Leading In the Afterglow of a Big Sunday

Amazing Love

I was humbled by the words scribbled on the back of a communication card this past Sunday:

This was my first time to church. I have struggled most of my life and just find myself in the worst situations. Listening to your sermon gave me a lot to think about and I am ready to let Jesus help me find the way.

I had a follow-up conversation with this young man after the service was over and I was moved by his honesty about his past and present struggles. We make it clear at Grace Hills that all of us are broken and any of us can find healing in a relationship with Jesus. That healing process just started in the life of this young man. Another young lady made the same decision Sunday as well.

In addition to two people trusting Jesus for the first time, we heard from quite a few others who were discovering or rediscovering Jesus, or church, or both.

Easter Sunday was big for us this year. Each year, it’s been our highest attended service and this year a new record was set with 337 people attending. That followed a big effort to get the word out on social media, through invite cards, and by word-of-mouth. It also followed a big community egg hunt the day before that saw about 400 people gather at a local school.

I looked at my social networks on Sunday afternoon and rejoiced to see that we weren’t alone. Christians and church leaders were praising God for people who found Jesus in churches across the land and around the world. I love that!

Pastor Rick Warren talks about how to make the most of these ‘big days’ for growth, and I agree with his approach. While some disparage the very idea of trying to ‘attract’ lost people to a weekend worship service, I believe strongly that most people who ever come to know Christ and who really go on to grow deep roots in Him do so in the context of a gospel community. It is absolutely not up to the individual believer to share Jesus alone. We have a spiritual family that can, in community, help friends explore Jesus.

As with all big events, there is a build-up and then a release of tension when it’s all over. A common question among Pastors is, how do I come down from a big Sunday? While we do often experience an overall increase in average attendance after these weekends, we also know that the crowd won’t be as big next week. So during the week following a big day, here are some practices to develop.

1. Calm down. You can’t sustain a hyper pace forever and if you try, you’ll burn out. So get some rest. Take it easy. Spend some extra time in prayer, Bible reading, and meditation this week.

2. Follow up. People came and filled out cards, so they’re willing to be ministered to with at least a thank you and an offer to help further. And don’t do this all yourself. Delegate and spread the joy around!

3. Think big picture. One high attendance Sunday does not a disciple-making church make. Evaluate your plan for assimilating and discipling people. How will you turn a crowd into a congregation?

4. Plan ahead. Mother’s Day is next in terms of Sundays to do something out of the ordinary, or your church may do something in between. It’s okay to take a week to slow the pace, but don’t let the next opportunity sneak up on you.

5. Sustain momentum. I’m a big believer that movements are evidenced by momentum – sustained forward motion. When you have a ‘big win’ Sunday, it’s important to celebrate it in the life of your church.

6. Focus on the next lost person. Attracting a crowd to church is a great way to allow the community to draw people to Jesus collectively, but don’t ever get so focused on the masses and on the crowd that you lose sight of the real goal – to reach the next lost person.

7. Pray and humble yourself. I hinted at this in tip #1 because prayer that appeals to God’s power undergirds everything we do. And I’ll close with prayer because it also prevents pride from messing up the victory. Take a minute to blame all the good stuff on Jesus!