Join us for Easter, then join us forever, area churches say - Omaha.com
Published Wednesday, March 27, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 7:16 am
CALLING PEOPLE TO CHRIST
Join us for Easter, then join us forever, area churches say

The invitations pop up on yard signs, in mail boxes and now even in tweets and on YouTube: Join us for Easter services.

Churches work year-round at attracting new members, but they ramp up the effort at Easter. Churches know that Easter — with its message of forgiveness and new life — is a time when even folks who haven't attended in years might consider stepping in the door.

“We recognize that Easter is when more people are willing to come to church and plug in,'' said Silas West, associate pastor at Omaha's Waypoint Church. “It's when people think about spirituality and faith.”

Clergy do more than attract people for Easter, often one of the biggest days for church attendance. Church leaders also plan steps to encourage them to return and become active members, whether it's by participating in a faith-sharing group or doing volunteer work.

Eileen Burke-Sullivan, associate professor of theology at Creighton University, said churches realize that pulling in new members is about more than filling pews and collection baskets.

“The function of the Christian church is calling people to Christ,'' she said. “It's what we exist for.”

Fulfilling that call can be more challenging than ever these days, and a survey by the Pew Research Center provides some evidence, she said. The survey released last year showed that the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace, and now makes up one-fifth of the U.S. public.

West said his church is responding to the challenge, which is one reason it launched a first-ever direct mail effort for Easter. Waypoint, which was established five years ago and holds services at Norris Middle School, sent postcards to 20,000 households inviting people to Easter services.

King of Kings Lutheran Church in Omaha has spread the word about Easter services through such steps as yard signs and car magnets, along with Facebook and other social media, said Danelle Schlegelmilch, a church spokeswoman.

The church created a graphic with details about the service and encouraged members to post it on their own Facebook pages.

“It's like their own little personal billboard,'' she said.

This is the sixth year that King of Kings will hold its Easter services at the CenturyLink Center. It's expecting between 5,000 and 7,000 people. It's the 21st year the church has hosted Easter services at a place that can handle big crowds.

King of Kings figures that a neutral location like the arena is less intimidating than a church for people who haven't attended in a while, Schlegelmilch said.

Other Omaha-area churches using social media to invite people on Easter include The Waters Edge United Methodist Church, St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Christ Community Church, Lifegate Church and St. John Lutheran Church in Council Bluffs.

While social media is an important tool, face-to-face invitations can be the most powerful, church leaders say.

Members at Lifegate receive cards with the date and time of the services, and are encouraged to invite friends, said Mike Ballard, associate pastor. Church members will give friends a ride to church or meet them at the front door.

“The key is, let's do it together,'' Ballard said.

Connecting with visitors once they walk in is essential.

During services at the CenturyLink, more than 100 King of Kings volunteers will serve as section hosts, welcoming people, answering questions and telling them about church activities.

The Rev. Craig Finnestad, pastor of The Waters Edge, said people who become involved in church activities are more likely to become permanent members.

Lindsay Ludden, her husband and their 5-year-old son joined The Waters Edge two years ago. Their son participates in Sunday school and the Luddens joined a small group in which members talk about the role faith plays in their lives.

Ludden said those activities helped her family develop friendships and feel they belong.

“We love the fellowship,” she said.

Activities at area churches include Bible study, yoga classes and volunteer work.

Church leaders say potential members are increasingly interested in volunteer work such as helping at homeless shelters, building homes for Habitat for Humanity and traveling to places like Uganda for mission trips.

“There are a lot of people who say faith is one thing, but you have to live differently,” said Mary Eileen Andreasen, director of adult faith formation at St. Wenceslaus. “It has to change your life in some way. A lot of people are seeking that.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1122, michael.oconnor@owh.com

Contact the writer: Michael O'Connor

michael.oconnor@owh.com    |   402-444-1122    |  

Michael is a general assignment reporter for the Living section, covering a mix of topics including human interest stories.

Read more related stories
One father's tale of overcoming infertility
Annie, My 12-year-old grandson insists on sleeping with Grammie
Archives: So many wonderful old Omaha photos
Omaha woman, 30, battling breast cancer for third time
For World Book Night, some Omahans prepare to hand out free reads
Earth Day: A change in habits can help the planet
‘Wonder Bread Years’: Tickets on sale now for salute to baby boomer generation
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium going greener
Annie Mailbox: My daughter will quit smoking if I lose weight
Win a Mommy Makeover!
Why two hotshots ditched six-figure salaries for a life of less
Jeff Corwin hopes to build connection with nature at Nebraska Science Festival
Annie, when that girl's hitting the bottle, look out
Blair High senior shows his love of pi by memorizing 1,381 digits
Jon Stewart might be real king of late night
'Tis soon Talk Like Shakespeare Day; hence be mirthful!
Can't find your pet? Social media is there to help
Easter Sunday temperatures climb into 80s in Omaha area
From fashion to baskets, a guide to the latest Easter trends
Families from area shelters treated to meal at Old Chicago
Mizzou alumni aim to attract veterinary students to Henry Doorly Zoo
This Friday, celebrate Arbor Day where it all began
Annie, my boyfriend of 3 years won't invite me to his mobile home
Kooser: 'American Life in Poetry' (April 20)
Swoosie’s voice a joy in memoir of stage, family
< >
COLUMNISTS »
Deadline Deal thumbnail
Tokyo Sushi
$5 for $10 or $10 for $20 toward All-You-Can-Eat Sushi Purchase
Buy Now
FROM THE BLOGS »
Jump to a blog:
< >
SPOTLIGHT »
We Love Weddings blog
W.E. Love Weddings is about everything Omaha and everything weddings by the editors of Wedding Essentials Magazine.
Weddings and engagements
Share your exciting news with your community by placing an announcement today.
Inspired Home Omaha magazine
Sign up today to get the latest edition of Omaha's best magazine for local living, home entertainment, fashion and travel!
WORLD-HERALD ALERTS »
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for Omaha.com's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »