A Pastor’s After-Easter Action Plan

The songs have been sung, the message has been preached, the celebration is over… and the pastor is tired.  I know.  You definitely need to take some time off this week.  But here’s a short list of actions you should take to make sure that your efforts leading up to Easter Sunday don’t go to waste.

A Place to Start for Small Church Pastors

1. Follow up on spiritual decisions.

If someone came to know Jesus, that’s of paramount importance.  Check in with them, confirm their decision, share your joy, communicate your availability, answer questions.

2. Take care of the administrative details.

This is the “unsexy” part of your week, I know.

  • Entering guest cards into the database…
  • writing follow-up letters…
  • communicating “thanks” to your team…

Those kinds of things may not feel like exciting things to do on an emotionally exhausted “morning after Easter,” but paying attention to these kinds of details is exactly what will put you in a good place for the future.  If you have recruited administrative help, this is a good time to make a list of tasks they need to take on.

3. Keep the conversation going with guests.

Use information you’ve captured with your guest card to communicate a couple times with guests from Sunday.

  • Send them a personal thank you note (we do ours hand-written, with a little gift card to a local restaurant inside).
  • If someone asked for info on a particular next step on your guest card, then that could be a next step they’re motivated to take.  Follow up on that.
  • Find a way to “wow” guests with your love.  After all, “By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  John 13:35

Due to a couple rounds of sickness in my family, I have delayed launching my Guest Follow-Up Coaching program & releasing the ebook I’ve written.  Join my email list to know as soon as it launches!

4. Clearly communicate a general next step.

In today’s world, it’s doubtful that people are suddenly 100% committed to coming every Sunday from “now ‘til Jesus comes.”

Lifetime commitment to your church is probably a tough sell after one Sunday.  It’s like a store owner asking you to only shop at that store after your first visit.  Probably not gonna happen.  It’s better to communicate a specific next step people can take if they were attracted by what you offered on Easter.

It’s probably best not to have 6 next steps.  Simplicity and clarity mean you need to decide about 1 next step you want new guests to take.  Is it:

  • Come to a membership class?
  • Show up at a relationship-building event?
  • Come to your church dinner next week?
  • Volunteer at your outreach event to kids?
  • Attend the start of your new series next Sunday?

5. Do a review with your team.

I wrote about this in my post “The Easiest Way to Continually Improve Your Outreach.” Check that post out.  The best way to make sure all the lessons of this Easter get learned and captured is a quick review of:

  • What went right
  • What went wrong
  • What we can improve next time
  • Who’s responsible for it

6. Thank God & your team.

You didn’t do this Easter alone.  Even if it was a bit less than you hoped for, people labored to make it happen, and it wasn’t a waste in the eyes of Heaven.  So spend some time thanking God in faith for what he’s doing, and how he’s going to continue that work.

Then make a few phone calls or write a few thank you notes to people who made the weekend happen.

Here’s to small church pastors, who labor faithfully… thanks for what you do for God’s Kingdom!

I’m going to make a checklist for this post, and give it away.  What other steps should I include after Easter?  Tell me in the comments below.

How to Not Waste Your Easter Crowd

Every pastor knows that Easter and Christmas are two Sundays that are most likely to attract the unchurched and the de-churched to attend. You probably have given thought to your Easter services already, since we’re just a few weeks away.

Between now and Easter you’ll probably

  • brainstorm ideas
  • decorate the Sanctuary
  • rehearse special music or programs
  • recruit prayer warriors
  • pray God does something great

But have you built systems to capture what God does?  Or will your guests who walk through your door that Sunday… walk back out until next Easter?  What can you do to keep from wasting the big day?  Here are four ideas you need to think about in advance:

1. Capture their information.

As I’ve written before, one of the biggest regrets I have about some of my early outreach efforts, was that I didn’t know the power of harvesting information.  Without the ability to continue the conversation, those one-time guests… slip through your fingers.  One of the best ways to show concern and care is to get someone’s info and keep the conversation going.  When you get someone’s info, you’re practicing what Seth Godin calls Permission Marketing.  It’s the permission to continue the conversation, to build trust.  Whether it’s a pastoral visit, a text, a phone call, or a personal note, you’re working on the relationship.

And if you’re going to keep working on it, the core of a guest follow-up strategy is your connection card.

Connection Card front 2013 FINAL

If you need one designed for you, why don’t you let me do it?


One week from today, I am launching “7 Steps to a Killer Guest Follow-Up System” coaching!

