The Easter Hangover

April 21, 2014 — 2 Comments


originally posted on April 1, 2013

It happens every year to pastors: the Easter Hangover. It’s the fog and haze of leaving it all out on the field Easter Sunday and then still having to go back to work the next day. Pastors work hard for Easter. It’s their ‘Superbowl.’ When all is said and done, they’re wiped out. Here’s how their next day typically goes:

8:00 am – Extra big pot of coffee. The pastor walks around an empty church building that looks like a parade just went through it. The place is trashed.

9:00 am – Still haven’t quite woken up yet. The pastor talks with the other staff, but keeps intentionally directing the conversation back the large crowds yesterday, in an attempt to bask in the glory of Easter Sunday a little while longer.

10:00 am – Now the pastor has moved onto church gossip with the secretary. “I saw the Smiths back yesterday.” The pastor is convinced that his witty illustrations from the day before will bring those wayward souls back next week.

11:00 am – The offering numbers came in from Easter Sunday. The pastor now entertains visions of grandeur, imagining a life where Easter attendance and Easter giving happened every week.

12:00 pm – The pastor goes to lunch planning the next building campaign for his church.

2:00 pm – After a two hour lunch (if he deserves an extra long lunch, today is the day), the pastor comes back to encounter his first complaint: Sister Mary thought there were too many people yesterday. She couldn’t get her normal pew. She demands a call back.

3:00 pm – The pastor learns that his bump in attendance numbers were mostly out-of-town guests who came in visiting family. None of them will be back next week.

4:00 pm – A creeping dread begins to settle in when the pastor realizes that next Sunday is coming up and he has no idea what he’s going to talk about.

5:00 pm – Only 364 more days until next Easter.


five red button Happy Easter! Here are five links to keep you thinking throughout the weekend.

The “15 Second Kiss” Experiment – Married with kids? This article is for you!!!!

Do We Really Need More Churches in America? – Great perspective!

3 Big Questions Kids Ask on Good Friday – great perspective for those with curious kids.

Heaven is For Real – Good review if you’re considering watching the movie.

Saved From Hate – An interview with the son of deceased pastor of Westboro Baptist Church.

4.17.14I recently talked to a lady whose husband hasn’t been to church in fifteen years. The last time he came was on an Easter Sunday, and that Sunday the preacher decided to ridicule those who only showed up for Christmas and Easter. It reinforced his negative stereotypes of church, and he hasn’t been back since.

This Sunday is going to be a big Sunday. Friends and family are going to come. Folks that only attend once a year are going to attend. Even the guy that’s not supposed to show up at church will show up at church this Sunday. It’s just the thing to do on Easter Sunday.

Your pastor is going to love this Sunday. He’s going to look at the crowds and soar on the inside. All of his dreams and visions are going to dance in his head as he takes the pulpit. Everyone will look nice and be cordial. But here’s the danger of Easter Sunday: that church will reinforce all the negative stereotypes that have driven the unchurched (or dechurched) away. All the guests, all the outsiders, are going to feel just like that: outsiders. Your church has one shot to overcome the reasons why they got burned by church in the first place. If your host team goes out of their way to welcome them (even in the parking lot), if your childcare facilities are professional and clean, if your services are excellent yet engaging, you’ll have a shot at winning over your guests.

But if the members keep to themselves, choosing to compare Easter outfits rather than engaging the newcomers, if the only time people shake their hands is when they’re forced to during the “turn and greet,” if the songs sung don’t resonate with the outsider as well as the insider, and if the pastor’s sermon is chocked full of religious lingo and insider language, then it will simply reinforce to your guests why they haven’t been to church in the past year.

This Sunday, your church has one shot to overcome the negative stereotypes and experiences that have kept your guests away for so long. If not, the week after Easter your church will be back to “normal,” your pastor’s hopes and dreams will be dashed, and you’ll have to wait another year to see so many guests at one time. Make the most of Easter Sunday!

