A couple of days ago, a friend shared with me a Facebook post on Latin. It was a multiple-choice test, to determine if I was a Latin master. To my surprise, I scored 9 out of 10! The test was fun for bragging rights and allowed me to show off my limited knowledge of Latin words; most of which I came across during my doctoral studies and the others from “Googling" the names of medication so that I can order the cheaper generic brand.
Most of us either use or hear Latin words; we’re just unaware of it. For instance, we use words like ad hoc, agenda, alibi, bonus, bona fide, conglomerate, etcetera, impromptu, status quo, versus, vice versa, and veto all the time. Since we’ve used these words for so long, we accept and assume that everyone else knows.
Easter Sunday is right around the corner. Many churches assume that people will be attending their church. Most of these churches are in the middle of boosting Facebook advertising for Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. These ads highlight the longstanding traditions of special ceremonies such as communion, foot washing, seven last words, and so on. As a Facebook troll, I've lost count of how many church ads for Easter I've seen. Some are colorful graphics, while others have pictures of people who will be speaking in some fashion.
Church services also have some unusual names such as Maundy Thursday and Tenebrae or Good Friday Service. Both of these services share Latin words. Tenebrae means “darkness” and Maundy, no, not Monday, means “command,” taken from Jesus instruction to his disciples: A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Latin was not an elective in high school. Mrs. Caldwell, my senior English teacher, once told me the reason Latin is a dead language. I responded, "Well if it's so dead, then why does it keep popping up in everyday use?" It was a snarky 17-year old teenaged answer then, but thirty-two years later, I'm still asking the question of why it keeps popping, but now I ask it through the lens of the church and not Latin.
Technically Latin didn't die. When the Roman Empire collapsed, Latin transformed into a simplified version called Vulgar Latin and then gradually into Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. Latin is still around, in a newfound life in a simplified form. Latin's new simplified structure makes it accessible to more people.
In many ways, providing access for more people is also what’s behind the hundreds of Easter ads on Facebook. Open access means the proverbial "CME" members, (people who only attend church annually on Christmas, Mother's Day, and Easter), as new people who will attend church for the first time.
For many of these new guests who churches are expecting to show up on Easter Sunday, the worship experience will not be their first impressions. Instead, the first impressions will occur from a Facebook post and confirmed as the newcomer drives on the church property. People will observe the parking lot, assess the physical plant, directional signage, and so on.
In the same way that I took the multiple choice Facebook quiz on Latin, we need a checklist to ensure that we make the most of the Easter Sunday experience for people who don't know the traditions. People may not know how to say Tenebrae and are puzzled why it's called Good Friday, but we can ensure that people connect at a deeper level and to the deeper meaning of Easter.
For instance, on Easter Sunday, when a guest gets out of his or her car, please be sure that there’s someone to greet them either outside of the church or inside the church narthex or lobby. Guests need to be welcomed at least twice before they’re handed off to the ushers, who are responsible for seating people and attending to their needs during worship. After the benediction, I’ve found it to be a good practice to have greeters wish everyone farewell. But the guest experience doesn't end with the goodbye, as soon as a guest leaves, there should be some follow up to a guest's visit within 24-36 hours.
A follow-up is essential. And one of the critical metrics that a church needs to track is the retention rate from the first time to a second-time guest. As a general rule of thumb, an average church can expect 8% retention of its first-time guests. For this retention to occur, the church must invite the same amount of new people as first-time guests as the church has for its average worship attendance (AWA) for the year.
As I discovered about Latin, the Easter message can is in my response: "If it's dead, then why does it keep popping up?” Yes, Easter keeps popping up, even when we think that death, loss, and defeat surrounds us. Like Latin, Easter can be simplified to ensure more access to new people. Click here for a quick guest connection pathway to prepare to engage your new people on Easter. Will your church be ready to help people find new life during your Easter Service on Sunday?
On the Journey,