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OPINION

FIRST-PERSON: Is your church ready for Easter's extra guests?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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INDIANAPOLIS (BP) -- If a crowd of children was coming to your home for an Easter egg hunt, would you just give each child a carton of raw eggs as they arrived? Of course not. You'd boil and color eggs, decorate, and prepare prizes and snacks.
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For churches, Easter Sunday is like that. Extra preparation is essential for such a special day. It's one of the highest attendances of the year, and many who come may not know Jesus as their personal Savior. Will your church be well prepared? Need ideas? Here are a few items to consider:

-- Offsite parking. If a guest can't find a parking space, he may just drive away. Rent or borrow offsite parking lots, then shuttle leaders and members to the church by van or golf cart.

-- Request extra prayer. Contact your church's homebound members to ask for their intense prayers during Easter Sunday's worship service.

-- Contingency plans. Appoint an umbrella crew, in case of rain. Double the number of decision counselors, parking lot greeters and childcare volunteers. If your normal attendance fills more than three-fourths of available seating, consider adding worship services or overflow video viewing areas.

-- Move over. Before Easter, challenge members to invite friends and neighbors by using Facebook, email, and printed invitations. This isn't a time to reserve seats or be territorial about "my pew," so remind members to fill center seats first and to warmly welcome every guest who comes to God's house.

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-- Photo keepsake. Recruit volunteer photographers, and set up a beautiful photo backdrop in the church foyer. Individuals or families can stop for a quick snapshot as they arrive or depart, and download photos from the church website.

-- Upgrade greeting. Recruit extra greeters and ushers of various ages. Train them with instructions for welcoming newcomers and seating latecomers graciously.

-- Introduce them to God. Joyful, sincere worship is contagious. Boldly share the meaning of Easter's celebration through music, drama and sermon. Guests have come seeking God, so clearly explain how to know Him personally through Jesus.

-- Provide a "next step." Don't view Easter guests as one-timers; give them reasons to return next week. Announce an exciting new sermon series. Provide easy registration for small groups, an upcoming event, church sports team, singles mission trip or new Bible class.

-- Re-invite guests immediately. Pre-plan for excellent follow-up. A well-organized plan might include a "glad-you-came" phone call, an e-mail invitation to next week's Bible study or event, a note from the pastor and Sunday School teacher, a Saturday text invitation, and a personal visit from a church member with a packet of church information.

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A crowd of God-seekers and God-worshipers will soon arrive for Easter Sunday's celebration. Will your church be prepared?

Diana Davis (www.keeponshining.com) is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board's vice president for the Midwest region, Steve Davis. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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