With Easter Sunday quickly approaching, pastors everywhere are in overdrive, making sure everything is ready and praying furiously for the first time visitors who will inevitably walk in their doors on Sunday morning.
This is such an exciting time of year.
Jesus is risen! We are so excited to celebrate one of the most exciting traditions of our faith and even more excited to invite others to discover the truth and life we’ve found. It is truly an amazing time to be a pastor.
At the same time, Easter is also a stressful time to be a pastor—can you agree? Other than maybe Christmas, there isn’t another time of year where there is more pressure to have a perfect Sunday service, to break attendance records, and to think of new and creative ways to get people in the doors.
To avoid unnecessary pressure this Easter, and just to make it through the holiday with your sanity in tact—here are five things every pastor should keep in mind.
1. It’s not your responsibility to save anyone.
I know we all know this, but it can be easy to forget, especially around special services. Jesus is in charge of souls, and you’re in charge of only what Jesus has entrusted you with. This will look different for each pastor, but in prayer and reflection, ask God to make it clear to you what is your responsibility this Easter and what isn’t.
Who should you talk to? Who do you need to pray with? How should you prepare for your message? Do you need more study or more quiet? Do you need to work more hours or fewer?
If you’re feeling pressure to make sure everyone understands the message or that every first time visitor comes back—take a deep breath.
Take to God what is God’s. Own only the task he has entrusted you with.
2. Put your best foot forward—but be yourself.
Some churches make elaborate changes to their services for Easter morning in order to impress visitors. I’ve heard of churches serving food or coffee for the first time, giving away gift cards, or hiring a performance-style band. There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of these things, but just remember to “be yourself” as a church.
Think of it like a first date. Of course, you want to put your best foot forward. You want to dress to impress.
But there’s no need to have plastic surgery before you go on a first date. If your date isn’t going to like you as you are, you probably don’t want to keep dating them anyway. As you prepare, keep this in mind: put your best foot forward, but be yourself.
3. The Gospel will be caught as much as taught.
Most churches focus a great deal on the presentation of the Gospel message from stage, and of course that is important. But equally as important is the way the Gospel message is lived out, from the minute guests walk in the door to the minute they walk out.
Are they greeted warmly? Is the atmosphere open and accepting? Are their kids cared for gently and kindly? Talk to your leaders and volunteers about their responsibility in preaching the Gospel message, even if they never set foot on a stage.
4. This is not their “only opportunity” to meet Jesus.
It can be easy to feel like this is the only opportunity first-time visitors have to meet Jesus, but thinking like this will distract you from your responsibility. It might be true that first-time visitors only step foot in a church once each year, but Scripture also says that all of creation speaks of its creator.
God loves your first-time visitors even more than you do.
Play your role. Let Him do the rest.
5. The rest of your church is here, too.
Don’t forget about the rest of your church body on Easter Sunday. You are still shepherding them, guiding them, discipling them. They are still entrusted to your care. Don’t allow the “hype” of Easter Sunday to derail you from the work God has called you to do with them—the long, faithful work that leads to lasting change.
Some visitors from Easter will come back, and when they do, they’ll be glad you care about them beyond just getting them in the building.
You care about who they are becoming as well.