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8 Reasons Why Some People Only Come to Church on Christmas and Easter

Mike on March 4, 2015 - 3:10 pm in Christian Ministry, Church Leadership, Faith & Culture
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Easter is coming, and with it, something many church leaders have come to call the C.E.C.G   phenomenon:  Christmas and Easter Church Goers.  These are people who come to church faithfully…but only twice a year.  This week we wanted to share some reasons why CECG’s are willing to come to church on those special Sundays and offer some, hopefully, thought-provoking suggestions about what churches can do in light of these reasons to maybe pave the way for more regular participation in a local church.

So, without further ado, here are 8 reasons why so many people are willing to come to church on Christmas and Easter:

  1. It’s tradition! – They do this every Easter and Christmas, year after year. In a culture with few meaningful traditions, there is something comforting about the tradition of going to church on these special days.  Implication?  Make sure CECG’s get at least some of what they expect when they come on Easter or Christmas, but also something they didn’t!  Consider this:  everyone watches Christmas Vacation in December, but not the rest of the year.  In other words, they might like the comfort of a tradition, but if they have no reason to expect that next week will be any different than what they expect, then why would they make plans to come back on other Sundays during the year?
  2. It’s a family obligation! – Many CECG’s come to church because there is a point person who brings them on those days: often a parent or a spouse who comes far more frequently but is only able to talk their kids or spouse into coming on special events.  Implication?  Give these “point persons” something to work with on other Sundays!  Create more special events that CECG’s are likely to “give in” to.  Maybe encourage these “point persons” to create more family events around church attendance on other Sundays (like family dinners or BBQ’s after church).
  3. It’s for the kids! – Many CECG’s think of their bi-annual pilgrimage to church as something that is good for the kids to be exposed to.  Implication?  Make sure that you address their kids in meaningful, engaging ways during Christmas and Easter services.
  4. It’s safe! – Lots of people are afraid to go to church because they expect to be made to feel guilty or are worried that the service will have lots of elements that make them feel foolish or uncomfortable (“turn to Habakkuk chapter 2, everyone!”), but that rarely happens on Easter or Christmas. CECG’s already know the stories (and where to find them!) and they don’t usually have to do a lot of things that they aren’t familiar with.  Implication?  Make sure the service doesn’t have elements that are unnecessarily uncomfortable (“turn to someone you don’t know and give them a big hug this morning!”, “during communion today…”)…but don’t shy away from including elements that are necessarily uncomfortable; i.e. share the Gospel and call for a response…what have you got to lose?  In my home church, we have a philosophy that says “we want everyone to be comfortable enough with their surroundings that they have a chance to be made uncomfortable by Truth”.  There’s a fine line between those two things, but it needs to be walked carefully and deliberately.
  5. It’s about Jesus! – Let’s face it, people didn’t flock to Jesus because of his doctrinal positions…they came because they were attracted to him! Many CECG’s are attracted to the person of Jesus, but find that when they come on other Sundays, Jesus isn’t all that much the focus.  It’s more about Paul’s instructions to wives or some obscure Old Testament story.  Implication?  Make Jesus a meaningful focus on more Sundays.  I’m not saying don’t teach all of Paul’s instructions or avoid Old Testament stories…I’m just saying find ways to connect things to the person of Jesus and his own ministry as much as possible.  And how about this:  launch a new message series on Jesus right after Christmas or Easter?
  6. It’s positive! – Most churches make celebration a major part of their Christmas and Easter services and, let’s face it, joyful celebration is attractive. But many churches somehow let the joy of our salvation lapse in between Easter and Christmas.  Implication?  Make joy and celebration a meaningful part of every church service!  Again, I’m not saying that we should avoid the heavy topics or skip over calls for sorrow and repentance for our sin…I’m just saying that in Christ we have forgiveness and no worship service should lack significant moments of joyful celebration for all that God has done for us!
  7. It’s got cultural momentum! – CECG’s are reminded that it’s Christmas and Easter every time they stop by a store, go to the theater or turn on the TV at those times of the year. This forces CECG’s to think about church at those times, but they can go most of the rest of the year without encountering anything in the culture to naturally lead them to think about church.  Implication?  Create more special services throughout the year that are tied to cultural events (e.g. graduation, 4th of July, back-to-school, Thanksgiving, etc.).  This will take some time to catch on, but over the years, as people associate your church with such things, seeing the cultural build-up will remind them about church.  Such special services also provide your “point persons” with things to use to invite people to church (see #2).
  8. It’s an “event”! – Even season-ticket holders usually skip at least some of the games, but they always go for the “special” ones. CECG’s often come to church because they know the service will be interesting and have special elements that really engage them.  Maybe there will be a short drama or maybe there will be stunning decorations this Easter.  Maybe the music will be especially well done at Christmas.  Implication?  Maybe your church needs to make every Sunday special in some ways!  Many CECG’s don’t go to church on other Sundays because they have come to expect that it will be boring and repetitive, with nothing new to grab their hearts and minds on a regular basis.  Yes, making every service (or at least more of them) and “event” takes time, energy and creativity…but isn’t the Gospel worthy of every bit of all that stuff we have to put at God’s disposal?

Got some reactions to anything on this list or ideas for specific ways churches can address one of these issues?  Leave  comment below!

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