As I walked into church on Easter Sunday, I was not surprised to see a room full of people. A part of me couldn’t help but smile though as I thought about how on this one particular Sunday every year it is hard to find a place to sit where most other Sundays there is plenty of room in the sanctuary. I was glad for all of those who made the trip that my family and I make every week, but I started to try to put myself in their shoes, and wondered what had motivated them to come this particular week.
For many people, church on Easter is a tradition, they know that the message they hear will be literally “uplifting” and inspiring hope, it is not often challenging our personal lives so much as celebrating a resurrection. Many times families will get together on this holiday and perhaps the matriarch or the patriarch of the family has significant pull to get everyone to church so many folks may be making someone happy by attending church. It also may be a baseline spiritual experience that parents want to give to their children, something they had growing up. Deep down most people who grew up in the church at least acknowledge that Easter is a religious holiday; if you are going to hide eggs and watch the Master’s golf tournament, you might feel obligated to get up early and make it to church first. Attendance of this one service allows people to justify all kinds of things throughout the year.
The message on Easter doesn’t vary and it shouldn’t, many people love to hear the story of Jesus rising from the dead and they know this is what they will likely be hearing. Not as many make it out for a Good Friday service to remember the sacrifice that preceded the empty tomb. Sermons on Easter generally make people feel good; they reference forgiveness, and emphasize the ability to start anew which makes it a perfect time for someone to try to start going again. This also makes it a convenient time for people in the church to invite their friends which may be one of the most overlooked reasons people show up-because someone asked them to come! The church also knows that many visitors are sure to be coming through the doors and they take this into consideration with how the service is constructed. The message may not vary but there are numerous ways to present it creatively. A lot of churches ratchet up the entertainment during this particular Sunday service and I’m sure the promise of such a dramatic presentation is what draws some people to church as well. So now that I’ve listed all the possible reasons for the packed house, the question is what will draw them to return in the following weeks?
The things you present should be done with openness and honesty, and it must connect with your audience on a personal level. Many stories in Scripture represent humanity well and not always the glowing parts. If we show authenticity and are honest about the journey of a Christian life and how God works through our desire to love Him, that should be compelling. If a person is in the right place in their life to respond to that truth, it will be. I believe the same is true about how we recruit our athletes here at Warner Pacific College.
What is it that gets these college athletes in the doors to visit Warner Pacific College? Once they are hear, how do we promote our school and the team in a real and honest way, not hiding the fact that we are a Christian school and that there are some responsibilities that come with that as a student athlete? When they arrive on campus to start school, many times athletes will be experiencing the faith atmosphere much like Easter visitors at church. If we are open and honest, sharing truth on a relational level and the athlete is in a place of seeking God, they are likely to stay engaged in the spiritual opportunities here at our school and grow in their faith. As an athletic staff, I believe it is very important to be open, honest, and relational with student athletes and potential recruits about who we are as believers and how that looks on a regular basis, not just when they visit.