It’s Easter 2021 officially been a year since the COVID-19 shutdowns began.
This Easter, we’re older and wiser, right? We’ve learned more than we ever wanted to learn about sanitizer, air filters, camera angles, live streaming, Zoom meetings, forehead thermometers, and the colors of the tiered reopening system, so we’re ready to rock the best COVID-friendly Easter services ever. Maybe.
Just to be sure, let’s review some ways NOT to welcome guests this Easter:
1. Don’t Get Touchy.
In a pre-covid world, every guest got a handshake at the door. These days, instead of handshakes being welcoming, they could alienate. Everyone has a different standard of safe social distancing, so instead of high fives, handshakes, and hugs, try handheld signs, smile masks, and floor stickers. Even if you don’t like masks or think they work, you can show love to those who do by masking up and encouraging your church to do the same. When your guests feel safe, respected, and welcomed, they will be able to relax and receive God’s love.
2. Don’t Have a Crazy Long COVID Screening at the Entrance.
Guests want to feel safe in your building, but they don’t want to be bombarded by an onslaught of temperature checks, rigorous mask requirements, written questionnaires, and waivers on the way in the door. Instead, choose a simple, streamlined process that meets the requirements for your community and gets people in your doors efficiently and happily. One simple way to do this is to post signage in your check-in area that lists your screening questions. Ask the guest family if they can answer “no” to all of the questions on the board, as you take everyone’s temperature. Then, have everyone use your sanitizer station on the way in the door. Easy and friendly!
3. Don’t Make Online Guests Feel Less Important.
Online guests are equally as important as in-person guests. That means you want to make sure your online service platform is easy to access and generally free from glitches and major timing delays. Our world is hungry for connection, so use your online services to make online guests feel like they are a part of the life of your church. Introduce yourself as if they were your in-person guest, include lots of opportunities for them to chat in the chat function, and show a short video or series of photos of what the in-person experience looks like on a standard Sunday. Your online service does not need to be routine or predictable. If this is the only way these people can access church these days, do what you can to make it engaging and fun.
If you do want more people to attend in-person, consider this: In today’s world, one of the reasons people are hesitant to go anywhere in-person is because they don’t really know what to expect or if they’ll be safe. To assuage some of these fears and encourage more people to attend your church in-person this Easter, consider creating a video tour of what they can expect for your Easter experience. Show your seating setup, talk about mask expectations and cleaning protocols, show the children’s ministry setup, and go over everything you’re doing to be COVID-safe. Post the video tour on your website and social media pages with information about your Easter services to give guests the confidence to join you.
4. Don’t Hold a Potluck - or Hand Out Donuts.
An indoor potluck might not be the wisest decision for preventing the spread of disease during a pandemic. Though potlucks used to be a great way to encourage fellowship, this year, churches have come up with countless other creative opportunities that are socially safe. (Can we just take a second to give a round of applause to you pastors, leaders, and volunteers for your adaptability and innovation this past year?!) Whatever your church has planned this Easter, hand sanitizers and room disinfectants are a good idea for an added layer of safety.
5. Don’t Talk Politics from the Pulpit.
This pandemic has become highly politicized, and church should be a place where people can go to get away from all the drama and have a distinctly different experience than the world has to offer. The last thing you want is to alienate your first-time guests by making polarizing political statements. Instead, preach Jesus. This may be your one chance to tell some of those people the Good News, so don’t waste the opportunity talking about politics. Want help crafting a powerful Easter message? Check out our Easter sermon kit, Love Reigns, or our 1-day Easter Series, Love Never Fails.
6. Don’t Run out of Space.
For safety reasons, many churches are having to take reservations to ensure buildings are kept to their limited capacities. Safety is important, but so is hospitality. If you know you are close to meeting your reduced capacity, and you expect a bunch of people this Easter, make sure to do everything possible NOT to have to send guests home, make them sit in awkward places, or stand in the back corner. Set your online reservations to a number that makes space for more guests to show up without a reservation. Create comfortable overflow areas for guests who were not aware of reservations. Invite regular attenders to choose less-popular service times. Then, walk through each guest experience yourself looking for places where your guests may feel unloved. The last thing you want is for someone to step out and show up for your in-person services only to leave disappointed and rejected.
7. And Whatever You Do, Don’t Cancel Your Services.
Easter services are often the highest-attended services of the year, excluding Easter 2020, of course. Canceling Easter services altogether would mean forgoing the opportunity to share about resurrection life in a time when so many people are fearful of death!
If someone on your staff gets sick, consider any and every alternative before cancelling your services. Can you sanitize your building and carry on? Can someone else do her part of the service? Can he film his portion of the service on his phone for you to show during the services? Get creative, and whatever you do, don’t cancel Easter!
8. Don't Forget to Follow Up With Your Guests and Members
During your Easter services, invite everyone to return the next week for a followup sermon or series and ask them to complete a connection card so you can stay in touch and pray for them. After Easter Sunday, send a “thanks for visiting” note and let visitors know what’s coming next at your church or how they can get help, prayer or join a small group.
God has a way of softening hearts in times of change, insecurity, and quietness; and we believe God has prepared hearts in your community uniquely for this Easter, so they will be ready to receive the Good News and eternal life! Do whatever you have to do to hold an Easter service because doors are open now that may not be open next year!
Next year, we’ll probably be in a completely different place as a society. So, for the sake of the Gospel, let’s pivot once again, so that everyone has the chance to meet Jesus and receive His resurrection life this Easter!