by Tamara Rice via Church Leaders
We can glory in our own celebration this Easter, or we can take a look at our communities to see who’s waiting outside for a glimpse of the miracle.
Do You Believe in Rolling Stones?
The cross, colorful eggs, white lilies and even chocolate bunny rabbits — several images have come to be associated with the Easter holiday. But for many, Christ’s empty tomb comes to mind, with the stone seal lying discarded, off to one side — the same stone, experts tell us, would have been immense, disc shaped, and rolled in front of the opening on a downward slope, so that while the tomb was relatively easy to seal, it would have taken the strength of many men, pushing against gravity, to remove it.
In his Bible commentary, Matthew Henry compared this stone to the weight of our sin, crushing Christ on the cross and holding Him to the penalty of death for three days in the grave. Until, as Scripture says, the earth literally moved, the ground shook, and an angel came from heaven to roll the stone back and expose the miracle of the Resurrection — Jesus’ physical body raised from the dead and absent from the grave.
It was, of course, no coincidence that the two Marys were there to witness the event at the tomb and later give testimony of the vacancy within, but why? Was it not just as miraculous for the women to see Christ alive in the flesh after His death? Why bother with the stone if He was already gone? What was so important about seeing the empty tomb?
In a word, the answer may be proof — tangible evidence for the people of Jerusalem for decades to come. Physical evidence, if you will, demanding a verdict.
Seekers today don’t have the luxury of exploring Christ’s actual tomb and examining its inner walls for traces of the Truth. They are, in a sense, standing outside the vacant sepulcher, no knowledge of the miracle within, and a boulder of intimidation, doubts and discomfort standing between them and Truth.
We can glory in our own celebration of the Resurrection this Easter season, or we can take a look around our neighborhoods, schools and businesses to see who’s waiting outside the crypt for a glimpse of the miracle.
This year, push those boulders of fear and uncertainty aside. This spring, plan an outreach event that will leave your community eternally altered. This Easter Sunday, bring the unchurched face-to-face with the empty tomb, where they might just find the open door of heaven.
40 Easter Outreach Ideas
We’ve put together our biggest list of outreach ideas ever, and our hope is that this Easter Passion Week will be like none your church has ever seen.
While many of these ideas are effective platforms for sharing the Gospel, some are merely intended to familiarize unbelievers with your church and afford your worshippers the opportunity to tender an invitation to Easter Sunday services.
1. Palm Party
Hold your children’s Easter outreach event on Palm Sunday and reenact the Triumphal Entry — complete with live donkey and palm branches — for a captive audience. Include egg decorating, games and an Easter video or story for a celebration children are sure to remember.
2. Messianic “Haggadah”
Encourage a churchwide celebration of the Seder or Messianic Haggadah in individual homes on Passover, which officially begins the previous day at sundown. Encourage host families to invite adventurous unchurched friends to share this special feast with them.
3. DaVinci’s “Last Supper” Reenactment
Maundy Thursday (also called Holy Thursday) is traditionally remembered as the night Christ ate the Last Supper with His disciples. Attract art appreciators with an Easter drama of the scene, using Scripture as a script and DaVinci’s painting for costume and backdrop inspiration.
4. Maundy Prayer
What better time to pray over your Easter outreach than the night of Holy Week associated with Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane? Open your sanctuary, encouraging church members to come when they can and pray for your community.
5. Artists at the Foot of the Cross
Create an atmosphere of experiential worship for postmodern seekers using both classical and contemporary art (projected on a screen), poetry (recited or projected on screen) and music to offer a glimpse of the crucifixion through the eyes of famous and not-so-famous artists in a candlelight service.
6. Artists at the Foot of the Cross Gallery
Turn a gym or multipurpose room into a gallery of crucifixion art, poetry and music created by church members of all ages, as well as the unchurched in your community. (Be careful to note that the church reserves the right not to display gallery entries it deems inappropriate.)
7. “The Thorn”
“The Thorn” is a brand new way to experience Easter in your church. It features exclusive, licensed videos from The Thorn Live Stage Production. Learn more at http://www.outreach.com/promo/the-thorn-products.aspx.
8. Jesus for Children
Don’t overlook childcare while planning a Good Friday service — especially if you’ll be planning a trip to see “The Passion of the Christ.” To offer more than just babysitting, consider showing a depiction of the crucifixion story appropriate for children.
