Things will not be back to normal by the time Easter arrives. Regardless if your church is allowed to meet in person, many of your church members will follow recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and your local health department and stay home to practice social distancing.
This Easter your church needs to be prepared to digitally celebrate the greatest event in history. For a lot of churches, this is a frightening prospect. Easter is one of the biggest services of the year—both in terms of attendance and giving.
So how do you “pack” your service when everyone is watching online?
Use every digital channel you have
If you want people to tune into your livestream, you’ve got to pull out all the stops. Your digital promotion efforts are going to be crucial before, during, and after your service.
Email is a great way to give people a heads up about what’s coming. In the days leading up to Easter, you can email your congregation about:
- What’s going to be different about this service
- How they can participate digitally
- Where to find your livestream and what time to watch
- Why the celebration of Easter is so important today
- What the gospel has to say to our communities in the face of coronavirus
- Why the resurrection is still good news when our world is full of bad news
For best results, you’ll want a series of emails that address different aspects of Easter. At least one email should be dedicated to talking about your Easter service, and every email should remind people that it’s coming up.
Pro tip: Start mentioning your Easter service in a P.S. at the end of every email you send between now and Easter.
Your social media channels should echo any Easter emails you send, but they also offer other opportunities to promote your service. You could have church staff share live videos to talk about how they’re preparing to celebrate Easter or share how the service will be different. You’ve probably had some meaningful conversations and reflections about the significance of Easter right now. Why not share those insights with your congregation?
You could also share a devotional that goes through Passion Week and prepares people for the message you’re going to share. Or have a series of staff members share what Easter means to them.
Not everything you send has to directly promote your service or talk about your livestream. By reminding people about Easter and putting your church’s brand and staff in front of your congregation, they’ll make the connection themselves.
If you can turn it around in time, you should probably have a separate page on your website dedicated to explaining your Easter service. People who have never attended church (or haven’t been in one since Christmas) need a convenient way to learn about what you’re doing. This is especially important in communities that haven’t had official proclamations or orders banning gatherings. This page is also the perfect spot to put logistical details like when and where people can tune into your Easter service. Once it’s live, it’s a great place to link to from your emails and social media posts. Creating a landing page also makes it easy for church members to tell their friends and family what’s going on and how to join them.
If you have lots of content in your church app and make a point of encouraging people to use it, your app’s home screen is a great place to promote your Easter service. You can also use in-app content (devotionals, podcasts, blog posts, etc.) to get people thinking about Easter and your upcoming service.
Perhaps most importantly, take advantage of push notifications. You can use these to drive people to your in-app content anytime, but push notifications are an excellent way to get people to your livestream the moment you go live. When you start your countdown before the service, that’s the perfect time to send out a push notification pointing to your stream.
Post your livestream in multiple locations
There are three main places you could host your live stream:
- In your church app
- On your website
- On social media
It’s easiest to focus on one, but if you want to maximize the number of people who participate in your service, you should stream on all three. This makes your livestream as accessible as possible and helps you share your service with your entire digital audience, wherever they are when the service starts.
Some people (particularly those you’ve done a good job engaging leading up to your service) are going to be ready and waiting when your livestream begins, wherever you’ve told them to join you. But for those who haven’t been paying attention or haven’t received any of your messages, you’ll want to streamline the path to your service.
Push notifications work great for church members who have your app, but you obviously can’t reach people on Facebook through your church app. If you want to maximize your reach, you’ll want to host a stream on Facebook too. As church members share and interact with your stream on Facebook, it will expose your service to more people outside your church.
Dedicate your offering (and tell people in advance)
Giving away your offering may sound crazy, but many churches have found that when they model generosity, their congregation embraces it more strongly. Hosanna Church found that when they gave away their offering, Easter giving increased by 66 percent year over year!
Right now there are a lot of people who are struggling to find tangible ways to make a difference in their community. Many businesses have been devastated, and numerous people have lost their jobs. Families are going to have a hard time making ends meet. Your church has a platform to elevate organizations, people, and causes that can make an impact and serve those who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Giving your offering to a charity outside your church shows your congregation and your community that you truly care about making a difference, helping those who are hurting, and loving the people around you.
By promoting that you’re dedicating your offering, you can generate interest around your service and prepare people to participate in an act of generosity. Depending on the organization or group you partner with, you may also attract their community to check out yours.
You can read the whole story of what Hosanna Church did and what happened after in our free case study, The Big Easter Giveaway.
Prepare your digital celebration
Just because you can’t celebrate Easter in-person doesn’t mean your church can’t celebrate it together. In fact, this year may produce one of the most unique Easter services in the history of your church.
The 6 Week Plan to Engaging and Retaining Easter Guests
Odds are, you’re so immersed in planning the actual event, that your Easter follow-up isn’t top of mind. To help with this, we’ve created a free ebook, Your 6 Week Plan for Retaining Easter Guests, to help you cross key initiatives off on your follow-up to-do list.