How to Plan a Successful Easter Service

by | Audio, Engagement, Leadership, Production, Worship Service Planning

Churches often see their highest attendance numbers on Easter Sunday. Some worshippers regularly attend services, others may attend infrequently with family and friends as part of tradition, while others may be “holy days only” worshippers. Regardless of why people attend in-person Easter services, houses of worship have an opportunity to provide a positive experience that could inspire them to return more regularly.  However, this can be a daunting task for any pastor or leadership team. It need not be if you have a plan, and if you follow these steps, we’ll help you make one.

No budget needed

Easter is about a message, not about new gear and décor, thus this strategy is about using the tools you already have at your disposal to tackle Easter. The Easter service isn’t an end goal, it’s the beginning – the first, best chance you have this calendar year to have people start or continue their faith journey in your church.

The strategy begins with your Easter sermon. Everything will reflect back on your sermon, which will drive the vision for all aspects of the service. This is in contrast to planning Easter as a production, and then having the sermon as an element. Your sermon will set the theme. This begins with a morning message, which will have touchstones of the theme of the sermon that will come later. But that’s only the first element of your overall plan, and since every part of the plan reflects back on the message of your sermon, which you develop on your own for free, this is a plan that can be adopted with any budget.

Developing the plan

By using the sermon to drive your Easter service, you open the possibility of generating the best ideas from you, your staff, and volunteers, enabling them to think creatively and do what each of them does best. As a side benefit, by developing this plan with your staff, and having it accessible to everyone, you aren’t forced to micromanage the events of the day. Rather, you can focus on your polishing and delivering the best sermon you can.

While that may be called a side benefit, it really is a key benefit, because as the pastor delivering the sermon and the leader behind the plan, you need to be the calm center of the process. If you’re stressed because you’re having to handle small details, and the clock is ticking, others will pick up on your stress and it will affect the quality of your sermon and the service as a whole.

Managing people in any environment is never easy. But in a house of worship, you have the benefit of everyone being there for a reason, a common reason. And on Easter, that’s especially true. The key to having things run smoothly is to have a plan with a vision that will unify everyone. On Easter you have an advantage because, remember, the entire point is to preach about the Resurrection and use that message to reach people about God’s forgiveness and the hope provided by Jesus.

Now you just have to pick what the core idea of your sermon, and thus the service, will be. There’s no need for you to do that alone. Gather your team and brainstorm.

Two heads are better than one

Even the most experienced, brilliant, educated leaders can benefit from another perspective or opinion. Work with your team to discuss what your central theme will be. You all know the Resurrection story. What aspect of it do you want attendants to carry with them in their hearts and minds at the end of the service? Will it be a scriptural passage, a visual image, or even just one word? Whatever it is, make sure the concept is clear to everyone. To facilitate that, you may want to focus on very basic things, which your team will then spin off into ways they can work the idea into what they do. For instance:

  • Hope. Jesus will one day return, fulfilling His final promise.
  • Rebirth, or death yielding to life. Because of Christ’s death and rising, we are all redeemed and reborn.
  • Fulfillment. Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection all fulfilled scripture, down to minute details. God kept all his promises to us.
  • New beginnings. Christ’s ministry set new rules for the faithful, embodied by his resurrection, which marked a new beginning of God’s covenant with humanity.

Whichever idea you choose, think of how to communicate it simply with words and images. Is it the symbol of the Cross, or the stone rolled back from Jesus’ tomb? Having an image to point to is a classic method of keeping your staff focused in the planning mission, and keeping attendants focused during your sermon and the service.

The service as an experience

After you and your team have worked out the theme for the day, focus on how this will be realized in the attendees’ experience from the moment they come on to your church grounds. Think of your theme as your top goal. Perhaps it’s “Hope.” How will the idea of Easter and Hope be part of the entire day? Perhaps there’s a banner outside the church with the word “Hope” on it, or you have the word on your signage. Ask that question to every member of your team, and they’ll give you answers, some of which might surprise you. And, by asking everyone from your parking lot attendants to your ushers to your production team, you can ensure that the message will be carried through everywhere.

