I love visiting new churches. I’m kind of a nerd about visiting different denominations and checking out new gathering spaces, or music and service styles.
While I have my favorites, and I definitely value my home church, there’s something really inspiring about meeting people in other traditions in my own neighborhood or throughout my broader travels. I get to experience new styles of services, pray with new people, and feel a stronger connection to the Church at large.
But what I really remember––more than any particular ritual or new turn of phrase––is how that church made me feel. How they greeted me (or didn’t!?!) with warm smiles and a handshake. How the pastor addressed visitors and made everyone––regular and new––feel included and important.
These are the types of interactions that build up our church communities and engage first-time visitors to become lifelong friends (or even members!).
Hopefully you thought about visitors like me when you welcomed people into your church family at Christmastime. As we approach Easter, it’s time to ramp up again and engage with the same people who joined you for events and services in December.
These visitors have already come once––they’re returning with an already-positive impression. They’re interested in experiencing how your church is celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.
The Ekklesia 360 team has put together a list of ways to connect with those members who came to your Christmas services, but have yet to join. Here are some Easter ideas for church for you to use:
New Visitor Cards
Visitor cards are kind of in the “oldie-but-goodie” category, but we’ve got some fresh ideas. Let’s start with a reminder to send an email or an actual postcard in the mail, or even call to invite them back.
Your first step is to mentally hit the streets to get the word out about your community’s Easter events. “Save the date” style postcards have a special invitation feel that does more than state your normal times and services.
Your Easter announcement can make someone feel personally welcomed to something because it’s different from general direct mail they may receive from lots of companies. And even different than something generic from your church.
One more thing to remember as we welcome church visitors with communications: not everyone who walks through your doors the first time (or even the second) will be 100% ready to join your church. And that’s totally okay! They may need to be warmed-up to the idea of joining a church or they might be learning how they “fit” in your community and small groups, and you need to show that your church is attentive without being too pushy.
We know you try to strike a balance in all your church communications––especially to new people. To help you walk the line between communicating too much and communicating too little, remember this rule of thumb: be consistent.
If they only checked the box to receive monthly emails, only send them an email once a month, with possibly one special email for the Easter season. If they only gave you an email address, don't try to track down their home address or phone number. Your church is unique––and you know your community best––but if you asked your visitors to tell you how often they want to hear about news and events, they will appreciate how respectful you are of their preferences. And they will start to want more information the more they get involved at your church.
Promote All Kinds of Easter Events
Some visitors may turn to your church for a formal service or a big Easter celebration. But other visitors may be more interested in seeing––or joining––your community during such a happy time!
You’ve spent a lot of time and energy putting together socials, special events, or visitor welcome times to complement your services. Now is the time to broadcast to your visitors. They may not come to everything, but go ahead and invite them. Spread the word, extend an invitation to your spring barbecue, Easter egg hunt for kids, and any other community events your visitors might connect with.
Show That You Value Them
It’s important for visitors––and your broader community––to have an increasing level of positive name recognition of your church. Even if your church visitors can’t come to your Easter events or services, reach out to them. Let them know you’re praying for them, that you care for them even if they don’t come. This will be true (you do care), but they will also feel appreciated and valued. They will see your church as an option for next Sunday or a place they could one day call home.
You truly care about extending your hand and letting them know they are welcome in your church family. So instead of thinking too closely about the number of visitors who do or do not make it to your services, remember that your invitation will still mean a great deal to anyone who’s on the receiving end. Write your invitation with that attitude in mind. Use words like, “home,” “community,” “join,” and “friends and family” rather than “come today,” or anything that sounds like a sales pitch.
Don’t Forget Social Media
It’s awesome if a high percentage of your visitors fill out a new visitor card to pass their information along to your staff. But sometimes we forget––walking through the door and filling out a visitor card is only one way people might be finding you!
Maybe someone has been scoping out churches on social media, and has been following along on your Facebook or Twitter feed. You may not have their email address or phone number, but you could definitely connect with them via social media posts about your Easter events. Make sure your posts include a way to get more complete information.
Be sure to invite new members via avenues other than your database; you never know who you might “catch” with an invite on social media––even if you don’t have them on your mailing list.
Engage Your Congregation
Your members are the face of your church. They will exemplify your mission, and spread your message out into the world in their daily lives. So while your communications office is working to invite church visitors in, you also need your members to welcome visitors and help them see why they should keep coming back.
Ask your pastor to openly talk about your Easter ideas for church services and being especially welcoming to visitors. Send an email to your small groups, asking for help during various family events that weekend. Make sure you talk to as many people as you can about how important it is to be kind and welcoming to the visitors who will be joining you on Easter! Encourage existing members to invite their friends and family, but also encourage them to be a volunteer at those events when they can. I once saw a church pass out Easter eggs with an invitation in them––how fun is that?