My intention is for this post to be encouraging…I promise…but before I get to the encouraging part, I need to let you in on a secret that pastors try to keep quiet. That secret is that many of us dread Easter Sunday.
We don’t dread Easter. We love the resurrection story. We have given our lives proclaiming the resurrection story. We believe, with all our hearts, that every Sunday is Easter. So, we don’t dread Easter. We dread Easter Sunday.
Because for many of us, Easter Sunday never lives up to the hype. For many of us, Easter Sunday just ends up being a letdown. At best, attendance may increase a little, but not much. More than likely, attendance will be about the same as any other Sunday…or lower. We have the Easter Blues and will be glad when it is all over.
What causes the blues is that we know what will happen at our church, and then we read, or hear, or watch, or observe on Facebook, how other churches boast about record attendance, and how other churches double or triple in size on Easter Sunday. Other churches add special services to accommodate the crowds. But for us, sometimes, Easter Sunday is one of the lowest attendance Sundays of the year.
Well, from my experience, there are a few of reasons why. First, many of our churches are full of people, “not from around here.” So, over the long Easter weekend, many of our families (especially with young children) travel “home” to see grandparents and go to church with them. They will be back the following Sunday, but for Easter, they are gone.
Another reason, at least from my experience, is that many people in our churches are relatively new Christians. For them, Easter weekend is the “official” beginning of Spring and is a wonderful opportunity to go to the lake, or the mountains, or the beach for the weekend. They have been at church every Sunday since the New Yea, and they will be at church next Sunday. But Easter weekend, especially in April, is prime time for a quick get-away.
A third reason is because of all the “special” events the larger churches in town plan all weekend. Helicopters dropping 50,000+ eggs at the park. Big name Christian artists leading worship Easter Sunday, or famous Christian authors speaking, are too big an attraction to pass up. They will be back at my church the following Sunday, but Easter Sunday is a chance to see and hear their favorite singer or writer or speaker.
And so many pastors experience the Easter Blues.
In the past, I have tried to fight this. I have had planned large Easter Egg hunts and spent thousands of dollars on mailers and canvased neighborhoods and encouraged people to invite people to Easter Sunday. We have had Easter breakfasts and Easter lunches and Easter baptisms, etc…But, in reality, Easter Sunday ends up being no different than Palm Sunday, or the Sunday after Easter, or a Sunday in mid-February or mid-October.
So, how to combat the blues? I simply accept it for what it is. I know who I am and who God has called me to be and I know who are church is and who God called us to be. God has called us to be a church that ministers to the down and out and the marginalized in our community. He has called us to do this 52 weeks out of the year. And so, for me, it has become encouraging to know that Easter Sunday is no different than the other 51 Sundays throughout the year. In fact, while other churches experience a dramatic drop off in attendance the Sunday after Easter (their own form of “Easter Blues”), we will probably experience an increase!
We will worship the risen Savior on Easter just like we do on the Sunday in the middle of the summer, or winter. No hype, just honest, authentic worship.
So, if you are a pastor that relates to what I am writing, be encouraged. You are not alone. Most pastors are like you (and me). Don’t get discouraged this Easter. Do know that Jesus sees what you are doing and He will lift you up in due time. And please, don’t write your resignation letter the Sunday after Easter. Things will get better. I promise.