The Post-Easter Church Lull: 4 ways a pastor can prepare for it

For many churches, Easter is the highest attended service(s) of the year. Leading up that weekend church leaders log extra hours to plan Easter egg hunts, prepare for extra services, create invitation fliers, and spruce up the building. Yet, the inevitable happens, the post-easter lull. The following Sunday attendance and energy usually drops precipitously. At least that’s been my experience after 38 Easters as a pastor. So, what can we do? Here are three suggestions.

  1. Normalize: Expect that you will probably feel somewhat down for a few days. It’s normal after an emotional high. By bringing your expectations more in line with what you experience, you avoid dumping another emotional weight on top (the one that says you should not be feeling down).
  2. Expectations: Set staff and leadership expectations for the week that follows. Remind them to prepare for a potential downer. Although I’ve heard miracle stories about churches that had a giant attendance the Sunday after Easter, I wonder if many of those stories have become simple folklore. If you’ve discovered the secret of how to motivate the once-a-year-attender to disrupt his Sunday routine two weeks in a row to come back to your church, please share your secret with me.
  3. Soul and Body Care: Take an extra day off and do something totally refreshing and fun. Get more sleep. Take a nap each day. Eat right and exercise more.
  4. Faith: Trust God that He will do His work if you do yours. Diligently prepare for Easter, pray for God to work, and pray for those who attend. Then leave the results to Him. He will bring back those who should return and He will help you emotionally recover. Remember, although the world remembers Jesus’ resurrection once a year, our churches should celebrate his resurrection each week and we should celebrate it each moment.

If you’ve experienced the post-Easter lull, what has helped you through it?


Related Posts:

Avoid Ministry Burnout by Asking Yourself 4 Questions

A few years ago I commissioned Barna Research, Lifeway Research, and Christianity Today to survey almost 2,000 pastors to discover what issues can cause a ministry or a leader’s passion for ministry to die. I based one of my books on those findings. Out of those findings, these four key questions emerged that all spiritual leaders should ask themselves at least once a year.

These four questions can help us face up to areas, that if left unattended, have the potential to kill our ministries or at best, drain the passion from our souls. Here they are.

  • Do you have a safe person in your life with whom you can process ministry problems and pain?
  • Have you looked deep enough inside to discover what truly bothers you about your ministry?
  • If those who see how you respond to ministry problems were asked to tell you what they thought, would they say you need to make some major changes?
  • To whom and how should you communicate your frustrations (your board, your staff, the church)?

It would do us well to heed Socrates’ wise advice when he wrote, “Know thyself.”

Related posts:

If You Like Podcasts…

Many of you listen to podcasts. They’re a way to quickly learn some great stuff about the topics you enjoy. As many of you know, Moody Publishing recently released my latest book on mindfulness for Christians, called Holy Noticing: The Bible, Your Brain, and the Mindful Space Between Moments. It’s a guide that intersects Scripture and neuroscience to give a simple tool to practice mindfulness. I’ve had the privilege of being interviewed on a few podcasts and I’ve listed them below with links to the podcasts. Also, at the bottom of this post I’ve provided a link to free graphic I want to share with my readers that shows the history of Christian mindfulness.

Holy Noticing book ad
  1. AndSons is a podcast by two of the sons of John Eldridge who wrote the popular book Wild at Heart. These guys are a great duo. Here’s the link.
  2. JesusSmart is a podcast by Brian Del Turco, a really cool guy. Here’s the link.
  3. Professional Christian Coaching Today’s podcast came out before the book came out. The interview was hosted by Chris McCluskey and Kim Avery, two friends of mine who are world leaders in Christian coaching. Here’s the link.
  4. Salty Believer is hosted by my friend Bryan Catherman, who is a pastor in Utah. Here’s the link.
  5. Although this was not a podcast, it is a written interview with Dr. Ed Stetzer, world renowned Christian writer, researcher, and theologian. Here’s the link.
  6. Here’s a video interview I did with Rabbi Eric Walker of Igniting a Nation, a fascinating and super smart guy. Here’s the link.
  7. Here’s the video trailer for the book. It really turned out well.
  8. And, here is one of the best written reviews I’ve seen. It’s by Sean Nemecek who has a great site for pastors called The Pastor’s Soul.

Here’s the link to the graphical timeline of famous Christians through the ages who practiced mindfulness and similar practices.

Related posts:

6 Ways to Keep Pornography out of Your Life

Pornography is an epidemic today. It’s a temptation we must protect ourselves against. A simple acronym, PURITY, captures 6 ways we can pull out of sexual sin (porn or other sexual sins) and/or stay sexually pure. I’ve summarized it here.

THE PURITY PROCESS TO STAY SEXUALLY PURE

Purpose to change/stay pure before God.