4.16.14For churches, Easter is the “Superbowl” of Sundays. The bushes are spruced up, the pile of old bulletins is finally cleared out. We’re getting ready for the onslaught of guests that are expected to pour onto our campus this coming Sunday. But what determines whether guests will come back again or not after Easter? Will it be the biblical soundness of the preaching, the quality of the music, or the cleanliness of the nursery? I believe all of those are important, but not the determining factor. That is something far simpler.

Yesterday I took a survey of our staff to ask what they would consider as important if they were to visit a new church. The primary response is what I’ve experienced for years as a pastor: the overwhelming thing guests look for when they visit your church for the first time is whether or not they’ll feel welcome, whether or not anyone will talk to them. All those hours spent crafting an evangelistic sermon will be for naught if your members scare all the guests away. All those hours practicing that beautiful Easter cantata will be wasted if no one talks to the guests. It’s as simple as that.

A host team is a big deal. Making sure that your members are conditioned to make newcomers feel welcome is a big deal. Lead by example. Make it your goal this Easter not to talk to anyone you know, only engaging with folks who look like they’re new. I guarantee you, you’ll make an incredible first impression on someone.

I received two notes this week from recent first-time guests who have decided to make Mt Vernon their home. The thing both of them mentioned the most was how welcome we made them feel. We learned their names. We talked to them. We called them by name the second time they came. They felt welcome. They felt like they belonged. So they’re sticking around.

Want to make Easter a success this year? Don’t just preach at them, engage with them. Make them feel like they could belong at your church. Who knows? They might just decide to stick around.


Maybe it’s Tuesday and your week has already started to go sideways on you. Maybe you just need to smile. Recently the high school students at Mt Vernon Church hosted a prom for the special needs community. Watch this recap video and be reminded that there still is good in the world.

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As a pastor I’ve heard the term “unchurched” thrown around for years. I look at where I grew up (California) and see it everywhere. But I don’t minister in California. I minister in the South. And in some ways, I think it’s harder. The “unchurched” are those who haven’t grown up in church. They don’t read their Bible everyday. They don’t know the words to the great hymns of old. They don’t know how to dress or how to act in church. Many churches spend all their creative energies at reaching the unchurched.

Here’s the problem for me: In the South, there’s simply not that many “unchurched.” Sure there are a few, but they’re a minuscule percentage of the population. Here’s the overwhelming demographic I encounter, the one Mt Vernon is aimed at reaching: the “dechurched.” These are people who have had experiences with the church but got burned and have walked away. It’s hard not to go to church in the South at some point in your childhood. Either your parents took you or your grandmother took you. If nothing else you got shoved in a VBS so your parents could get a few hours of peace.

The majority of people in the South have exposure to the church, it’s just not good exposure. I can’t tell you the times I’ve encountered people who grew up in church but walked away. Either the church was boring or overly rigid, the people were judgmental or they just wanted to live in the world. Either way, most folks that I encounter who are new to church aren’t new to church, they just haven’t been in years.

In some ways that makes our job harder. We don’t have a blank slate to work with. Instead we’re trying to overcome the negative stereotypes and negative experiences that other churches seared into them growing up. Our primary aim at Mt Vernon isn’t to reach the “unchurched,” it’s the reach the “dechurched.”

QUESTION: Have you encountered more “unchurched” or ‘dechurched” people in the South?

five red buttonFive more insightful articles to get you through the weekend. Enjoy!

A Thread Called Grace – A powerful confession of someone dealing with sexual abuse in his past.

A Year of Grieving Dangerously – Kay Warren talks about dealing with the suicide of her son Matthew.

God Used Me to Stop a School Shooter – An incredible interview with a woman who talked down a school shooter.

Let Them Eat Dirt – Amazing perspective for all parents out there who can tend to be overprotective.

The Incredible Story of a Rwandan Genocide Survivor – Powerful story!