I ate dinner the other night with a couple who first came to church at Christmas. After hearing their story, the wife looked at me sheepishly and said, “We were Chreasters.”
“For years, we’ve attended church on Christmas and Easter,” she continued. “Then, on Christmas Eve, you said we should start attending every week, so we are.”
I couldn’t help but smile. This is what we pray for twice a year!
The Chreaster Mindset
Chreasters are easy to reach and hard to keep. The easy part is getting them to one of your holiday services. They’re actually out there looking for a place to attend on those days. The difficult part is getting them to return on a regular Sunday. How do you persuade someone to come back to church who has no intention of doing so?
You don’t. But God can. I’ve found that if you line up grace, truth and prayer, God can work miracles at Christmas and Easter.
1. Concentrated Prayer
At New Song, we spend two weeks in 24/7 prayer for our Christmas and Easter guests. We set up stations in our Prayer Room and ask members to fill one hour of prayer five minutes at a time for the names of lost people submitted by other members, for the city, and for the other churches in town. We pray that people will be drawn to the churches of our city on Easter, but our bigger prayer is that they’ll be drawn back in the weeks following.
2. A Confident Invitation to Receive Christ
My message on Christmas Eve and Easter is always pointed toward an invitation to receive Christ. If you’re not going to present the gospel on the two days when your greatest number of lost people are in church, what’s the point in being a church?
This Christmas, I went old school. Instead of asking people to respond to the Lord by raising their hands, I went a step further. While hands were up, I asked each one, “Are you serious about this?” After they each nodded in agreement, I said, “Then I’m going to invite you to come up here so I can pray with you.” What could they do? They had to come forward. Before praying with them, I got their names. After praying with them, I introduced them to someone who would take them through their first steps of faith.
3. An Immediate Follow-Up
The person I introduced them to was holding a packet. It contained a copy of the New Testament, a Spiritual Birth Certificate and the first lesson in a follow-up course called, “Foundations.” Before returning to their seats, follow-up was begun.
4. A Free Book
At the end of the service, I asked everyone to stand for the benediction. Before praying, I said, “I know some of you couldn’t pray that prayer with me a few minutes ago because you still have a lot of questions you need answered. I have a book here called The God Questions, which I’ll gladly give you if you’ll read it. I’ll be up here in front after the service if you’d like a copy.” Then I prayed, grabbed a stack of books, and waited, pen in hand.
I asked each person in my line, “So you have questions about God?”
They always said, “I do.”
After finding out their name, I handed them the book and said, “I hope we’ll see you back here next week.”
5. A Volunteer Phone Call
Those who came forward to receive Christ that night began one-on-one discipleship within a few days. But what about the Chreasters who didn’t register a decision with us? We asked them all to fill out a Commitment Card and place it in the offering. Those who did were called by a volunteer the next day. We have found that Chreaster contacts grow cold quickly, so we make a huge effort to call within 24 hours. The call never lasts more than five minutes. (In fact, surveys show that the longer the call lasts, the less likely your visitor is to return.) Our callers thank the guest for attending and invite them our next “R.U. New Café,” where they can meet the staff and learn more about the church.
6. A Personal E-mail
Also within 24 hours, I send a brief e-mail to each guest, telling them how great it was to have them visit and asking how we can pray for them. I time my e-mail for mid-morning. I don’t want it to get lost in the beginning of the day load of e-mails everyone gets first thing in the morning. I’m hoping they check their e-mail at break time and find my note there.
7. A Personal Note
Within 48 hours, I also send all guests a handwritten note with a coupon in it. The coupon is for a free copy of a movie we made a few years ago. In 2010, New Song partnered with Sony Pictures to produce To Save a Life. The coupon is a pleasant surprise, and since they have to stop by our bookstore to pick up their copy, it’s an additional incentive to return soon.
8. A Reason to Return
Every year, we try to offer a reason for the unchurched to return. One year, it was to hear a comedian the following Friday night. Another year, it was to be part of a family series. The year we released our movie, we held a movie showing. This year, we’re hosting a high profile guest (Bethany Hamilton) two weeks after Easter.
I know from Jesus’ attempts that not even he reached everyone he spoke to. But God is not willing that any should perish, and neither am I. So right now, I’m mobilizing every resource at my disposal to attract and connect Chreasters to my church. And the day after Easter, I’ll write my knuckles white with notes inviting them to return.
What are you doing to lead Chreasters to Christ? I’d love to hear about it.