It’s a 60-day coaching program that teaches you how to keep more of your guests and follow up with them effectively.  That coaching program includes:

  • an e-book that will walk you through the steps for setting up a guest follow-up
  • 10-minute weekly coaching videos on each step
  • 1 hour weekly assignments until you’re up and rolling
  • helpful checklists & volunteer job descriptions
  • Tons of done-for-you resources you can edit
  • Your very own guest follow-up card
  • and lots more!

CLICK HERE to be notified as SOON as it’s available!

2. Give them something to come back for.

I know that God has to draw them to Jesus… but He may want to use your plan to do it!  So plan to give them every reason to come back!

  • Start a new series on Easter, or the Sunday after.  Announce it on Easter.
  • Have promotional materials available for that next series.
  • Schedule a church dinner the following week.
  • Do a 30-day Church Attendance Challenge.

This is going to take pre-planning.  Look over the graphic designs (paid and free) on CreationSwap.com.  Get someone to design a postcard or series graphic for you on Fiverr.  Get it printed up in advance with GotPrint.com or VistaPrint.com.

3. Follow up on them intentionally.

What kind of contact do you have with your 1st time guests through the week after they visit?  For many churches, the basic plan is, “Give them a generic pencil, and tell them we hope they come back soon.”

You’re going to need a more intentional, on-purpose plan.  How about one that:

  • Captures their information consistently.
  • Follows up with multiple touches – email, letter, gift, phone call, text
  • Tracks what you’ve done and keeps people from getting “lost”
  • Helps you follow up for 4 straight weeks, whether they return or not!

That’s what my “7 Steps to a Killer Guest Follow-Up System” Coaching teaches you to do… and tons of the work is already done for you!

4. Have something ready for those who decide to follow Jesus.

This is something I used to do better.  Lately, I’ve dropped the ball, and it’s time for me to pick it back and up and run.  So I’m in the process of re-working our New Believer Packet.  When I’m done, it will include:

  • A Bible in a readable translation (not everyone has one!)
  • a letter from the pastor
  • an encouraging message on DVD
  • a helpful booklet on getting started as a Christian

It doesn’t have to be perfect.  But you should have a plan!

If you believe that God is going to answer your prayers and send the rain, shouldn’t you bring an umbrella?

There you have it!  In the comments below, let me know which of these you need to “level up.”

The Easiest Way to Continuously Improve Your Outreach

I once heard John C. Maxwell tell a story of a man who was angry at being passed over for a promotion.  “They can’t do that — I have 20 years experience!” he grouched.  “No you don’t!” Maxwell retorted. “You have one year of experience 20 times!”

Team brainstorming over their mission with coffee

If you have been in church work for long, you know: Repetition doesn’t mean improvement.  You can do something 20 times and not really be any better at it on the 20th than you were last time.  Is there a way to change that?  Is there a way to make sure you always improve, and next year really is BETTER than last?

Yes!  Follow these steps and your Christmas and Easter outreaches will improve year-over-year!

There’s only one thing you need to do, and do it early, while it’s still fresh:  Get people together… make lists.  Done right, this is REALLY FUN.  I have a blast with it every year.

I’ve heard it called in the business world AAR’s (After Action Reports).  I’ve heard it called “doing a post-mortem.”  (Hope your Christmas service wasn’t that bad!)  Whatever you call it, here’s HOW you do it:

Who Is This Baby?

Why Christmas Changes Everything...

In a few days, you’ll gather with family, enjoy old traditions, play special music, and celebrate the birth of a peasant baby born 2,000 years ago in an obscure village in a backwater province in a foriegn country.

Why? What is so special about this day?

It all hinges on who you think Jesus was. This year, as you peek into the manger, consider this question: Who is this Jesus?

S.M. Lockridge says it this way:
The Bible says my King is the King of the Jews
He’s the king of Israel
He’s the king of righteousness
He’s the King of Heaven
He’s the King of Glory
He’s the King of Kings
And he’s the Lord of Lords.

Jesus is the loftiest idea in literature,
The highest personality in philosophy.
The fundamental doctrine of true theology.
He’s the only one qualified to be an all-sufficient Savior.

Paul said it like this:
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (NIV)

John Piper puts it this way:
“If you took all the greatest thinkers of every country and every century and put them in a room with Jesus, they would shut their mouths and listen to the greatness of His wisdom.
All the generals would listen to His strategy.
All the greatest musicians would listen to his music theory and His performance on every instrument.
There is nothing that Jesus cannot do a thousand times better than the person you admire most in any area of human endeavor under the sun.”

Here’s how I would say it:

If you put together the entire knowledge of the internet, you have not begun to scratch the surface of his knowledge.