Leading with clarity and vision

As ideas come forth from your team, you may feel anxiety, especially as the plan gains momentum. This is normal. When planning with a team, the leader always feels self-conscious about presenting an unfinished plan, as the plan is open to criticism. Also, as the team works on the plan, there’s valid concern that the final product has little resemblance to what the leader envisioned. The key element here is trust, and if you trust in the team you’re working with, your concerns, while natural, need not be major concerns.

As you work with your team on elements of the service, you’ll have to delegate tasks in order to be able to focus on your sermon. When you do this, make sure to be specific. Don’t simply say, “Bob will create signage and have it in place by March 30th.” While that seems specific, it’s not, as “signage” isn’t defined.

What you should say: “Bob Simmons will have a vinyl banner printed and in place on the frontage road, as well as 3 vinyl banners of similar size, one on each outer wall of the building, by March 30.”

Telling the story

You have the theme, you have the image or images you want to convey the central message of your sermon that binds your service. Excellent. The next element to guide is creativity.

A common phrase is “harnessing creativity,” and in the case of service planning or other project management, it’s a very apt description. Churches are full of creative people, and most likely you have many staff and volunteers on your team precisely because they have creative skills they would like to use to serve the Lord, and that’s beautiful. Once again, you as the leader need to keep the team focused on the guiding message of the day or else the passion of creating may take individual projects in a direction not in line with your sermon.

As long as you’re able to control the message, there are many ways those around you can contribute to it creatively, such as:

  • Graphic art
  • Original video content
  • Newly composed music
  • Stage design
  • Speaking/storytelling.

Remember: there’s one story the people in your church will want to hear on Easter, and that’s the story of Jesus. You could add all the music, lights, banners, and dazzling elements you want on Sunday, but if you don’t have the story there, people will walk away unsatisfied, and worse, you’ll be missing the point of the day as it serves God. 

What do YOU want to do?

You have the vision, you have the plan, you’ve printed that plan and your team knows what to do. Everything is running smoothly. Finally, you can concentrate on delivering the sermon you want to deliver, in a way that will touch the minds and hearts of those assembled, so they come back again.

The question is, what do you want to do?

Part of the beauty of the depth of church culture and teachings is that you have the freedom to be yourself and do what you think is best in order to convey the message of the church to those who need to hear it. If you want to use humor, do so. If you want to tell stories from your life to make the sermon personal, that’s great. If you need props, use them. Do what you need to do to feel strong and deliver the best message you can. However, once again, rely on your team. Review your ideas with at least one person you trust and go with your strengths. There may be something you’re missing. Once you’ve planned and reviewed, you should be feel a sense of confidence.

With your plan in place, keep two final things in mind:

  1. Check your tech, and
  2. Be sure to include everyone.
Photo courtesy of RF Venue

Check your tech

You don’t want to have audio issues for one of the most important services of the year. If you’re using wireless mics and monitors, ask your production team to:

  • Analyze your church’s RF spectrum conditions to spot issues 
  • Check your antennas and distribution equipment
  • Coordinate frequencies to manage your wireless systems.

Easter services tend to be more elaborate, with more musicians, more speakers, and more singers all sharing the same frequencies. It’s important that everyone can be heard, and that they can hear themselves, without feedback or other problems.

Photo courtesy of Listen Technologies.

Be sure to include everyone

Not being able to hear speakers and singers clearly can be frustrating, isolating, and boring – the opposite of what a house of worship visit should be. To ensure sanctuaries are inviting, accessible, and inspiring on Easter Sunday and throughout the year, consider the listening needs of congregants.

“Adding monitors and digital signage in the sanctuary to broadcast song lyrics, closed captioning, and announcements can help worshippers with hearing loss and those who experience situational listening challenges such as distance from speakers, background noise, visual or audio distractions, and language,” says Kim Franklin, Vice President of Global Marketing at Listen Technologies. “Assistive listening systems also can help by delivering clear sound directly to listeners’ ears.”

