As cultures all over the world celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, churches have an incredible opportunity to connect with their communities.
Carry the cross on Good Friday.
The people of Winstead UMC,Wilson, N.C., decided they wanted to "do something tangible and memorable to witness to Jesus on Easter weekend," said Pastor Paul Dunham. They place a cross display on property nearby. Carrying the crosses to the property has grown into a meaningful tradition.
Last year, they made it a community event by collaborating with 10 other churches in town. They began at the AME Zion building downtown and carried the crosses 10 miles through town. After placing them at the site, they had a joint worship service.
Not only did people involved in the procession participate in the service, but also people who saw the crosses being carried then joined the moving service. Rev. Dunham said the event had a huge impact on the community.
Have an Easter basket/food pantry giveaway.
Another UM church collected traditional items for Easter baskets. Members shopped at thrift stores for baskets and collected new stuffed animals from friends and neighbors. Sunday school classes donated candy, and the church bought Easter grass and coloring books that pictured the Easter story.
Instead of members assembling the baskets and handing them out, the congregation enabled recipient parents to be part of the process.
The church collaborated with a local food pantry and set up at a predetermined location on Saturday. Day and place were well advertised.
After families received what they needed from the food pantry, parents shopped for their children’s Easter basket contents. Instead of what someone else packed at random, parents got to select a stuffed animal, candy, and grass. They all received the coloring books, to help share the story of Easter with their children.
Offer a mountaintop Good Friday service.
Youth at University UMC in San Antonio begin their Good Friday service on Maundy Thursday. After school, they meet at a state park and pitch their tents to stay up with Jesus in prayer. Then Good Friday is filled with fasting, prayer, and reflection.
When the sun begins to set, they start a short hike up a mountain so that they arrive around sunset. At the top, gathered at a cross they help carry there, the youth and anyone who chooses to join them sing, read the story of the Crucifixion, pray, and sit in silence, reflecting on the sacrifice Jesus made.
Try a missional egg hunt.
Egg hunts annually draw crowds to churches everywhere. What if you turned it around this year? The people at Christ UMC, Mobile, Ala., made it a missional moment last year.
The egg-hunt participants also served in an outreach ministry, assembling hundreds of supply bags to help meet needs of homeless people in their city.
Host micro events at various locations in your community.
Travel may be an obstacle for some people, so go to them. Consider seeking permission at bigger apartment complexes to use their courtyards or picnic areas to host egg hunts. Include inflatables, games, food, door prizes, and music to grab attention. It will be hard for residents to resist the fun. Make sure to invite participants to your church’s Easter service.
Between the games and popcorn stand, families could grab bottled water, travel soaps, and other items and place them in bags as a moment of service amid the festival.
— By Jeremy Steele of United Methodist Communications (UMCom), Nashville, Tenn.
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