Preparing for Easter – Part 1 by Cody Jones

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At the very first SCN XChange I ever attended, Pastor Jim Graff taught a message called “Planning That Produces Life and Peace.” I’m not sure how much life and peace I had at that time because I was so bad at planning. It changed a lot for me just to hear that phrase and to understand that planning could create a sense of peace inside me. It was from this point forward that I began to recognize my need to plan and to develop a plan for preparing for big services like Easter.

As obvious as this is going to sound, I think all good plans start with prayer. Our pastor at Tree of Life (New Braunfels, TX) says all the time that nothing happens without prayer. He says, “Our level of preparation is an expression of our faith,” and for that reason I think preparation can be prophetic. What I mean by that is you see Moses go up the mountain (Exodus 33), and when he comes down from his time with the Lord, he has a plan to build thetabernacle(Exodus 34). At Easter, we’re trying to build God’s kingdom and the local church simultaneously. I believe this starts in the place of prayer. Before we plan, we pray and we get God’s heart on it.

How many lost people are you believing for God to bring to your church this Easter? Are you locked in with your senior pastor or your pastoral staff on the direction of your service? Are you believing for something specific, and are you praying as a team in that direction? Prayer will keep your joy up, your “why” in front of you, and help you remember Who you’re really doing it all for.

To best prepare for Easter, pray and then make sure you set deadlines. For me, I’m very intentional about meeting with my senior pastor. I sit down with him, and we just talk. He tells me what he’s looking forward to and shares his specific vision. We’re a diverse church, so we have to think in terms of incorporation. We’re in an area that’s huge for country music, so we bring some country-sounding music into the service. We have a significant portion of our church that is from minority communities, so we also mix in a lot of gospel music and Spanish. We’re a family church, so we make sure that we have our student ministries participate with our worship team in some way. We just sit and dream about what Easter needs to look like to fit the demographic of our church. We hold a Good Friday service, a special-needs egg hunt the next day, and then our Easter Sunday service. It’s always a good time, and we get excited about it.  

I think creative people are legendary for having a wonderful vision and not many legs to plant. I love this quote by Pastor Gerald Brooks, “Discipline is the gift you give yourself, and deadlines are the gift others give you when you lack discipline.” I like to discipline myself by making an audit of everything that I need to figure out before the event happens. I’ve learned through trial and error and making mistakes and asking my team for forgiveness and help to go to them ahead of time and ask, “Hey, when do you need these things to be done so that you can make your portion of the day excellent?”

You’re not an island, so don’t make your Easter deadlines alone. Ask your team. Ask what they need and when they need it by so that every piece of your plan will actually work. Make the audit together. Figure out everything that has to happen for the service to be successful. We use Planner from Microsoft, but we keep it in an online checklist so everybody can see what’s needed and when. It makes communication simple.

I heard a tech person say one time, “An imperfect product that actually ships is better than a perfect product that never ships.” Sometimes we get into this rut where everything has to be so perfect, but really it just needs to be accomplished by Easter Sunday. You have to pick your battles and decide whether to create something perfect or something attainable.

On a side note, I think there’s a common misconception that if you give an artist a paintbrush, something amazing will happen. It’s quite possible that if you give an artist a paintbrush, nothing good will happen or something that you totally hoped wouldn’t happen will happen! I think about when my wife and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I stood there looking at the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware. I always thought it would be small, but it was actually like 28 feet wide by 12 feet tall! Then then I saw Van Gogh’s self-portrait, and his is about a two-foot square. What really struck me is there’s no way that you could have painted Washington crossing the Delaware on that small of a canvas, and if Van Gogh tried to paint his self-portrait on a 12 by 28-foot canvas, it would have been absurd. This made me realize that as artists and creatives we know what our boundaries are, and if we know the borders of the canvas, we’re going to create something that’s really beautiful within them, and it will be just what our senior pastor is looking for.

Keep this in mind as well: Anything and everything that happens around the church on Easter morning has already been considered by your senior pastor. Don’t expect your pastor to come ask you for a meeting. Be proactive and go to him to find out what he’s looking for. Ask questions – where to set the boundaries, what he sees the kids’ ministry doing, what he wants the youth ministry doing, what the lobby experience should be.

Now, I’ve been serving as the Worship and Creative Arts Pastor at our church for 13 years on March 1st, so I’ve been on staff long enough to know how we usually do it. Still, every year I go to our senior pastor and ask questions like, “How do you want people to feel when they leave? What do you want them to walk away with? What style do you want? What’s the timeline of the service?” What he wanted five years ago may not be what he wants today.

If you’ve been at your church a long time, you’ve got to be proactive in asking what the new thing is that you need to do. If you’re new to the role, the position, you have to walk humbly and ask, “What are the people used to, and how can I honor that?” There’s this kind of dance where we honor what we’ve done in the past but we’re learning a new thing at the same time.

In my next blog, I’ll talk with you about the importance of delegating. Yes, I know, that’s probably the hardest thing for any leader to do — but it’s the key to accomplishing more, creating something better, and empowering others to invest and take ownership in the goal. Stay tuned!