After the Resurrection

Traditionally, Christian churches fill their seats on Easter. Sequim is no exception.

Family from out of town, casual attendees and committed members make up the crowds on that special Sunday morning. But, as attendance spikes once or twice a year, Christmas included, do local churches make an effort after Easter to keep the nonchurch- going crowd in attendance?

Many church leaders said it is a matter of understanding the people who don't normally come because they all have different reasons for not coming.

"A lot of them might feel like they are missing something if they don't come on Christmas and Easter," said Scott Culver, pastor at Dungeness Community Church.

"Some people who come on Easter might have a church background but stopped coming for some reason. They have an impulse for a spiritual life, but church isn't part of their regular pattern."

The Rev. Henry Mulindwa, from St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, thinks people's ways of life are tough to change.

"I try to understand their mind-set. Maybe they are working too much .... Unless you change those dynamics, it's tough to change getting them to come to church when they don't really want to," he said.

Scott Koenigsaecker, pastor at Sequim Community Church, sees Easter as a chance to show nonmembers what his church has to offer. He thinks people who don't attend regularly may have had bad experiences in the past with the church or with religion in general.

"We want to prove in a way to those people that we are defying those stereotypes," Koenigsaecker said.

All the church leaders interviewed by the Sequim Gazette said that they understand the reality that some people only come to church on Easter, but they still love and respect each person who comes through the door.

"I wouldn't rag on them. There must be something there spiritually inside them because they don't come out of guilt," Culver said.

"Guilt doesn't lead to that.

"We want to be a welcoming church even if it is just those two Sundays for them to see that."

The clergymen said their efforts for appealing to non-church members focus more on year-round servitude than immediately following Easter. Most lead or participate in helping the needy, prisoners and their families, pregnancy centers, Habitat for Humanity, and international missions and relief efforts.

To contact visitors, church leaders encourage them to sign guest books or visitor cards. They use these to follow-up in different ways.

Pastor Lonny Jacobson at Faith Baptist Church said he writes personal letters to visitors and asks if they have any special needs or prayer requests. He follows these up with telephone calls.

"If they come back to our church, then we schedule a meeting in their home to get to know one another," Jacobson said.

"A percentage of them that are receptive are already looking for a new church."

Members of St. Luke's Episcopal Church will contact visitors from the Sequim area with warm loaves of bread, said Father Bob Rhoads.

The baked goods don't stop there, as Dungeness Community Church members do a "cookie call" where they will bring homemade cookies to a church visitor's door.

Many churches advertise more around Easter with newspaper, radio and television ads.

The Easter services also might be more entertainment based. Dramatic skits, bands and charismatic sermons are common.

Churches have technology to aid them with services and programs. Culver said Dungeness Community Church is retooling its Web site to be more user friendly and informative.

"We are also picking our language carefully," Culver said.

He feels Christian jargon can confuse people, so they want to be as straightforward as possible.

Accessibility is another advantage to the infusion of technology into religion.

Many churches nationwide post audio and video of sermons on the Internet.

However, personalization seems to be the key to many churches' keeping people interested.

"We are pretty visible in the community and we have a lot of groups that meet here," Rhoads said.

"We've got the stuff in place to follow up with them .... We have groups for all stages and ages," Koenigsaecker said.

"One of the best-kept secrets here is what's going on in the churches."

You can reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequim

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