You must start here. If you are sexually out of God’s boundaries, you must admit it (confess and repent) and purpose to change. Don’t deny it is what it is, sin. Don’t minimize its damages nor rationalize its use. Scripture tells us to flee from all sexual sin (1 Cor. 6.18). We are to view our body as God’s temple and live in such a way that reflects that truth. We are to glorify Him with our body.

And if you are within God’s boundaries, purpose to stay pure.

Understand how porn changes your brain.

You can read here my blog on what porn does to your brain. Because the brain is plastic (malleable based on what we put into our minds) porn actually changes its neural structure. Yet, it is also malleable in the other direction. If we make changes in our lives, renew our thinking, and yield to God’s transformative power, we can create new God honoring patterns on how we relate to sexual temptation. The Apostle Paul called it renewing of our minds (Romans 12.2).

Reshape your environment.

Discover what triggers your draw to porn. By doing so you can make changes to avoid those cues and lessen the opportunity for a stimulus. Therapists use the acronym, HALT, to help clients discover when they are most susceptible to temptation. It can help you discover when you are most vulnerable to porn.

We are most tempted when we are…

    • Hungry
    • Angry or anxious
    • Lonely
    • Tired

When we discover our cues, we can then make simple changes to avoid them, such as…

    • Asking your wife to not leave women’s magazines out in the open around the house (the ones with the shapely females on the front).
    • Move your computer monitor to a different place in your home or office. Better yet, put it where others will see you when you are on it.
    • Keep the lights on.
    • Don’t keep your iPad or Kindle next to your bed.
    • Turn off chats in Facebook.
    • Block some email.

 Invite involvement

This means accountability. Find an accountability partner who will lovingly hold you accountable to your thought life and what you view on the web. Put web blocking software on your computer. This is a great web site that offers such software.

Turn when tempted

Turn your eyes when tempted. The first three seconds are key when we see an image on the screen or see an attractive woman walk in front of us. Job provides a good model with his commitment,  I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. (Job 31.1)

The three A’s is a simple tool to help us turn when tempted. (from The Porn Circuit: Understand Your Brain and Break Porn Habits in 90 Days)

    • Alert: Pay attention when you see something inappropriate. It may only take a split-second to recognize a tempting situation.
    • Avert: Close your eyes or look away. These first two steps should be instantaneous.
    • Affirm: Give yourself a mental high-five to congratulate your effort. Say to yourself, “I saw that by mistake, and I quickly looked away. I’ve been clean for (enter number of days) and I’m going to stay that way.”

Yield to Christ through prayer and repentance

 God promises us that He will give us a way out, but we have to walk through it.

 2Pet. 1.3   His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Porn is terribly damaging to our souls and our relationships, but by God’s grace we can be men (and women) who keep our thought lives and behavior pure before Him.

Related posts:

10 Benefits from Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a big deal in today’s culture. Businesses such as Apple, sports figures such as basketball player Kobe Bryant, and the popular press such as Time magazine have all given it their stamp of approval. Governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars researching it[1]and it has become a billion dollar a year business[2]  In fact, Apple chose a mindfulness app as their app of the year for 2017.[3]But, should Christians embrace it? Yes, because mindfulness in the Christian tradition has support in Scripture and church history. It’s a lost spiritual discipline that believers should reclaim. I define mindfulness for the Christian with these two words: Holy Noticing. Holy noticing is noticing with a holy purpose, God and His handiwork, our relationships, and our inner world of thoughts and feelings.

Although mindfulness is no panacea that solves every problem, neuro-scientific research continues to uncover many practical benefits. Here are the top 10 benefits of mindfulness, holy noticing, for the Christian.

1. It helps us avoid spiritual forgetting.

In the book of Psalms, the psalmist records what often happens to us in our walk with God: our mental chatter and the stories we tell ourselves often leads us to forget God, what He has done, and what He is doing, at least temporarily. 

Mindfulness, however, can help us counter our tendency to spiritually forget God. It helps interrupt our thought stream that often gets hooked on unhealthy regrets and ruminations about the past, misrepresentations about the present, and worries about the future. It helps us spiritually remember by calming our brain’s fear centers while simultaneously engaging our thinking centers so that we can think more clearly and biblically. 

2. It enhances our mental health.

Neuroscientists have discovered specific brain processes involved in mindfulness. It helps keep negative emotions from running unchecked[4]and helps us avoid wrong assumptions and incorrect thought patterns.[5]It gives us greater awareness of our internal body sensations[6]which can cue unhealthy, unconscious thinking patterns. And it helps us ‘think about our thinking’ which make us consciously aware of unhealthy and sinful thinking.[7]We might call this mental reflection the Apostle Paul wrote about in Philippeans 4.8.