He knows right now, whether you stand or sit, whether you itch or hunger or thirst, and what you thought of 30 seconds ago… and what you will think of 30 minutes from now.

If you could harness the spy satellites from every country and place, he would see more, see further and sooner.

If you could tap every phone and hear every conversation, and see every email, you would still not know as much about what is going on in this world as He does.

The greatest of marksmen cannot be so accurate as He.
If you put him against the military, you cannot imagine the carnage he would inflict on them, and never get a scratch.
Against the best of the weapons, he cannot lose.
If you were to put him against the special ops forces of every country, they would find that there was more power in his word than in all their training.
If you put him in a room with Navy’s new laser gun, he would dwarf its power.
If you pitted him against all the atomic arsenals of the world, what is that against the One who created the atom & knows all of its secrets?

Yet he doesn’t need to use this power… for though mans power can end a life, it has never created life in the priciest of laboratories. But He has; in fact, He is life itself. Man’s power can change a mind, but it has never changed a heart — but he can, and he has… and he does.

If you were in his care, you would be safer with him than with the best security team ever assembled. No lock is safer, no security system more unbeatable, no self-defense course or method as unstoppable.

If you collected diamonds and gold from every country and piled them in a warehouse, he would be richer. In fact, he would own them all, no matter whose name was on the title.

He is everything any boy ever loved in any superhero. He is everything any little girl ever longed for in a handsome prince. He can seem to be late, then swoop in, defeat the enemy and leave their schemes in ruins, save the princess, and ride away into the sunset without breaking a sweat.

He is everything good you have ever seen in a person, everything admirable and strong. He is all the things you ever loved in a man or a woman, all the good and kind and beautiful, with none of the scars of sin.

He is all the wise and powerful, with none of the corruption and lies.
He cannot be voted out, term limited, or deposed.
No coup will ever threaten his righteous reign.
No traitor will ever escape his wrath, and no whistleblower can ever call him to fault.
The Scriptures say it this way, “Of His government and kingdom there shall be no end…”

To know him is to be as wise as Solomon, as rich as Bill Gates, as powerful as all the presidents and prime ministers and dictators combined.

Light is not the fastest human thing… thought is. Thought can travel anywhere in the blink of an eye. But if you let your thoughts race from here to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, you would find that he was already there. Then if your thoughts raced back to the people you love and care for, you would find he was already beside them, before you decided to think of them.

He is faster than the fastest, higher than the highest, greater than the great…

But this Jesus who is unlike anything that has ever existed, is completely and utterly other, and holy, and separate, and above all things…

Became a baby.

A baby!

And they laid him in a feed box for cattle!

And smelly shepherds were his welcoming party.

He was…
“The eternal one, living in a moment of time.
The Omnipresence corralled in a feed box.
The Omnipotent in a helpless infant who could not raise His head.
The Omniscience confined in a baby who would not say a word.
The Christ who created galaxies, in a cave.
For when God would draw near to a cold, cruel, sinful, suffering humanity, he placed a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.”
[adapted from The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, 1986. p. 221]

Let it drive you wild…
let it drive you tears…
let it drive you to awe, wonder, and to worship.

Merry Christmas.

How to Be Less Overwhelmed in 20 Minutes

The Christmas season is wonderful — and incredibly busy.  The programs, the gifts, the family time, the sermons, the special events, the dinners, the last-minute details… it can all add up to a huge stress load.  What if you could take 15 minutes and lower your stress level — feel less overwhelmed, more in control, and ready to get something done?  Would that be attractive?

how to be less overwhelmed in 15 minutes

I’m not talking about a massage, a medication, or the proverbial ‘stiff drink.’  Those are attempts to escape stress.  I’m talking about looking that giant hairy stress monster in the face & cutting it down to size.

Is that really possible?  Don’t doubt me until you’ve tried these 5 simple steps:

Do You Have These 4 Things Ready for Christmas Outreach?

How to get the info you need to continue the conversation...

Some time ago, I told the story of how I completely blew our first Trunk-or-Treat outreach event.  It was a smashing success… except I didn’t collect anyone’s information!

Here’s how to make sure you cover your bases & so people don’t slip through the cracks in your upcoming Christmas service:

Can Thanksgiving Make You Happier & Healthier?

4 Surprising Benefits of Giving Thanks...

Tomorrow across America, families will gather, turkey will be eaten, football will be watched, holiday shopping will start… and in places, gratitude will be expressed.  Zig Ziglar famously said, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions.”  Sounds nice… but is it really true?

