By Julia Martin
There are many different ways to prepare. You may prepare for a test by studying late into the night. You prepare for a meeting by assembling your notes and data. You prepare for bad news by sitting down and taking a deep breath. You prepare for guests by tidying up and setting the table (maybe even vacuuming!).
Everyone knows at least a little about how to prepare for this sort of everyday activity. We are all familiar with preparing for a picnic or stormy weather or a road trip. So, what about Easter? How do we prepare to celebrate the once-and-for-all victory of our God over the power of death? It’s the most transformative event in history!
It may sound like a daunting task, but it’s not impossible! With the right resources, you can equip your church community to use the forty days—or even the week—before Easter to draw closer to their Savior and become stronger in their faith. As you are reflecting on preparation for Easter, consider using this simple journaling plan to enhance your church’s Lent experience and to prepare your people for Easter.
Step 1: Equip everyone with a prayer journal.
Check out CTA’s options for prayer journals written specifically for the Easter preparation season. Each Scripture passage or journaling prompt is selected to encourage personal reflection, draw users more deeply into God’s Word, or lift up those who are discouraged. Choose a theme that best suits your faith community, and familiarize yourself with the content before handing out the journals.
Alternatively, you can find inexpensive, plain journals, with or without lines, and create your own prompts to get people thinking about Christ’s sacrifice and love in their lives. Print out the prompts all together on sheets you distribute with the journals—or email or post each day’s journaling prompt on your church website or social media account as the season goes on.
Whichever approach you use, decide when you will hand out the journals. If your organization is observing Lent (the forty days before Easter Sunday), have the journals ready at your regular services on the Sunday before Lent begins (that would Sunday, February 11 in 2024). Talk about the journaling challenge that you’re taking on—writing each day until Easter—and give one book to each attendee as he or she leaves. To use this resource to encourage deeper connection with Christ during Holy Week, distribute the materials one week before Easter Sunday for six focused days of thinking about Scripture and reflecting on—and feeling gratitude for—Jesus’ love.
Step 2: Enhance the experience with sermons and Bible studies.
Consider integrating the tone of the individual journal experience into your general activities by using CTA’s thematic sermon outlines and discussion questions. Designed to be modified to suit your organization’s needs, these resources can spark conversations about the content among the people in your ministry. Use the discussion questions in Sunday morning Bible studies or make them available to the small groups gathering in your faith community.
Urge those you serve to think about their personal journaling experiences when they gather with their fellow Christians in these settings. Some people may have questions raised by the Scriptures or prompts they have encountered in the journals, and these can be brought up in group situations. By exploring the content together, each person’s individual experience can spread into their social lives, strengthening the bonds of fellowship in your community.
Step 3: Offer daily encouragement and be sensitive.
Set up a reminder on your church’s social media account or in small-group WhatsApp group chats that reappears each day to cue members of your ministry to journal. In your face-to-face interactions, gently ask about the experience so you can hear firsthand how people are feeling in the days leading up to Easter.
Be aware, in your casual interactions and in Bible study settings, that journaling is a very personal experience: for some of the people in your ministry, it may be difficult or intense, and they may not feel comfortable talking about it. That is fine. This kind of experience is first and foremost an individual one, and all should be encouraged to make the journey to the cross in their own way.
Step 4: Celebrate the end—and the beginning!
Whether you use a journaling challenge to enrich the six weeks leading up to Easter or as a shorter-term exploration during Holy Week, there will be an end point: on Easter Sunday (April 9 in 2023), the journey to the cross will be complete. Jesus’ deep love for us led him to die in our place, but at Easter, he rose again. He defeated death and made us right with God. However you have prepared, the unmatched joy of Jesus’ resurrection arrives into the hearts of those in your ministry.
On Easter, Jesus came back to life—forever. He lives eternally with the Father, and his victory means that we do, too! Because of this, the end of each person’s pre-Easter journey is the beginning of their post-Easter journey. As Christians, we lead post-Easter lives: our loving Savior is alive and with us, and we carry that joy in our hearts every day! Consider finding a way to encourage your members to continue their journaling experience on their new journey. CTA offers many multipurpose prayer journals for you to choose from.
Make God bless your efforts to prepare the hearts in your ministry for the resurrection of his Son!