As a result, this way of life helps us more consistently act upon truth since we have the mind of Christ.(2 Cor 10.5, NIV) We think more biblically as we put into our working memory (also called short term memory) more truth (Phil 4.8). We become more present in the moment for God and others. And we less often ruminate over negative thoughts.

3. It increase our happiness by changing our interior landscape.

We are the product of both nature and nurture. That is, we inherited certain genetic traits from our parents’ genes (nature) and how they raised us also fashions who we are (nurture). Just as we received certain physical traits from our parents, we also inherited some of their mental and emotional natures. And genetics influences our happiness

Psychologist Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research[8]indicates that 50% of individual differences in happiness are determined by genes, 10% by life circumstances, and 40% by our intentional activities. So, 40% gives us significant latitude in how we can shape our happiness with God’s help. Mindfulness can help make a difference with that 40%. 

A mindful lifestyle enhances the brain’s ability to rewire itself through experience, thoughts, and behavior. It’s called neuroplasticity. That is, the brain is more like pliable putty than rigid porcelain. What we think about and do changes our brain. When mindfulness effects neuroplasticity it’s like an electrician running new wiring to bring a house up to code. 

4. It helps us live more as human ‘beings’ rather than human ‘doings.’

God created us with incredible minds that allow us to solve intricate problems. But sometimes our problem-solving mode does not serve us well. When we face emotional pain and stressful thoughts, we try to solve these problems. Why do I feel this way? Where did these thoughts and feelings come from? What can I do to make them go away? 

This problem-solving mode is called the doing mode. The doing modetricks us to believe that productivity, speed, and efficiency are ultimate goals in life. When we stay in our doing mode, itis like being on autopilot all the time. We act with little clear thinking.

Our being modegives us a new perspective that frees us from overthinking, mentally reacting, and allowing afflictive emotions or thoughts to snowball. In the being modewe actually stay closer to Truth which in turn frees us. Jesus said in John 8.32 that when we know the truth, it sets us free. Knowing the truth in Jesus and knowing the truth about the present moment does indeed set us free. And mindfulness helps us ‘be’ in the moment more often.

5. It helps us learn to live in the valleys of life with more peace.

Researchers have categorized mindfulness as either a trait(a lifestyle, habit, or disposition stable over time)[9]or a state(temporary and may be induced by our current situation). As you grow in your ability to make mindfulness more of a trait in your life, you will more often bring an awareness of God’s presence to your mind, heart, and activities, a posture Paul describes as praying without ceasing. (1 Thes 5.17, NIV)

Devotional writer, Oswald Chambers, illustrates this state versus trait idea when he writes about mountain top experiences versus living in the valley. He says that we are made for living in the valleys of life not in the mountain top experiences, even though we may want to live there.[10]He writes, “It is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God. We see His glory on the mountain, but we never live for His glory there.[11]

6. It minimizes the effects of chronic stress. 

Chronic stress damages our bodies through the long-term effects from the stress hormone, cortisol. Practicing mindfulness can decrease the amount of cortisol in our bloodstream.[12]It also increases our brain density (gray matter) in areas involved in memory, learning, problem solving, conflict monitoring,[13]emotional self-awareness, and self-regulation.[14]It can even help improve our sleep[15]which chronic stress often disrupts.

7. It improves the bio-markers of a healthy body.

One of the most exciting new neuroscience findings involves its effects on inflammation, now considered a key marker in many chronic diseases. In one study, participants who went through a three-day mindfulness retreat showed a decrease in a biomarker of inflammation compared to a control group.[16]Another study showed a direct link between this practice and reducing genetic markers associated with inflammation.[17]

Another exciting finding involves a key measure of health called heart rate variability (HRV). HRV measures the variation between each heartbeat. A higher HRV is considered a measure of good health. For those who struggle with anxiety, mindfulness is associated with a higher HRV.[18]

8. It may slow the aging process.

A mindful lifestyle may actually help us live longer by slowing the aging process.[19]At the end of our chromosomes lie protective caps, like plastic caps at the end of shoelaces. They’re called telomeres and are linked to longevity. The longer and healthier your telomeres, all else being equal, the longer you tend to live. Chronic stress apparently shortens them. Telomerase is an enzyme (a catalyst that brings about a chemical reaction) that slows the shortening of these telomeres. Some studies show that those who practice those who practice mindfulness have more telomerase, a good indicator of a longer life span. 

9. It helps us control our negative emotions better.

In many ways mindfulness decreases the power negative emotions wield over our thinking and behavior.[20]The goal of the mindfulness is not to avoid feelings nor to detach ourselves from emotions, but to notice and respond to them in a God-honoring way. Mindfulness lowers anxiety and depression[21]and helps us reduce aggressiveness and anger.[22]

It can also help us get unstuck from the automatic responses to our emotions like reactivity, hopeless thinking, defensiveness, and self-condemning thoughts including the misconception that good Christians don’t feel these kinds of emotions. 

