Yesterday my daughter C. Beth posted a very interesting blog about the mailings she received inviting their family to various Easter services. I was fascinated by her thoughts and the comments she was receiving (including the one from her mother admitting that we recently had a sermon series by the same title as one in her post).
I actually shared the substance of Beth's thoughts with our Senior Leadership Team yesterday morning. You see, many of us in the church world are scratching our heads about how to reach those who don't go to church with the basic message of Easter -- that Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. Easter is one of the few opportunities left when people in this culture seem to be thinking about going to church.
I was doubly fascinated because we did something different this year: we didn't advertise -- at least not in the traditional sense of the term. In previous years we have have bought ads in the local paper and on the most popular local radio station. We have sent out direct mail postcards to those in close neighborhoods and, while they weren't as "catchy" as Slumdog Savior, they were designed to be "inviting." While we have rotated different ones of these strategies, we have annually placed a very large banner on our campus with Easter service times. Didn't do that one this year either.
INSTEAD, we went to all our Small Groups and asked them to develop prayer lists of people we care about who don't go to church. We began to pray for God to give us opportunities to comfortably invite them to an Easter service with us. We then printed out simple invitation cards with the service theme, times, location and a map of how to find us.
I can be as doubtful as Thomas sometimes and wasn't sure this strategy would work. I showed up Easter morning with concerns that our attendance would drop considerably. I prayed, invited a friend (he didn't come -- at least I didn't see him) and prepared to tell the Easter good news to those who showed up. The result? Our Easter weekend attendance was up over 170 people from last year.
Everywhere I looked, I saw new people. Most of them were with friends who already attend Stone Ridge.
No postcards in the mail. No newspaper. No radio.
No brunch. No Easter Egg hunt with special prizes.