Knowing you’re trying to bring in new church members to stay long after Easter, if you’re going to invest in any new gear for your Easter service, you may want to look at investing in assistive technology. There are different assistive listening technologies to meet a worship facility’s size, budget, and unique congregant needs. These include:

Infrared. With infrared-based assistive listening systems, audio from a microphone or other sound source is transmitted via infrared light to small receivers that users wear on a lanyard around their neck. Ambient noise is not amplified, so users only hear clear audio from the sound source (i.e., a microphone or TV) delivered to their ears through headphones attached to the receiver. If they wear hearing aids with telecoils or have cochlear implants, they can borrow a neck loop to feed audio from the receiver directly to their hearing aids or cochlear implants. Because infrared systems require line-of-sight operation, there is no audio spillover into adjacent rooms. The benefits of this during concurrent worship services in different rooms are obvious, as audio interference will not distract worshippers in either room. Beyond worship services, infrared systems can ensure confidentiality, which may be critical in support group meetings and counseling sessions at the facility.

Radio Frequency. Radio frequency (RF)-based assistive listening systems include small receivers similar to infrared systems, but sound is transmitted to receivers over radio frequency instead of light. Clear audio from a sound source is delivered to the user’s ears through headphones or earbuds connected to the receiver or via a neck loop to telecoil-enabled hearing aids or cochlear implants. RF-based systems work well in large spaces or when spillover is not an issue and may even be preferred (i.e., overflow seating in sanctuary-adjacent halls and meeting rooms). In addition to a transmitter and receivers, RF-based systems feature an antenna to transmit the audio signal from a transmitter over radio frequency to individual receivers. RF-based systems that operate in both the 72 and 216 MHz frequency ranges provide additional flexibility. Systems operating in the 216 MHz range offer expanded coverage for large venues and allow users to move about in large spaces without losing the signal.

Two-Way Communication. Portable, all-in-one, two-way communication systems that leverage RF technology are another affordable, versatile option for traditional assistive listening that can also be used for language interpretation and tours. Small, ergonomic units operate as both an individual transmitter and receiver, eliminating the need for a separate, stand-alone transmitter. Users wear the units on a lanyard around their neck, in a pocket, or attached via the belt-clip and listen to audio through connected headphones or earbuds. Units are grouped together with a “leader” (i.e., a presenter, minister, teacher, etc.) unit. When units are in talk-back mode, users (i.e., members of the congregation, students, etc.) can press and hold a button to speak to a “leader” or others in the group. Examples of when this technology could be used in houses of worship beyond Easter Sunday services include teaching religious education classes, leading field trips, directing choral and theatrical productions, and hosting tours. Mobile, two-way communication systems also facilitate language interpretation since interpreters do not need to carry a separate receiver and transmitter or juggle two headsets or a microphone to hear audio from a presenter and listeners and to relay interpretations to listeners.

Audio over Wi-Fi. With this technology, visitors stream live or recorded house of worship audio directly to their smartphones. Systems work on an existing wireless network, so worship facilities do not need to install an additional, separate network. Listeners download a free app on their smartphone, select the channel featuring the audio they want to hear, and listen with headphones or earbuds to clear sound streamed to their smartphone. They also can stream audio from their smartphone directly to telecoil-enabled hearing aids and cochlear implants. Audio over Wi-Fi is increasingly popular because it uses technology many people already carry with them. Worshippers do not need to check out or return equipment, and audio can be accessed anywhere within the worship facility’s wireless network, so a worshipper caring for a restless child outside the sanctuary or sitting in a car in the church parking lot can hear the service. Houses of worship with audio over Wi-Fi assistive listening systems can purchase dedicated Wi-Fi receivers to loan visitors who do not have or prefer not to use their smartphone.

There are many affordable, versatile options for assistive listening that worship facilities can install quickly and easily – no costly, lengthy, or disrupting installations and retrofitting required – to ensure everyone hears clearly, feels included, and can fully focus and engage in worship services. By making sanctuaries inviting spaces where it is easy for visitors to connect and find inspiration, houses of worship will ensure congregants have a positive experience at Easter Sunday services. They may also find infrequent worshippers likely to return more often after the holy day. 

Thanks to Listen Technologies for providing some of the technical content for this article. Listen Technologies has been a leading provider of advanced wireless listening solutions for 24 years. For more information go to www.listentech.com

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