Hallmark and Hershey's have done the work to keep Easter ‘top of mind.' Research shows that it's also the holiday most likely to draw an unbeliever to church. So, how can you take advantage of this oncea-year chance to share the transforming message of the cross? Tamara Rice, Outreach magazine 21 fresh ideas for Easter by Tamara Rice Like digging out a dusty box of holiday decorations, many churches pull their standard Easter pageant fare out of the ministry attic without much consideration as to why. Perhaps this year it's time to take a prayerful look at your local community and ask, "Who do we really need to reach with the message of Christ?" and "What will be the most effective way to reach them?" Hallmark and Hershey's have done the work to keep Easter "top of mind." Research shows that it's also the holiday most likely to draw an unbeliever to church. So, how can you take advantage of this once-a-year chance to share the transforming message of the cross? Outreach magazine recently asked readers to share some of their best Easter connection ideas. The result: 21 seasoned ideas that have been proven effective. As you read them and begin to brainstorm, be creative and consider how God wants your congregation to reach out to those who don't know him this Easter. 1. Community humility. We participate in a community-wide Easter service held at a local college stadium. Pastors from various denominations come together to plan, pray, share ideas, and divide the workload and costs. Because of the pastors' humility, the services have had great success in our community. – Trinity Assembly of God, Algood, Tenn. 2. Easter road show. Develop a team that can conduct Easter services – even a children's service and egg hunt – at locations around your community. Housing projects, senior citizens' developments, even trailer parks are good. You'll hit individuals and families who might never have the chance to visit your church and hear the Gospel. – Adapted from SonRise Christian Church, Goose Creek, S.C. 3. Lily gratitude. Instead of spending money on Easter lilies to decorate the church, purchase lilies as a donation to local businesses, hospitals, law enforcement, schools, etc. Attach a small tag from your church: "With appreciation during this Easter season." – Adapted from First Southern Baptist Church, Lawrence, Kan. 4. Resurrection run. We hold a resurrection run motorcycle rally and invite motorcycle enthusiasts from the community to join us. – FAITH Riders Motorcycle Ministries, Cookeville, Tenn. 5. Easter labyrinth. On Easter, we promote a labyrinth experience featuring stations of the cross. Even unbelievers are interested in a spiritual experience that helps them learn about the true significance of Easter. – Adapted from Harbor Trinity Church, Costa Mesa, Calif., and New Generations Church, Albany, Ga. 6. Easter signs. In cities where increasing restrictions are affecting public signage, creative churches are using silk-screened, corrugated plastic yard signs. Planted on the front lawns of church members, the signs invite neighbors to Easter services and events. 7. Love jars. Our ladies outreach group fills canning jars with brownie mix – layered and sealed with a lid covered with seasonal fabric. We make a personal visit to the home of each of our Easter visitors. It's a non-threatening, non-preachy visit that simply says, "We're glad you came ... hope to see you again." – Memorial Baptist Church, Verona, Wis. 8. Spring family festival. We follow up Easter Sunday with a spring family festival. We give the kids carnival tickets stapled to their Easter Sunday egg bags to use on the day of the festival for rides and games. It's a strong motivator that turns an Easter-only visit into at least two visits. A barbecue and outreach-oriented message series give the parents a reason to return as well. 9. The empty egg. We offer a community-wide Easter egg hunt that involves several avenues to share the Gospel. From puppet ministry to music, to sharing the parable of the empty egg (representing the tomb), we use this event to introduce them to Christ and invite them to our Easter services. 10. One card. One guest. We hand out printed invitations to our Easter worship service to all of our regular attendees. We ask them to pray for one person that God is leading them to invite. Members either mail or hand-deliver the invitations to the people they've been praying for. We've seen a great response to this. – Adapted from Cannon United Methodist Church, Snellville, Ga. 11. Appreciation gift. We give an inexpensive Max Lucado book ($1.50 each) to the first 50 families who come to our service. – Horizon Church, Surprise, Ariz. 12. Cross connection. Our congregation uses the tradition of a flower cross. We purchase hundreds of carnations and during the response time, we invite people to place a flower in a large wooden cross-framed with chicken wire. During a recent Easter, one woman who had been praying for her gravely ill, unchurched husband saw him go forward and place his flower in the cross. Talk about resurrection power! – Adapted from Allendale United Methodist Church, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Tyler Street Church of Christ, Sacramento, Calif. 13. The world's biggest Easter egg hunt. The week before Easter we advertise a huge event we call "The world's biggest Easter egg hunt," including games, food, prizes, free Bibles, and music. We then invite the community back the next week for our Easter services. – Adapted from Eastside Baptist, Marietta,Ga.; Freedom Worship Center, Soddy Daisy,Tenn.; Providence United Methodist, Fayetteville, Ga.; and Daybreak Community, Shawnee, Kan. 14. Easter kindness. Easter is often more inwardly focused than Christmas and Thanksgiving. This year, mark Easter weekend with a significant act of service to your community (restore hiking trails, host a dinner for the homeless, hold a blood drive, run a 10k for a local women's shelter, etc.) and invite your community to join you. 15. You can do it. Encourage everyone who attends your Easter service to bring canned food for a local food bank. Seeing the church serve others helps even unbelievers focus on the selfless sacrifice of Christ. 16. Palm Sunday reflection. Invite your community to join you for a meaningful time of spiritual reflection on the Sunday before Easter. Last year, we created sacred spaces that guided people through the events leading up to the cross. It helped all of us prepare mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for the Holy Week. We borrowed from the liturgy of other churches to help create the sacred environment. – Oroville Nazarene Church, Oroville, Calif. 17. Location: neutral. Instead of holding services at your church, schedule them at a neutral location. One church uses a flower ranch located on the property of one of their members and draws many unbelievers each year. – Adapted from Good Shepherd Lutheran, Turlock, Calif. 18. Next generation invitations. In addition to direct mail, signage, and other materials, promote your Easter service with an e-card that can be easily forwarded along with a personal note. Outreach, Inc. (publisher of Outreach magazine) offers e-cards as part of its free (with purchase) Easter Impact sites. 19. Spring clean-up. The week before Easter, host a huge, community-wide garage sale to benefit a local charity or cause. Offer a tax receipt to any donors and even offer to pick up larger items. Make it a fun community event by providing food, music, and fliers promoting your Easter-week activities. 20. Egg-vitations. The Sunday before Easter we give children 10 plastic eggs with candy and an invitation for their friends and families to attend our Easter service. It is great to see our children involved in inviting people to our church. – Creekside Church, Centennial, Colo., borrowed from Fellowship Church, Grand Junction, Colo. 21. Celebrity connection. Invite a local Christian "celebrity" to participate in your Easter service. Ideas: Ask the mayor to provide narration; ask the local pageant queen to sing; or have a local DJ or news anchor participate in a reader's theater. This content originally appeared in the January/February 2005 issue of Outreach magazine, the gathering place for ideas, insights, and stories of today's outreach-oriented church leaders. For more ideas and information, visit outreachmagazine.com. For your free three-issue mini subscription to Outreach magazine, click here.