Make Easter Worship Special During COVID-19: Ideas your church can use during Holy Week
By Kevin Freeman
Churches across the nation and overseas have responded to increasing COVID-19 restrictions with admirable flexibility and creativity. Reports of drive-in prayer and worship services, online streaming of services, and video chats for Bible study groups continue to pour in from around the United States. God is at work, and his people understand this is a time of gospel advancement, not retreat. You cannot quarantine the hand of God! Amid this time of uncertainty and change, one question looms for many pastors: what do we do for Easter? Below are some ideas you can put into place for both Holy Week and Resurrection day.
Above all, you should pray. Ask God for wisdom. Jesus is still the head of the Church, and he is leading his people during this time. We often run the risk of finding someone else’s idea and implementing it without considering if it is how God is leading our local church. Take time to consult with your leadership and people. Local ideas and solutions are often the most effective, so discuss Easter in your church with people from your church as you pray.
Do a little bit extra. On Easter, people tend to look for just a little bit extra. An extra service at sunrise, a more involved worship special, just a bit more “oomph” in that message, and special clothes for the day. If you haven’t streamed services yet, maybe you try to for Easter. If your church just began streaming amid the pandemic (like mine), find a way to make the service just a bit more interactive. Email digital bulletins. Solicit responses to a question in advance, which you can read online. Find something extra without biting off more than you can chew. You do not want to accidentally derail your Resurrection Day celebration.
Look backward…from the future. Visionary leadership calls for this sort of perspective. When the coronavirus epidemic is in the rear-view mirror, how will your church have wanted to celebrate Easter? They can uniquely bless their neighbors during this time through prayer walks and checking in on the elderly. They can do home worship. They can see this as a special time that allows them to see God’s story in a new light.
Seize this unique opportunity. Our current situation is filled with opportunities that may never come our way again. The Church is celebrating Easter when most of us must stay home or limit gathering size. What does this situation call for? Your members could connect with a neighbor or two and invite them to worship in their homes if local laws allow. Most families are staying at home rather than getting together. What home activities can you provide them to do together? Think through what is unique and bring resources to it.
Find parallels. That first Easter Sunday, the disciples self-quarantined at home. They thought Jesus had been permanently entombed. The news of the resurrection was celebrated in a house, not a church building. Help your church connect to the Easter story in an entirely new way by pointing out these parallels. Their experience may feel closer to the first century than ever before.
Specific ideas. Hopefully, the above ideas will stimulate your creativity, but you probably also want some concrete ways to do Easter right during the crisis. There are some great ideas for kids and even an idea to re-celebrate Easter after physical services resume. What else can your church do?
- Create shareable video invitations for Easter worship – Get your details together and film a thirty-second clip from the pastor. Give it to your people so they can share it with friends.
- Include a clip from your former members – Remember that awesome family that moved out of state? People in your church miss them. Ask them to send in a special, one-minute video about how they plan to spend Easter.
- Make a video montage – Solicit a series of five to ten-second video clips from your people to answer a question. Ask them to finish the sentence, “Because the tomb is empty, I…” Ask a video-savvy member to stitch these together into a brief montage that you can email out or add to your streamed worship lineup.
- Add special worship numbers from members’ homes – Our church has opened its streaming services with a brief video of individual families leading a worship song. It helps set the stage for worship.
- Send video discussion questions – Give your members a way to discuss spiritual things with open-ended questions about Easter during coronavirus. A launching point may help them reach out.
- Lead the Lord’s Supper via video – Members can buy communion elements and follow at home. This is a new experience for many and it will have a special feeling. Communion during a streamed service, with the knowledge that other members are doing the same thing in their homes, increases the impact.
God has you exactly where He has you for such a time as this. None of this has taken God by surprise, and the Church has been given unique opportunities. Pray over these ideas and use them as a launch point for brainstorming with your team. This could be one of the most memorable Easter services in your church’s history. Do you feel overwhelmed and behind the curve? We all do, and perhaps it is exactly where God wants us. That means we are more aware of our dependence on him. God has a knack for developing big things out of improbable circumstances. Let’s pray for what he will do through this one.