Lent and Easter are quickly approaching. If you've been racking your brain for ideas (or just procrastinating), we have you covered.
Check out these tips. They require minimal effort and cost, while still providing ways to engage your congregation and drive home the all-important message of Jesus' death and resurrection.
1. Move your choir.
Do you follow the same script every year? Mix up your services with a few tweaks to engage your congregation (and maybe even attract new or infrequent attendees). For example, if your choir normally sits in a loft or at the front of the church, spread choir members throughout the congregation. Start the service by having a strong singer stand and sing the first line of a hymn; then have a second singer stand and join with the second line and so forth until the entire choir is standing and singing.
2. Coordinate picture day.
Easter is a perfect time to take pictures of your congregation as people often are dressed up. Hire a professional photographer or tap someone in your congregation who excels at photography. You probably won't be able to print pictures that day, but provide everyone with a web link where they can view the pictures. If you'd like to print hard copies, give people a time to pick them up. The pictures are a great gift for visitors, and picking up the photos will bring them back to the church. During the scheduled pickup time, offer refreshments along with marketing materials about your church. Of course, have a few staff members on hand to welcome newcomers and answer questions.
You also can create a slide show of the pictures to show at next year's Easter service or make a photo album to display in your church.
3. Give a memento to drive retention.
A simple way to reach out to rare or infrequent attendees is to distribute nails or small crosses as people enter the church. Cross keychains are inexpensive and constant reminders of the sacrifice Jesus made. To reinforce the message, have a member of your church hammer nails into the cross during an appropriate song (he or she can hammer to the beat for emphasis).
4. Host a Good Friday walk.
Follow the lead of Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, N.J., and host a Good Friday walk. The walk symbolizes the steps Jesus took on his way to Calvary. It is typically silent so participants can reflect and pray. Someone holding a cross leads the walk. Invite participants to take turns carrying the cross so they get a sense of what the walk was like for Jesus. Plan a route around your community that starts and ends at your church. If you have a Good Friday service, it can follow the walk. If you don't, end with a hymn or prayer.
Now spread the word. Reach out to the media a few days before the event inviting them to cover it. Submit the information to local newspapers, community organizations and other churches. The walk is a great visual for newspapers and television storries. Put information on your social media sites, blog, website, bulletin and outdoor church sign.
5. Create and distribute Easter invitations.
Using a simple word-processing program or a downloadable template (try one of the free ones here), create an invitation to your Easter services. Be sure to include times and locations. A week or two before Easter, give the invitations to members of your congregation and ask them to invite one person (or several) whom they think might appreciate the service.
6. Perform a skit.
The Skit Guys have scripts on everything from Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter trilogy to modern-day stories with an Easter message. Contemporary Drama Service also has scripts. Cokesbury offers resources such as "Abingdon's Easter Drama and Program Collection."
If you are short on time, use a simple script that doesn't require much memorization and has minimal parts. Don't worry about elaborate costumes or a set. Recycle costumes or ask each participant to provide a simple, homemade costume. Performing inside the church is fine. Your congregation will focus on the message, not the lack of scenery.
7. Involve children.
During the service a week or two before Easter, ask children to draw a picture of what Easter means to them and to bring it to the next service. Scan the drawings and create a PowerPoint presentation you can show before and after the service or during a time of reflection on Easter.