"The Next Big Thing is your invitation to Easter morning guests to come back... it doesn’t matter so much what the Next Big Thing is, as long as there is a Next Big Thing."
Welcoming Isn't Enough
Not long ago, I called my church planting coach to review all of my Holy Week and Easter plans. I was rather proud of the work our congregation and staff had accomplished in piecing together liturgies and promotions. I was hoping to hear “congratulations!” and “job well done!” But then my coach hit me with a zinger. She asked: “Yeah, well, what’s the Next Big Thing after that? All those guests you'll have on Easter, what are you inviting them to after Easter?” There was an awkward silence on my end. “Err...um….,” I replied, scrambling for an answer. “Won’t they be excited to be here with us on Easter? And won't most of them just want to come back because they had a good experience? Right??”
Wrong. The vast majority of church guests, especially on Easter, are not regular churchgoers. They are sporadic and they don’t mind hopping from church to church. Even though they've checked us out for Easter, they might not come back until Christmas... or they might not come back at all. They may go elsewhere – or they'll go nowhere – unless, like my coach insists, we make a point of inviting them to the Next Big Thing.
What is the Next Big Thing?
The Next Big Thing is your invitation to Easter morning guests to come back. Your Next Big Thing might be a new sermon series, or a short-term mission/service opportunity. It could be a '101' or Newcomers class that starts shortly after Easter week, or a new small group. Frankly, it doesn’t matter so much what the Next Big Thing is, as long as there is a Next Big Thing.
This activity should be authentic to your community and an activity that guests and old-timers alike might find engaging. Your Next Big Thing should tell guests something about what your community values; it should be offered in a spirit of welcome to all, not merely those who are there for the first time.
On Easter morning, here are the Next Big Things to which our church, Good Samaritan, will be inviting our guests through announcements, in the bulletin, and in follow-up thank you notes to every guest who gives us their name and email address:
- A serve-and-go project to drop off hospitality baskets for families waiting in the Emergency Room of a local hospital. This will be immediately after the Easter worship service (immediate term)
- A Good Sam’s 101 course in early May, which is the one-day “on-ramp” for newcomers to connect with Good Samaritan (short-term)
- A new reading and conversation series beginning in May focusing on Radical Welcome by Stephanie Spellers (long-term)
But My Church Isn't Ready to Announce a Big Thing...
Don’t have anything like this ready to go? What about inviting your guests to a “[Your church here] 101” on the Tuesday after Easter at the closest Starbucks from 6-7 p.m., hosted by your clergy or a lay leader. It doesn’t have to be elaborate…. maybe it’s just a short Q&A or get-to-know-you. The point is: invite them to something!
To conclude, I ask you the same question my coach asked me: “What’s the Next Big Thing? All those guests at Easter... what are you inviting them to after Easter?”
The Rev. Dr. Gray Lesesne is Church Planter and Vicar of Good Samaritan Episcopal Church in Brownsburg, Indiana, the first new church plant of the Diocese of Indianapolis in more than 20 years. Check out his blog at https://liberalchurchplanter.wordpress.com