9. Spring Tea
A traditional English tea party — especially one in a colorful garden — offers a brief escape for today’s busy women who would never, of their own volition, take the time to sit outside and enjoy a cup of tea and a crumpet. Throw in a speaker (with a topic general enough to appeal to a broad spectrum) or even live music, and you’ll have an event church women will feel confident inviting female friends to enjoy.
10. Easter “Bonnet” Benefit
Organize a hat fashion show during a women’s brunch at the church, selling tickets in advance, with proceeds going to a local charity. Contact boutiques, stores and antique malls in your area for the hat (older women in your congregation may have wonderful vintage hats to show off), and use women — young and old — in the church and community to model them.
11. Basket Decorating 101
Everybody — churched or unchurched — loves an Easter basket. Enlist an experienced basket decorator from your congregation or local craft store and host a basket decorating class, charging only for supplies.
12. Basket Benefit
Collect Easter gift baskets from local businesses and church members for a silent auction at the church, benefiting a local charity. (Hint: Be sure to set a starting price for each basket.)
13. “Easter Parade” Movie Night
This Irving Berlin classic is a fun musical for Baby Boomers, seniors and anyone who appreciates old black and white romance. Serve lemonade and popcorn and project it onto a big screen — outside if weather permits — and charge a nickel admission for some added nostalgia.
14. “Easter Parade” to Go
Contact your local senior center, assisted living community or convalescent hospital to see if your church can bring the “Easter Parade” movie, popcorn and lemonade to them, creating a special night of nostalgia.
15. “Messiah” Live
Though Handel’s beautiful oratorio is typically reserved for the Christmas season, it does include the death and resurrection of Christ. Host an evening of live orchestra — from the community or church — and serve refreshments for participants and spectators alike.
16. Free Car Wash
In the vein of servant evangelism, organize a car wash your community won’t soon forget, free of charge with no strings attached. Just leave a small Easter card with your church’s information in each clean vehicle.
17. Spring Makeover
Organize a crack team of handymen (and women) to tackle a run-down building in your community. Be sure it’s a selfless task that benefits those “outside” the Kingdom. Get the proper permission, permits and supplies and have fun.
18. Spring Paint Showers
Find a public school in need of an external makeover and gather a team of volunteers from your congregation to paint it or plant a new garden. Contact the school or school board in advance for permission and allow the principal to pick the colors.
19. Spring Festival
Think Harvest Festival, only with an Easter flare. Instead of bobbing for apples, hunt blindfolded for eggs. Instead of carving pumpkins, make floral wreaths. Open it up to the community and make it an annual Easter week event.
20. Child Egg Decorating
Host an Easter party for children complete with eggs (and dyes to paint them), chocolate bunnies, and a fun, age-appropriate video to share the Gospel. Encourage kids to bring their unchurched friends. (Hint: This is the perfect event to pair with the Spring Tea or other women’s event since it eliminates the need for baby sitters.)
21. Blooming Art
Enlist a gifted congregation member or local florist to teach flower arranging at church. Charge to cover supplies, but encourage participants to bring their own vase, apron and garden clippers. Don’t forget to advertise at local nurseries, farmer’s markets and craft stores.
22. Pictures Say a Thousand Words
Enlist a photographer in your church — or from the community — then advertise a free or discounted photo shoot to families in your area. Set up a spring backdrop with props like flowered hats and baskets.
23. Spring Sports Competition
Organize a friendly softball or flag football game at a local park, encouraging church members to bring friends and coworkers to play and watch. Hang a large banner to mark the spot — be sure it contains your church name and Easter service times.
24. Community Easter Egg Hunt
Sponsor a community-wide Easter egg hunt in a local park. Be sure to advertise an age limit and ask parents to bring a dozen eggs (real or candy-filled) for each participating child. Play music and serve lemonade to the adults and rent a bunny costume for your resident church “clown.”
25. Walk, Don’t Run
Organize a walk-a-thon benefiting a local charity with a course that begins and ends at the church and can be completed by people of all ages. Invite the community to participate and set up refreshment stations along the way.
26. Spring Clean Sale
Use door hangers in local neighborhoods suggesting community-wide “spring closet cleaning” and offering to collect items for a sale benefiting a local charity. Send church members with trucks to gather the goods, then hold the sale in the church parking lot. Place a card with Easter service times in each bag of goods you sell.
27. Sunrise Service
Plan an outdoor sunrise worship service if weather permits. Recreate the scene outside the tomb as a backdrop, using papier-mâché and paint to make the stone. Ask several teens from the church to dress as the guards, the women and the angel to reenact the scene.
