Our churches are facing an unprecedented situation right now, the distinct possibility that the biggest weekend of the year, Easter Weekend, will not go as planned. So what are we going to do if traditional in-person gatherings can’t go forward as we intend them to? Do we cancel Easter? Of course, not. But we will need to pursue other options, and that’s what this podcast is about. Because today, I want to share with you three creative Easter solutions that your church can pursue even if you can’t assemble in person as a group like you normally would due to the coronavirus. Will Easter look different this year? It might have to, but that does not mean it needs to be any less meaningful. So let’s dive in and explore these three Easter alternatives.
Now, just a few days ago on a Friday afternoon, I got a direct message on Instagram from a person in Pro Church Nation. It said this, “Hey, Brady, super time sensitive question. Do you have a hotline or a number I can call to ask a question I need answered? Our social media post caught fire and it’s blowing up, so I need some help.” So I get on a call with this person, and they showed me their Facebook post that had gone viral in their community. It’s a video of their two pastors standing on the roof of this church’s office building. Here’s what part of that post sounded like.
Here’s the deal, because we can’t gather in large groups, instead of just sending an email going, “Hey, sorry everybody, we can’t have church whatever.” We’re still going to gather, it’s just going to look really, really different. Here’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to do what’s called drive-in church. So just like back in the day going to the drive-in movie and sitting in your car and getting that little receiver on your window and watching the screen and hearing it, you’re going to be able to drive into the Grove Church, we’re going to park you facing in the right direction, and we’re going to have a church service from the roof we’re standing on right now.
So this church announced that they were going to be hosting a drive-in service, and this isn’t a megachurch or anything like that, but this announcement did blowup. The post got more than 250 comments, more than 1000 likes and reactions, and close to 100,000 views. But perhaps most importantly, it got nearly 1000 shares. That’s what drove the virality of this post in the community, the region getting behind this church in excitement, anticipation and support.
So this is the first creative Easter solution we think churches should consider exploring, a drive-in experience. You can still gather in person, and my expectation is that a service like this, assuming it falls within the boundaries of your region’s limitations, will be very well received by your community. Because it’s going to be one of the few ways that people can actually get up and get out of their home, and as for how this Sunday actually went at the Grove Church, over 300 cars came through their four services, and more than 20,000 people tuned in online. So how did they pull this all off? Well, it essentially came up to setting up a stage on the roof of their office building and purchasing an FM transmitter. So nothing too colossal in terms of tech, and the Grove Church was also kind enough to put together a complete YouTube video talking about their setup and how they pulled off this entire Sunday.
So if you’re curious to see and hear more, that video will be linked in the show notes. Believe it or not though, this was not the only message I received from a church that hosted a drive-in service and saw a crazy community response because of it. I got another direct message, this time on Facebook from Connection Christian Church of Odessa. They announced their drive-in service also on a Facebook post, and that post garnered close to 500 comments, and get this, almost 5000 shares. Again, this is not a megachurch. It’s important, let’s temper expectations here a bit, just because you host a drive-in Easter experience or a drive-in service does not mean a response like this from your community is guaranteed.
But what I really like about this is how it almost feels like the church is standing up to the virus. Like, “Okay, we can’t meet in person the way we normally would? Fine. We’ll leverage technology and still meet in a responsible way, because no virus is going to stop the church.” I think people pickup on that holy rebellious spirit in these announcements and posts, and are drawn to them, because in a time like this, we’re looking to our leaders and institutions to show us a way forward amidst uncertainty. This is where the church can step up and lead and snuff out fear with faith.
Let’s move on now to Easter alternative number two, we’re calling this Easter in a Box. So if you’re like most churches, by the time Easter rolls around this year, you’ll have been hosting digital services of some kind online for a number of weeks. So how do you make Easter feel special or different? How do you make it feel unique? You pair the digital experience with physical elements. This is where Easter in a Box comes into play. Some assembly is required here, if your church is familiar with Operation Christmas Child at all, the process would be somewhat similar to that, except that you’re filling your boxes with Holy Week items for the families in your church to pick up the week of Easter.
And then, those elements would become fixtures within the online service on Easter Weekend. So again, this is the fusion of physical and digital to create a unique Easter experience. Of course, the big question is, what do you fill your boxes with? Some ideas for you, palm leaves, communion elements, so that everyone can partake in communion together at the same time during service using the same emblems. I really like this idea, because it creates a sense of unity even amidst our social distancing and isolation. Another idea would be to include a printed out Scripture reading that would serve as the Biblical text for the service. These are just a few ideas.
The key here is to look at the order of your online service for Easter, look at what’s included, and then ask yourself and your leadership team, “What physical elements could we track down to represent and pair with our order of service?” By doing this, you can create a unique Easter experience rich in meaning and church-wide unity. Finally, the third Easter experience idea, the Holy Week Unwind. When we talk about Easter in the church world, you’ll often hear phrases thrown around like the Superbowl of church services or the biggest Sunday of the year. Instead of trying to recreate that online, I think there’s something to be said for doing the opposite.
Because look, maybe it’s unrealistic to replicate what we would traditionally do in person at an Easter service through an online venue. So here’s my counterproposal, instead of a jampacked thoroughly produced, one-to-two hour digital Easter experience, spread it out over the course of an extended Holy Week. That’s Palm Sunday to Holy Monday, a total of nine days, and purposely keep it slow, under-produced and minimal. Again, basically do the opposite of what you may be used to on an Easter weekend. Here’s how to do it, build each day around a specific scripture reading, so to begin on Palm Sunday that would be Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, reading from Matthew 21, and create a piece of content around that scripture.
Then the next day, John 12, Mary pouring out her costly perfume for Jesus, and so on. To make this easier for you, we’ve put together a Google Doc linked in the show notes that contains a scripture passage for each of the nine days in this extended Holy Week. So we’ve already done some of the legwork for you there, it’s up to you to create a piece of content, and try to keep it short and minimal for each of the nine days, and have it make sense for your church. Feel free to experiment, give yourself the freedom to do something different with Easter. Don’t feel confined to even these three ideas, combine them, use elements you like, throw away stuff that you don’t.
The bottom line is this, Easter will almost certainly look different this year compared to what we’re used to, maybe a little like Christ’s entry to Jerusalem on a donkey. That wasn’t how a conqueror was supposed to appear, a lowly donkey? Where’s the power, where’s the force and might, Jesus? But Christ came to show us a new way, using his power not over people but for people, even if that meant giving up his own life. So let’s embrace that spirit this Easter, let’s lead the way for our communities offering hope in the midst of uncertainty, demonstrating power, not what the world thinks of when they think of power, but the power Jesus showed us. Laying our lives down for others and coming together as the church to say to this virus, “The gates of hell can’t stop the church, and there’s no way you will either.”