Easter is one of the most joyous, celebratory, hope-filled Sundays of the church year. It’s the day we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant resurrection, the fulfillment of the prophecies, and the hope of everlasting life to come.
All of these things make Easter Sunday the perfect time to pull out all the stops (so to speak). From handbell choirs to soprano descants, brass ensembles to fanfares, there are lots of things you can plan to match the joyful spirit of the day and speak to the hope we celebrate.
But, there’s something more to the Easter story. That first Easter morning was a surprise.
Yes, Jesus had been talking about his death and resurrection (in metaphor) leading up to that day, but no one really understood what he meant. No one could comprehend what would happen. Especially after he was dead and buried in the tomb.
After three days, the last thing Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John were expecting that morning was to find Jesus risen, standing before them, in the flesh. Can you imagine it? The shock, the fear, the disbelief, followed by uncontainable joy and relief. How can we capture this spirit, this surprise in our Easter services this year?
Here are four creative, out-of-the-box ideas for your Easter Sunday worship services:
01 | Start at the grave.
In many churches, Easter Sunday begins with the joyous declaration that “He is risen!” and the spirited hymn, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” But what if you began your Easter service like that first Easter morning began? The women went to the grave that morning to embalm Jesus’ body. They were still mourning, still expecting him to be lying there in that cave. Imagine their surprise (and perhaps, concern) when they turned the corner and saw the stone rolled away.
Consider beginning the service with a reading of John 20:1-18 - The Empty Tomb. Use the singing bell technique or a very sparse (and light) piano accompaniment to underscore the reading. At the end of the reading, go straight into an introit - either a festive bell processional or a choral call to worship. Choose something in the key of C major if you want to dovetail it with the hymn introduction to “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.”
Looking for ideas? Try our Easter Fanfare and Hymn Descant.
02 | Plan a choral flash mob.
The best way to truly capture the spirit of Easter is by doing something unexpected, something surprising. I know, I know - this is probably a little outside all our comfort zones, especially on a day like Easter Sunday. But what better way to celebrate the joy and surprise of Easter morning than with a choral flash mob?!
To do this, have your choir sit out in the congregation for the first part of the service. When it’s time for them to sing, begin playing an introduction, and have a few people at a time start singing and make their way to the front.
Another idea is to do a reverse flash mob (this idea comes from Dan Stokes of Trinity United Methodist Church in New Cumberland, PA): Dan had his youth choir sing “He Is Alive!” near the beginning of the service and, unbeknownst to them, he invited his adult choir to sing, too. Partway through the anthem, adult choir members stood up from their seats in the congregation and made their way to the front, singing alongside the youth. Can you imagine their surprise?
Looking for anthem ideas? See this post: 12 Anthems for Palm Sunday and Easter
03 | Incorporate a dramatic retelling of the story.
What if you started your Easter service with a short skit? Write a short script for as few as three people (Mary Magdalene, Peter, and “the other disciple") or write something a little longer that includes the other women with Mary and Jesus appearing to Mary (when she thought he was the gardener). Use John 20:1-18 as a basis.
Here are a few example scripts:
04 | Create a garden scene.
Invite your congregation to enter into the scene of that first Easter morning from the moment they walk into the sanctuary. Many churches buy a variety of flowers for Easter Sunday - tulips, hydrangeas, lilies, daffodils, etc. Use these and a few other props (like rocks and small leafy plants) to create a simple, colorful garden scene at the front of your church. Lay out a piece of brown butcher paper in front of the communion table as a dirt floor and make a large boulder out of a big piece of cardboard. (P.S. This makes a perfect backdrop for nos. 1 and 3 above!)
What do you have planned for Easter Sunday?