Researchers are discovering that Zig really wasn’t that far off!  Here are 4 benefits of being thankful that surprised me:

A Pastor’s Thanksgiving List

10 Things I'm Thankful for this week

It’s that time of year, where our hearts turn toward things we are thankful for.  Thanksgving is far too important a habit to only do once per year.  Zig Ziglar was right: “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”

Sounds like something we ought to cultivate year-round!  So here’s my list of 10 things I’m thankful for as a pastor:

1. Thank you, Lord, for saving me, and for your sanctifying work in my heart.

The day I feel like I’ve arrived is the day I stop leading people deeper into Christ.  Don’t ever let me get over the shock of the Gospel, or the hunger for more holiness.

2. Thank you, Lord, for calling me into the work of a pastor.

It’s a privilege to help the Great Shepherd care for His sheep.  Thanks for inviting me to participate in leading your people.  Don’t let me use them, resent them, or mislead them.  Let me be patient with them like you are with me.

3. Thank you, Lord, for my wife.

Darrell and Elizabeth Stetler

My wife Elizabeth and I

She could have done anything.  She could have had a safe house and life in a small town.  She could have lived where the helicopter doesn’t circle.  But she was willing to live in an exemplary way, in the “fishbowl” of a pastor’s home, and serve God’s people in that way.   Thank you for her unselfish commitment to the Kingdom… and me.

4. Thank you, Lord, for my family.


Grace, Darrell III, Heath, Caleb, Gideon and Will

They take the benefits and sacrifices with grace and sweetness.  Please help me be faithful to them, and to pastor the little church in my home first.

5. Thank you, Lord, for my spiritual heritage.

V. O. Agan and Darrell Stetler II

Granddaddy Agan – a great man and preacher

Four Stetler Generations - Kenneth Stetler, Darrell Stetler Sr, Darrell Stetler II, Darrell Stetler III

Four Stetler Generations

I remember today that I stand on the shoulders of those before me.  Thank you for their prayers, their example, their faithfulness.  Thank you for the stores of wisdom and prayer that are there for me to draw on.

6. Thank you, Lord, for my successes… & failures.

My successes keep me trusting that I’m making a difference.  Thank you for giving me enough hits to have the courage to keep swinging the bat.

My failures keep me humble, and learning.  Thanks for helping me not be destroyed by them.  Thank you that I’m not always right.  When I fall, help me learn to pick up something while I’m down there.

7. Thank you, Lord, for the volunteers who serve with me.

They lift the load in so many ways.  Bless them today, and make their reward great.  Let them feel my gratitude and Your smile.

8. Thank you, Lord for the people who willingly follow.

It’s such a blessing to have some who gladly do right.  Sorry I sometimes forget them in the rush to go after those who stray.  Thank you that everyone is not wandering or resisting… that some let me do my worth with joy & not heaviness of heart.

9. Thank you, Lord, that my self-worth is not wrapped up in what people think of me.

I rest in what you see.  I rest in your definition of success.  They don’t have to like me… or my preaching… or vote for me… or give in the offering… or support my latest idea… for my ministry to be acceptable in your sight.

10. Thank you, Lord for strengthening my resolve.

When I think that I can’t go on, you step in and strengthen me.  I’m grateful.


What things are you most thankful for?  Share in the comments or on my Facebook page.

How to Build a Killer Guest Follow-Up System – before Christmas!

And without significantly increasing your workload!

Below, you can watch my free webinar! 

Here’s what you’ll discover:

  • 7 specific action steps you can take to create a great guest follow up system
  • how my failure in a key outreach event changed our guest followup forever
  • ideas for giving gifts to guests
  • how to effectively collect info from first time guests
  • how to consistently stay in touch with people for the first few weeks they attend
  • tips for convincing your congregation to start a guest followup system
  • how to help people see your church as friendly
  • how to do all this without significantly increasing your work load!

A special bonus, just for Showing Up, is this 31 question resource, “31 Questions About Getting Ready for Company” that will help you evaluate if your church is ready to welcome new people.

How I Completely Blew a Big Outreach Event

And the 3 simple decisions you need to avoid it!

Four years ago, my children’s leader came to me with an idea for an outreach event: A trunk-or-treat with a Gospel emphasis.  (Honestly, I had never been a fan of Trunk-or-Treat!) She called it “Candy Thru the Bible.”  Each trunk/station was a Bible story with a candy that went along with the story.  She shared her plans, and I was impressed.  We decided to go for it.

Trunk or Treat Candy Thru the Bible

We got started planning.  We didn’t really think it seemed like very many kids walked our street trick-or-treating, so we planned for 120 kids.  Our volunteers were amazing & creative with their trunks… people donated candy… we bought candy…