10. It helps us avoid common thinking traps.

God has given our minds an incredible ability to think about the past and imagine the future. Scripture tells us to reflect over God’s deeds in the past (Ps 77:11) and anticipate Jesus’ return in the future (Matt. 24:42). Unfortunately, as a result of the fall these mental abilities often don’t work well. We obsess about what’s wrong in the present. We anticipate the future, and worry about it, projecting worst-case scenarios into it. 

Mindfulness can help you detach from wrong thinking in the same way that Teflon detaches from food. When you cook something in a Teflon-coated pan, food simply slides off because it doesn’t stick. When you detach from these thoughts, you don’t overly identify with them by getting hooked on your evaluations and judgments of them. You realize you are not those thoughts. Rather, you are a person that is aware of those thoughts. You are stepping back to gain a wide-angle perspective of the situation and the thoughts that resulted. 

So, for the Christian, mindfulness offers many benefits.

Be sure to check out my newest book called Holy Noticing: The Bible, Your Brain, and the Mindful Space Between Moments just released by Moody Press.

Related posts:


[1]Elizabeth Harrington, “NIH Has Spent $100.2 Million on Mindfulness Meditation,” Washington Free Beacon, December 16, 2014, http://freebeacon.com/issues/nih-has-spent-92-9-million-on-mindfulness-meditation/.

[2]“Meditation Has Become Big Business,” Fortune, accessed November 3, 2017, http://fortune.com/2016/03/12/meditation-mindfulness-apps/.

[3]http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-iphone-ipad-app-of-the-year-for-2017-12

[4]This is called affective bias.

[5]This is called knowing wrongly. Brown, Creswell, and Ryan, Handbook of Mindfulness, p 42.

[6]This is called interoception. “The Strange Case of Interoception and Resilience,” Body in Mind, May 17, 2016, http://www.bodyinmind.org/interoception-resilience/.

[7]This is called metacognition. Dilwar Hussain, “Meta-Cognition in Mindfulness: A Conceptual Analysis,” Psychological Thought8, no. 2 (October 16, 2015): 132–41.

[8]Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want(Penguin Books, 2007), pp 20-22.

[9]J David Creswell et al., “Neural Correlates of Dispositional Mindfulness During Affect Labeling:,” Psychosomatic Medicine69, no. 6 (July 2007): 560–65, doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3180f6171f.

[10]Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Updated Edition, Updated (Discovery House Publishers, 1992), p. 275.

[11]Ibid, p. 276.

[12]Karen O’Leary, Siobhan O’Neill, and Samantha Dockray, “A Systematic Review of the Effects of Mindfulness Interventions on Cortisol,” Journal of Health Psychology21, no. 9 (September 2016): 2108–21, https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105315569095.

[13]Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind(TarcherPerigee, 2015), pp 112-113.

[14]Daniel Goleman and Richard J. Davidson, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body(Avery, 2017), p. 180.

[15]Andrew J. Howell, Nancy L. Digdon, and Karen Buro, “Mindfulness Predicts Sleep-Related Self-Regulation and Well-Being,” Personality and Individual Differences48, no. 4 (March 2010): 419–24, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2009.11.009.

[16]Carnegie Mellon University, “Neurobiological Changes Explain How Mindfulness Meditation Improves Health – News – Carnegie Mellon University,” $dateFormat, http://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2016/february/meditation-changes-brain.html.

[17]Ivana Buric et al., “What Is the Molecular Signature of Mind–Body Interventions? A Systematic Review of Gene Expression Changes Induced by Meditation and Related Practices,”Frontiers in Immunology8 (2017), https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670.

[18]Annette M. Mankus et al., “Mindfulness and Heart Rate Variability in Individuals with High and Low Generalized Anxiety Symptoms,” Behaviour Research and Therapy51, no. 7 (July 1, 2013): 386–91, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2013.03.005.

[19]Elizabeth A. Hoge et al., “Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice Associated with Longer Telomeres in Women,” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity32 (August 2013): 159–63, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2013.04.005.

[20]Kirk Warren Brown, J. David Creswell, and Richard M. Ryan, eds., Handbook of Mindfulness: Theory, Research, and Practice, Reprint edition (The Guilford Press, 2015), p. 42.

[21]Bingaman, Kindle e-book locs 85-87.

[22]Ashley Borders, Mitch Earleywine, and Archana Jajodia, “Could Mindfulness Decrease Anger, Hostility, and Aggression by Decreasing Rumination?,” Aggressive Behavior36, no. 1 (January 1, 2010): 28–44, https://doi.org/10.1002/ab.20327.