If you’re a church leader, you’re likely already implementing some creative ideas to continue worship and meet the needs of folks in your congregation and community. With Easter only one week away, you may be considering how to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as a church body while upholding social distancing recommendations. While that may look a little bit different for each congregation, here are a few ideas for both adults and children to celebrate Easter 2020 without your physical church community present.
1.Maximize the physical property.
One church in West Chicago is utilizing its building during the 16 days leading up to Easter by hanging a banner in front of the church that features the station of the cross for that day. Members are invited to read the day’s Scripture, pray for the city as they drive or walk by, or post a picture of the banner on social media as a way to spread hope.
2. Offer a drive-in church experience.
When one church posted a video of their pastors on the roof of the church, inviting people to what they were calling “drive-in church”— reminiscent of a drive-in movie theater — folks got excited. The church purchased an FM transmitter and held church on the roof of their office building. More than 300 cars showed up for The Grove Church’s four services, and 20,000 more people tuned in online. Others are jumping onboard.
3. Don’t neglect Good Friday, highlight it.
Perhaps your congregation isn’t in the habit of walking through the drama of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. Because of the world’s palpable awareness of life and death, this may be the year to start. Offering congregants the opportunity to move from Palm Sunday, through Maundy Thursday, into Good Friday, and then to the glorious hope of resurrection on Easter Sunday — whether telecast or through downloadable at-home worship resources — will be a good gift.
4. Speak to the current public moment.
Weekly worship is most meaningful for those gathered when the message intersects with a worshiper’s lived experience, connecting with her life. Easter 2020 is no different. This year, as worshipers consider the suffering and death of Christ, they’ll have a particularly unique context to internalize the fragile nature of human life. Speak to this palpable heart-need.
5. Consider pre-planning a future physical Easter gathering.
While no one in their right mind would equate weeks or months in relatively comfortable homebound quarantine with Jesus’ quarantine in the tomb, both will end with a victorious resurrection unto life! If your congregation gathers virtually on Sunday, April 12, consider planning a physical celebration — date to be announced later — when you are once again able to be together physically.
6. Invite congregants to participate, not just church staff.
This moment when you’re pausing to re-imagine Easter worship is ripe with possibility. How can you invite folks in the congregation to share and to lead? Yes, you can invite specific individuals to prerecord Scripture readings or prayers, but why not let them share their hearts? Ask a few folks to share, in 60 seconds or less, how they’ve see the body of Christ love and serve during this season.
7. Invite a neighbor to virtually worship with you.
Whether your congregation tunes in to a live worship broadcast online or accesses pre-planned resources to worship individually or communally at home, invite a nearby neighbor without a church home to join you online. In this moment, people are lonely, hungry to be loved and received. Meet the deepest needs of human hearts by welcoming others to join your Easter celebration.
8. Instead of flying solo, access denominational resources.
Although this unique moment may make congregations feel like they’ve got to build the plane while flying it, you’re not actually flying solo. If your church is part of a larger denomination, that body may be making resources available to you, like these from the Presbyterian Church USA.
9. Be intentional about including those on the margins.
If your church doesn’t have a team that’s vigilant about caring for those among you who are vulnerable or marginalized in some way — members living in institutions, those living alone who might be homebound, those without internet access — consider drafting three or four folks whose purpose is to connect with those who are most likely to be disconnected from the life of the body during this time. Encourage them to dream up creative solutions like a teenager with a laptop and a hotspot streaming live worship service at the window of an elderly church member,to care for those likely to be marginalized.
10. Welcome real-time participation.
If your church is live-streaming a service, welcome folks to offer their joys and concerns for prayer. Rather than having one way to submit these, consider a number of alternatives:
- Posting to the church’s private Facebook group.
- Sending prayer requests to a designated email address.
- Calling a phone number where volunteers are prepared to listen and pray.
11. As always, preach the gospel.
Because so much energy today is invested in the “form” of worship, we sometimes forget about the “content.” The good news of Christ’s death and resurrection is as culturally relevant today as it’s always been. As you prepare for Easter, you may need to let some inessentials go — the decorated stage, the traditional continental breakfast, the fancy clothes — but the one thing that matters about Easter has not changed. Cling to the goodness of the gospel during these days.
We realize that children are deeply affected by this time, too. Here are a few ideas specifically for celebrating Easter with the children in your church.
12. Instead of Easter egg hunts, offer windows of hope.
During the outbreak of COVID-19, one neighborhood in Durham, N.C., displayed stuffed animals in windows of their homes so that children could walk or drive by and hunt for them. In lieu of a traditional Easter egg hunt, encourage children to draw crosses and put them in the front windows of your home on Good Friday. Then, on Easter, replace the cross with a picture showing a tomb with the stone rolled away.
13. Try outside celebration.
The good news of Easter is not just for those of us inside the walls of the church. This year, consider welcoming your household to worship outside, as weather permits. As adults perform or stream worship music, kids can celebrate by creating sidewalk chalk drawings that announce, “He is Risen!”
14. Make opportunities for children to lead.
With the availability of camera phones, and a little bit of lead time before Easter, you can prepare a video to share with the congregation that features the faces and voices of children. Whether you invite parents to submit a video of their child briefly recounting the story of Easter, or whether you welcome children to record themselves reading a designated Scripture passage, you (or a tech-savvy teen) can edit their contributions into a video the congregation will love.
15. Make opportunities for kids to connect with one another.
When it comes to our day jobs, many of us are figuring out how to handle business by phone and Zoom conference calls. But are we being as intentional about helping our kids stay connected? Depending on the size of your child’s Sunday School class, offer to host a Zoom call on Easter for all the kids. Ask the class’s regular teacher to share a brief lesson, and ask a musical parent or teen to lead singing. Provide an opportunity for each child to share a concern or comment, and then pray for all the children share.
16. Create moments for children to engage creatively with the story of Easter.
Unapologetically, the palpable heart of Easter is in the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the grave. But how can you develop creative strategies for children to not just “hear” the story, but to engage with the story?
- Read the story together from a children’s Bible or storybook.
- Enact the story of Easter using your child’s dolls, stuffed animals, or action figures.
- Sing the Easter songs from your church’s tradition, and pause to unpack the meaning of the words your family is singing.
- What other creative, tactile way can you employ to help kids connect with the good news of Easter?
These are just a few ways your congregation can continue to meet the needs of your church, your families, and the world. We know this probably isn’t how you planned to celebrate Easter, but the realities of COVID-19 present us with an opportunity to think more creatively than ever about how to make the most of an important day in our church calendar. It’s also an opportunity to experience the power of Easter in new ways as we cling to the power of Christ’s resurrection — the truth that never changes.