Mar 27, 2024

A Note for Pastors Approaching Easter Weekend

Before I began my tenure at Barna Group, I was a pastor. For the first 20 years of my adult life, I served in some great local churches in a variety of ministry roles. I now have the joy of serving pastors across the U.S. and around the world through the work we’re doing here at Barna. And while I’m not leading a church through the Easter season this year, I remember vividly the busyness, fatigue and expectations that can cling to a pastor as Easter approaches.

If you’re a pastor reading this now, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts on how those of us in ministry can reshape the way we approach the coming days. Traditions and church calendars vary, but many Protestant churches concentrate their activity on this holy weekend, beginning with Good Friday and wrapping up on Sunday after Easter services and gatherings have ended. This journey is what we’ve come to expect, it’s what we’ve built rhythms around—but I’d like to propose a shift to a four-day weekend that spurs us to continue pursuing resurrection work even once Easter has passed. 

Share in Christ’s Suffering on Friday
“And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.” Romans 8:17-18 (NLT)

Pastors have long been struggling with burnout, with recent years showing a decrease in their overall well-being. While our most recent research on how pastors are faring offers some glimmers of hope, there are still many who are weary and wounded, who are in need of respite and renewal.

As you enter Good Friday, I want to encourage you to take heart, pastors. Following Jesus and answering the call to serve his Church may be difficult at times, but cling to the truth that, as we share in his sufferings, we also share in the glory that comes from being his children.

Whether you are preaching a Good Friday sermon about the suffering of Jesus or observing this holy day in a different way, I implore you to set aside some time right now to reflect on how that suffering can solidify and shape your pastoral calling.

Rest in the Silence on Saturday
We know very little about Holy Saturday other than the fact that Jesus’ body was laid in a tomb. The occupied tomb represented silence, darkness, grief and pain for his disciples. Yet it also represented the fulfillment of a series of prophetic promises that pointed to the coming hope and resurrection.

For those who followed Jesus at that time, Saturday night was undoubtedly a dark night of the soul. Perhaps you, pastor, are also experiencing your own dark night of the soul. If you are, I want to offer a hope-filled reminder. Know that the Lord is present in your current season—be assured that he has a plan and purpose for you in your days of darkness, grief and pain.

Claim & Proclaim a Renewed Hope on Sunday
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:57–58 (NLT)

My good friend and Barna senior fellow Glenn Packiam shares this about resurrection in The State of Pastors, Volume 2: “Resurrection changes our expectations. We serve the God who raises the dead. Our only hope—both in our personal lives and in our churches—is the power and presence of God.”

Pastors, we must claim this hope for ourselves before we can authentically proclaim it to others this Easter. Take some time ahead of your Easter services to ground yourself in the hope that is found in Christ and Christ’s resurrection. Carry that hope with you throughout the day, and share it with those around you whenever you are able.

Shepherd Your Flock into the Beautiful Unknown on Monday
You and I both know that the amount of energy and anticipation that goes into Easter Sunday tends to eclipse whatever you have planned for Monday (which, for you and your team, may be a day you have off to recuperate). But this can cause us to completely overlook the importance of the day following Easter. Here are some significant moments I’d encourage us to remember that took place in the Bible after the resurrection occurred:

  • The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18–20)
  • Peter’s Reinstatement (John 21:15–19)
  • The Ascension (Luke 24: 50–51)
  • Pentecost and the Birth of the Church (Acts 2:1–13)

What happened (and continues to happen) after Christ’s resurrection is almost as important as the resurrection itself! As the excitement and busyness around Easter wanes, let us not forget to lead ourselves and our people into the beautiful and exciting unknown of the day after.

Our data shows that over two in five U.S. adults (44%) are more open to God today than they were before the pandemic. Spiritual openness is on the rise in the U.S.—people are hungry to connect with God and likely just need to be shown how they can have a personal relationship with Christ.

I encourage you to take what has been shared here and allow that information to shape your perspective of this weekend and the days following. As you engage with churchgoers on Easter Sunday—whether in the pulpit or the parking lot—what vision or message do you need to share with people that spurs them to live a hope-filled, resurrection-oriented life on Monday morning and beyond?

About the Author

Joe Jensen

As Barna’s Senior Vice President of Content & Engagement, Joe Jensen is passionate about turning research into action. He is using his 20+ years of church ministry and executive leadership experience to engage and serve the global church and her partners with the insight and knowledge of the Barna Group. Joe, his wife Nicole, and their four daughters live in Kansas City, MO.

About the Research

The spiritual openness statistic that was mentioned comes from a Barna study that was conducted online between October 21 and 31, 2022. Barna Group interviewed 2,000 U.S. adults in this study. This group was quota sampled by age, gender, race / ethnicity, region, education and income to maximize representation. Minimal statistical weighting has been applied and the margin of error is +/- 2.1%.

Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash.

© Barna Group, 2024

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