones? What if instead of focusing on getting everything right and in perfect position for the big day, we decided to overwhelm them with the right things? As crazy as that might sound, shifting our perspective may allow families to feel more welcome than ever before. What would happen if we overwhelmed new families with . . .
Carey Nieuwhof recently wrote, “While we can’t out-Disney Disney, no one should be able to out-community the local church. God is in the people business.” If you’re a church that holds kids and student ministry services on Easter Sunday, staff your ministry well enough in order for relationships to be prioritized. Create opportunities for one-on-one conversations so that new kids feel known and have a place to belong. Establish a process for follow-up by partnering with small group leaders. Have each of them send a few postcards so that you’re not sending 43 on Monday. Create environments that overwhelm new families with a fresh community experience that they may have never had before.
Give newer families an opportunity to have conversations about the dynamics of this season leading up to Easter. At our church, we recently spent some extended time in large group to take a deep dive into communion, showing kids the elements and what they might see, hear, and experience at our Good Friday service. Then we sent a note home to parents to give them a heads up about what was discussed, how they can have follow-up conversations and even possibly create their own communion experience at home.
If your church doesn’t hold kids or student ministry services on Easter, be intentional about giving families a unique, multi-generational Easter experience together. In 2011, the Fuller Youth Institute found that, “by far, the number-one way that churches made teens feel welcomed and valued was when adults in the congregation showed interest in them.” What does it mean for your Easter service to be intergenerational? Will songs be familiar to them? Will they recognize anyone on stage? Kids shouldn’t just feel welcome; they should know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Verbally recognize them. Give them their own bulletin. Give students a platform to serve. Don’t hinder them because the Kingdom of Heaven actually belongs to them (Matthew 19:14). When you overwhelm new parents with intentional welcome, they better understand both your values and your desire to partner with them.
We are living in times where real grace is hard to come by. Depending on the issue, our culture doesn’t always easily extend grace. As parents (especially first-time parents), we rarely even extend grace to ourselves! Easter is the perfect time to remind new families that, though they may be overwhelmed by your seemingly over-crowded church, their kids, social media, and life, Jesus has overwhelmed the grave. And the truth of this should lead them to being overwhelmed by His grace.
The hope of Easter is that, because Jesus “buried death,” we are overwhelmed, submerged, by His grace, and that truly does change everything. Consider doing a walk-through of every environment in your ministry before this weekend and ask yourself, “Where is there a potential opportunity to extend grace to someone in this space on Sunday?” Because I believe grace has the ability to produce real miracles in people’s lives.
So how will your church overwhelm new families this Easter season?