Easter services are among the highest-attendance events of the year for most churches.
It’s the big event — the church’s equivalent to the NCAA Basketball National Championship Game.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people will trust their time to your church.
We often celebrate the number of people who come, but that’s not the real indicator of success. The real question is, will your guests come back?
This may be your only chance to make a good impression.
The stakes are high. So here are five tips that will help you preach an Easter sermon that brings guests back for more.
1. Serve an appetizer, not a buffet.
Think of your Easter sermon more like a gourmet appetizer at a fine restaurant than the average food you get at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The appetizer is small, but it’s filled with so much flavor that you want more.
Preaching too much information or for too long will leave a bad taste in the mouth of your guests. Don’t try to cram everything about Jesus down their throats. Instead, give them a sweet taste of Christ like they’ve never had before, so they want to come again for more.
I won’t try to dictate how long you can preach, but attempt to cut down your average time. If you typically preach 45 minutes, try 30. If 30, try 25.
I know that some pastors will argue, “But this is our one chance! We must capitalize on every second!”
That’s true. But in our evangelistic zeal, we can go overboard. And while we may love listening to ourselves talk, our audience has a threshold. No matter how great your sermon, once you approach their limit, they’ll look at the clock.
Plus, it’s just rude to promise a 60-minute service and then hold people hostage for 75.
It’s better for people to leave wanting more than wanting no more.
2. Give your all.
If Easter is one of your church’s biggest days, you’d better give everything you have on stage.
Don’t just preach the same old sermon that you preach every year.
Give every last drop of energy, creativity, and passion that you have to your sermon.
Spend more time than usual on sermon preparation. Like an athlete trains and studies for the big game, train and prepare to deliver the big sermon.
Become an expert on your key text.
Collect great illustrations.
Give it your best shot!
And get excited. This is not a chore; it’s a privilege. If you aren’t excited, why would anyone else be?
Leave it all on the stage. Preach your guts out. Deliver the best sermon of your life.
3. Exceed expectations.
Don’t settle for good enough. Don’t settle for doing what you have always done.
Going back to the restaurant analogy, think about the last time you were disappointed at a restaurant. What happened?
Almost every time, the problem is that you had an expectation that was unmet. You wanted a delicious cheeseburger, but it was too greasy. You wanted good service, but the server was rude and never refilled your drink.
You left the restaurant and talked about your disappointment to others.
Now think about a time when you went to a restaurant, and your expectations were exceeded. You wanted a good burger, but this burger was phenomenal. You wanted good service, but the server was fun and your drink was never empty.
You left the restaurant and recommended it to others.
If you want to wow your guests, you need to make the extra effort to exceed expectations.
In every area of your service, ask: What do people expect, and how can we exceed expectations?
- What do people expect from the sermon? How can we exceed expectations?
- What do people expect from the music? How can we exceed expectations?
- What do people expect in the parking lot? How can we exceed expectations?
4. Give some incentive.
If you want people to come back, give them a good reason. Use some kind of incentive to help.
- Start an interesting new series the next week that solves a problem or answers a controversial question that they have.
- End your sermon with a tease or a cliffhanger that draws them back the next week.
- Give visitors a card for free coffee and bagels on their next visit.
- Collect their contact information to send them a welcome letter, mail them a gift, or give them a personal phone call.
- Make a bold promise about how God will radically change their lives if they keep coming.
Give them some incentive to make your church a priority next week.
And whatever you do, please don’t bait-and-switch. If you promise something, deliver.
Don’t tell them they will get one thing when you secretly plan to give them something else. If you do this, people will stop trusting what you tell them. Too many churches have ruined their credibility with bait-and-switch strategies.
5. Tell the Easter story!
It’s Easter, people. Please talk about the Resurrection.
Don’t leave Jesus hanging on the cross.
People expect to hear the story. People want to hear the story. And a few may have never heard it before.
You can still be creative. Tell it in a different way. Show people something they’ve never noticed before. Take a different twist on the story, if you want.
If you need ideas, here’s a list of 30 Easter sermon ideas to get you started.
But please, talk about the reason everyone has gathered to celebrate in the first place. Easter is not about plastic eggs and candy. Tell the story of Jesus’ Resurrection and how he conquered Satan, sin, and death so that we may receive forgiveness and eternal life.
You never know who’s in the audience. Maybe they finally accepted the invitation of a friend or family member after years of saying no. Maybe they are “CEO” Christians (Christmas and Easter only), and this is the year they could decide to become regular attenders. Maybe they have given up on religion but decided to give the church one last shot.
You never know.
Do not let them leave without hearing the Gospel! Make sure everyone leaves your church knowing why Easter is the most important day in the history of the world.
And don’t let them leave without a chance to respond. Invite them to pray a prayer, check a box, come forward, meet with a pastor, or do whatever your church’s style is.
Don’t just assume that people will know what to do with what they just heard.
So if you want guests to come back the week after Easter, serve a delicious taste of Jesus, give it all you’ve got, exceed expectations, give a reason to come back, and share the Gospel.
He is risen!