28. Pancake Breakfast
Cook up a pancake breakfast immediately following your sunrise service or preceding your morning service, feeding your visitors free of charge and creating a welcoming, family atmosphere where new friendships can bloom over pancakes and coffee.
29. The Testimonial Cross
Build or purchase a large wooden cross and place it at the front of the sanctuary — either lying across the platform steps or leaning against the wall. Early in your Easter service, explain its significance as a reminder that the God we serve is no longer on His cross; He is alive.
30. Sunday School Eggs
Plan and prepare with baskets and eggs to have an egg hunt for the children during Sunday school. Among the candy-filled eggs, prepare 12 plastic eggs that will aid teachers in telling the story of Jesus. Place each of the following items in an egg: leaf (palm branches at Triumphal Entry), bread crumb (bread at Last Supper), communion cup (wine at Last Supper), dimes (Judas’ silver), stem with thorns (crown of thorns), wood (cross), three nails (nails in the cross), piece of a sponge (vinegar given to Jesus), piece of red cloth (Jesus’ garment), piece of white cloth (burial garment), rock (the stone) and cotton ball (clouds at the Ascension).
31. Easter Lily Delivery
Weeks before Easter, give church members the opportunity to “sponsor” an Easter lily by paying for the cost of one and signing a pre-printed Easter card for each. Purchase the lilies from a local garden center or florist the day before your Easter service then use them to decorate your facility. Sunday afternoon, have volunteers transport the flowers to residents at a convalescent hospital or assisted-living facility.
32. Baskets of Love
In the weeks leading up to Easter, invite your congregation to donate canned goods and necessary toiletries for the less fortunate in your community, then organize a team of volunteers to place the donated items in Easter baskets and promptly deliver them to the families in need.
33. Easter Feasts
Create a list of the necessary ingredients for several delicious Easter lunches, like ham and potatoes or roast chicken. Ask families in the congregation to sign up to buy particular items or cook the food, then bring the meal to the church kitchen Easter morning. Volunteers can organize the food, place completed meals in baskets, and deliver them to a few needy families in your community.
34. The Worth of a Child
Never dismiss the power of a children’s musical or drama. Not only are children remarkably capable of presenting the Gospel in a compelling way, but parents, grandparents and friends who might otherwise never set foot in a church will come with cameras and flowers for a beloved child on stage.
Since your church is likely to have more visitors on this special Sunday than a usual weekend, be sure they don’t leave empty-handed. Purchase plenty of books or small gifts to pass out at the door as they leave.
36. Forget-Me-Nots for Kids
Don’t overlook special gifts for visiting children on Easter Sunday, and don’t settle for candy that will be eaten before they reach the parking lot. Give each something small, age-appropriate and relevant to the Easter celebration.
37. Easter Service to Go
Organize a team from church to bring an Easter service to a convalescent hospital or local mission, complete with worship and a speaker. Consult management in advance to establish details like sound equipment and service length.
38. Concert at the Park
If weather permits, hold a family-oriented concert in a local park during the afternoon or evening on Easter. If you don’t have the resources or talent for entertainment, advertise thoroughly, charge a small fee and hire a band. Be sure to obtain the proper permits and attempt to get the blessing of the surrounding neighbors.
Miscellaneous Easter Ideas
39. Easter Evangelism Cards
Have special cards — maybe even egg or cross shaped — professionally made to hand out at your outreach event. The card should include your church contact information and service times, but you might also consider adding a verse, a prayer or the (brief) plan of salvation. (Hint: Make them general enough to be used again next Easter.)
40. Celebrity Advantage
No matter what kind of event you organize this Easter, having a high-profile Christian participate in some headlining way — as narrator, emcee, entertainment, etc. — will increase your response. Local figures like the mayor, the football star or even the local news anchor are great options if your church doesn’t have the resources to bring in a well-known celebrity.
Getting People There
Drawing the unchurched to your event is obviously the key that makes or breaks its capacity for outreach. For a successful word-of-mouth campaign, you can provide your members with business card sized event invitations to give to friends, but we also recommend taking steps to attract a broader scope of your community by placing a banner in front of the church, sending a bulk mailing or canvassing neighborhoods with door hangers.
And if your resources don’t allow for a bulk mailing, post fliers on bulletin boards in schools, grocery stores, libraries, laundromats or other appropriate public places in your community.
Remember, however, no matter how you choose to advertise your event, the best and the most successful invitation is a personal one.