It won’t surprise you that Easter is the highest attended weekend of church services, with Christmas being a close second. We call it the “super bowl of church.”
So how can we strategically maximize our opportunity to connect with people during these weekends in ways that make first time guests want to come back? The old adage says you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. But you can create environments and opportunities that sweeten the water.
Anytime we’re planning big-attendance weekends, we need to be thinking critically and creatively about how we can hit home runs during the weekend, and how we can create environments and opportunities that people will want to come back to.
First, we have to make it a priority to put our best foot forward in everything we do,from parking to greeters to music to the message and calls to action. It makes me cringe when I hear stories of people who don’t go back to church because a sour-faced greeter threw a program at them, or some other “miss” that could have been avoided by thinking through details.
A phrase we like to use around 2|42 is “surprise and delight.” Details matter; the small things can make a big impact on how welcomed a first time attender feels. Last year at Christmas people were given rides from their car to the front door in a (literal) one horse open sleigh!
Throughout the worship service, make sure that you provide clear and compelling reasons for people to come back. That might look like having a video trailer for an upcoming teaching series focused on a felt need (Healthy Marriages, Getting Past Your Past, Forgiveness, etc.), or telling the stories of live change and transformation that are happening within your church. People are hungry for a place that is real, and where lives are being impacted.
Don’t forget about the kids! Create irresistible environments for kids, and remember, the language of kids is “fun.” One idea might be passing out the first of 4 “collectible” items, like a slap bracelet, button, or sticker. Kids get excited and will insist that parents bring them back for the remaining three! You might also consider holding a family-friendly event (family movie night, inflatables party, Nerf wars, etc.) the weekend after a high-attendance weekend to encourage people to come back.
Additionally, people are drawn to organizations that are making a difference locally. The church should regularly consider how to meet needs and engage with its community. We should be making it our aim to be the type of organization that would be missed if we closed our doors.
Here are a few ideas for how you can leverage high-attendance weekends to engage with attendees while also reaching out to your community:
- During a big attendance weekend like Easter, pass out grocery bags with the church logo printed on it and ask people to bring them back next week with canned goods for a local food bank. Encourage people to take more than one bag and ask for food donations from their neighbors. Your church’s logo will go all over the neighborhoods, and you’ll be meeting a real need!
- Take up a one dollar offering from everyone at the end of the service that will collectively be given away, and invite people back to hear the story of how that money will make a difference in someone’s life.
- Create relevant and practical applications to your teaching. A few years ago at 2|42 we did a series on Jesus that started on Easter about Jesus as the greatest Savior. Then we did Jesus as the greatest servant. At the end of that week we challenged everyone to go out to lunch and leave the greatest tip for their server.
The next weekend we talked about Jesus as the greatest teacher. We filmed an appreciation lunch at a local school where we transformed the teachers lounge into a spa with massage tables and free lunch, and we encouraged everyone to give their children’s teacher a gift or a note.
One of the most important ways to encourage people to come back is by simply following up. Here at 2|42, Derek Alonzi, our Ann Arbor Campus Pastor, oversees our assimilation process. Derek leads using the phrase, “Do for one person what you wish you could do for all,” meaning we need to make it our aim to treat each person like they are the onlyperson. It is not ok to let anyone fall in the cracks because we fail to follow up with them.
During our weekend services, we invite people to take a no-strings-attached micro-step by filling out our connection card so that we can answer any questions they have or provide additional information. We make it a high priority to follow up with every single card that we receive within the first day or two after we receive the card.
We then empower our staff and volunteer leaders to be personally responsible to follow up with 5 – 10 people with a personal phone call, not an email. This initial call takes approximately 15 minutes, and we simply ask, “How’d you hear about 2|42? What did you think? What do you think is your next step? You have my cell phone number; save it, and when you come back shoot me a text message and we’ll connect!” If the person doesn’t answer, we send them a text message; something to the effect of, “This is Dave from 2|42. You probably screen your calls like I do! I just wanted to thank you for checking things out, and see if you have any questions that I can answer.” Most of the time we get a fast response, and that individual now has a personal connection to the church. It’s not a complicated plan, but it requires simple systems and discipline to follow through.
We don’t lead our churches hoping for a bunch of one-hit-wonder weekends; we lead to see more people experience the transformative life change that happens by following Jesus and connecting with His people. Intentional strategy, planning, and follow through are the keys to making high-attendance weekends great opportunities to get people to come back again and again, and ultimately to make our churches their churches.
Onward and Upward,