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Make Easter worshipers year-round worshipers

SUMMARY: What if your Christmas and Easter worshipers became year-round worshipers? Easter is a great opportunity to revive the participation of families who bring children to the celebration.

Some young families make church attendance a priority on Easter, but leave little or no time for church involvement the rest of the year. Yet, as parents of young children, many of them are figuring out how to involve religion in their children's lives.

This Easter Sunday—and throughout the year:

  • Create memories. Keeping little ones from squirming and talking might distract parents from hearing and remembering the sermon. Why not make an impression that will last for everyone? Families still talk about one preacher who started the sermon by running up and down the aisles to fly a kite in the church. Children may not remember the pastor's words, but they have the image and the ability to ponder the meaning. A display like that also communicates that the church embraces God in a friendly and fun manner.

  • Share sermon eggs. When worshipers enter the church, have volunteers give them a plastic egg with instructions not to open until the sermon. Each egg contains a symbol of the liturgy such as a cross, a piece of linen, a nail or a stone. The minister can create an interactive sermon, asking everyone to open the eggs; then discuss the meaning of each symbol.

  • Ask congregation members to serve as welcome teams. At each entrance to the church, have a few people greet everyone. They can distribute cards for families to give their contact information and detail interests they have. Visitors can drop the cards in the offering plates or in specially decorated baskets at each entrance.

  • Have a Scripture egg hunt. In adult Sunday school, or even for an entire small congregation, hide a dozen or so eggs containing a line of the Easter Scripture with the appropriate corresponding passage number. Once participants find all of the eggs, they can talk to each other to find the "missing" lines for the Scripture. After a group figures out the complete Scripture, someone can read the entire passage.

  • Ease someone's burden. Just as Simon helped Jesus carry his cross, ask worshipers to write one thing they plan to do in the Easter season to help ease the burden of someone's cross. Have them write two copies—one to leave at the church and one to take home. Put slips of paper and pencils at the end of each pew. In a future bulletin, or even on a wall in the church, tape the burden-easing pledges.

  • Have a cross relay race for youth. Race during Sunday school or another appropriate time, and then talk with youth about whose cross they might help to carry and why.

  • Involve technology in the service. Through video, photos, PowerPoint or even a cell-phone call from God—create interactive ways to engage people in the service and the church.

  • Distribute a newsletter. At the end of the service, distribute the newsletter containing articles and photos, along with future events and ways people can get involved. Make sure to include key e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

  • Share breakfast. Parents will take comfort in not having to cook breakfast and in eating in an environment that welcomes children. Have family-style dining with big tables. Ask regular worshipers to bring dishes to share—along with recipe cards to take home with the church's information printed on the back.

  • Announce a new adopt-a-family program. Create a more formal way for informal interaction by creating a family mentoring or adoption program. Encourage young families and older worshipers to register; then pair the different generations based on similar profiles and interests. Participating families agree to get together a few times each year at each other's homes, a restaurant or some other place for fellowship and fun.

Meet with congregation members a week or so after Easter to share thoughts and ask them to make "worship invitation" calls to families who provided information. Whatever you do on Easter, remember the follow-up and welcoming atmosphere will encourage young families to return and to make church participation a regular part of their lives.