11 Reasons Pastors Struggle on Easter

This coming Sunday is Easter Sunday, a day to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Church buildings will likely be more full than all other Sundays of the year. Songs of resurrection will ring out. Congregations will gather in their finest clothes to worship, often followed by a special Sunday lunch. And yet, for some pastors Easter Sunday is a difficult day. I know, because I’ve been there. Here’s why this day can be a struggle – and why pastors need our prayers this weekend:

  1. The day is often overwhelmingly busy. From early morning preparation to events throughout the day, pastors are on the go throughout the day. Some churches add services for this special day. For some pastors, the day is so full that they have little time to focus on their own personal worship.
  2. The pressure to “do well” is increased. The crowd is bigger, but many are giving the church only this one opportunity to grab their attention. No church leader wants to mess up on Easter Sunday. Consequently, every small issue – each off note, every stumbled-over word, every unintended delay – gets magnified.
  3. Finding a unique approach to the Easter story is not easy. The story itself is enough, of course, but some pastors sense a need to present the story in a fresh and enlightening way. The task of finding that “new approach” when everyone else is preaching on the same topic can be stressful.
  4. Pastors see members they haven’t seen since last Easter. On one hand, that’s good news. Pastors are typically glad to see members return, hoping they will recommit themselves to faithfulness this year. On the other hand, pastors often end the day wondering why they can’t reach those same folks the rest of the year.
  5. Pastors see “lostness” come in the door . . . and leave unchanged. Yes, pastors trust the Word of God will do its work. Yes, they know that planting a seed is a first step toward others being converted. It’s still agonizing, though, when they see non-believers walk in the door and out the door on Easter with no obvious response to the gospel.
  6. Pastors get a glimpse of what the church could be . . . but typically isn’t. Parking lot attendants are ready, and they even arrive early. Greeters are well dressed and easily identified. The best musicians and singers are enlisted. The sermon is well rehearsed. The church gives its best for this one day – but then returns to mediocrity the following week. That’s frustrating.
  7. Pastors often judge their own sermons more critically on Easter. Many of us review our sermons after each worship service. We think through how we might have re-worded that point, changed that illustration, or clarified that application. That critique is sometimes more intense on Easter Sunday, as no pastor wants to have missed the opportunity to proclaim the gospel clearly and boldly.
  8. Pastors brag about Easter attendance. It happens – pastors excited about Easter attendance often make sure others know about their successes during the weeks following the holiday. Unhealthy, even ungodly, competition develops. Nobody wants to play the game, but few people want to lose the game, either.
  9. Attendance expectations may not be met. To be honest, I always had an Easter Sunday attendance goal in my mind when I served as a pastor. Even when I fought hard to stop worrying about numbers, my mind still went there. Too often I became discouraged because the actual attendance did not meet my goals.
  10. Monday morning letdown can follow Easter. For weeks, a pastor’s energy is devoted to preparing for Easter Sunday. Teams get ready so the church operates as a well-oiled machine on this one Sunday. Everyone is focused, committed – and a bit relieved when it’s all over. Monday morning means a return to the routine.
  11. Some pastors have no resurrection joy themselves. For some, ministry is hard. They serve one church while seeking the next one. Their marriages may be struggling, or their children are wayward. They must proclaim the hope of resurrection when their own hope is dying. Easter Sunday then becomes a chore to endure rather than a day to celebrate.

If you are a pastor, direct your members to this post and ask them to pray for you. As a layperson, invite other church members to join you in prayer. Pray that Easter will be powerful for your pastor this year.


  • Mark says:

    Sadly, there are some Christian churches that really don’t have much to do with Easter. Their claim is that the resurrection is remembered every Sunday, and there is no command to set aside one particular Sunday and make it special. Thus, the ministers in that non-denominational denomination have to weigh what people are expecting with toeing the official line. Other ministers are free to give a sermon appropriate for Good Friday and finish with Jesus dead and entombed. Some do manage to sneak in a few verses of resurrection gospel. For these ministers, Easter can do more harm than good to their careers and the people leave let down and wanting.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Mark. I sure do pray that all pastors will speak the truth of resurrection this Sunday .

  • Philip Bohlken says:

    i served 40 years in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. We always have a service with separate sermon preparation on Maundy Thursday, another on Good Friday, and two on Easter Sunday. We had people who attended the Sunrise service and the regular service, so I tried to prepare two separate sermons. The big problem was always mental fatigue on Sunday aft services on Thursday and Friday. I wanted to be fresh on Easter Sunday, but I was frazzled, and there was nothing I could do about it.

  • Jason says:

    This hurts to read, mostly because the first 10 items describe exactly how I feel each Easter and how I’m feeling this week in preparation for Easter!

  • Ken says:

    #9 is a biggie for me this year. Many of my regulars are going to be out of town on Easter this year. That happens, and I don’t hold it against any of them. Still, the devil has been working among us quite a bit in the last year, so that has left me feeling a bit pessimistic.

    On the positive side, when I get down in the dumps like this, God has ways of reminding me that He’s still in control. A couple of years ago, during the summer, several of our members happened to be away on vacation at once. I was feeling pretty pessimistic when I went to church that Sunday; I thought we’d be fortunate if the auditorium was half full. It turned out that was one of the best-attended services we had the whole year, and it wasn’t even a special Sunday!

  • Ben says:

    I’m trying to decide if every pastor goes through the same things that I do, or if you are simply able to read my mind, because your blogs always say what I’m thinking but don’t say out loud. You have strange powers Mr. Rainer. Strange indeed.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      This is Chuck Lawless, Ben. Thanks for the comments. And, by the way, Thom Rainer does have an unmatched ability to understand what pastors are thinking.

  • Mark B. says:

    All these things are so true. Add to it the lack of ecclesiology that most Christians within my denomination experience and it’s enough to make me want to yell. I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it is to have members or regular attenders choose their “family tradition” over being in church and worshiping on Easter. So they go camping or have reunions or whatever. For some reason we have this idea that Jesus came to set us free FROM worship instead of setting us free TO worship.

  • Ryan says:

    Very Helpful!

    I am launching a church on Easter Sunday. I am a SBC/NAMB church planter. Obviously, it has been a crazy/busy/hectic season. This article has urged me to take time and worship the resurrection for myself. Thanks!

  • John B. Ross says:

    Thanks for the post, Dr. Lawless! I’d add that stress on the pastor’s family is increased due to the added responsibilities. The week leading up to Easter is packed with extra loose ends that need to be tied down, often requiring more time and energy than an average week. This often equates to less time at home, or more time spent fielding questions and phone calls at home. Celebrating the Resurrection with the local church is most definitely a high priority in family traditions, but as a pastor with a young family I struggle to figure out ways to make the week a joyous, unique, and focused time of discipleship and family worship for my little ones. This is only my third Easter as a pastor, and I’m learning that I need to make plans for my family’s worship way before Easter, just as I plan ahead for our church family in expectation of the season.

  • Michelle Ray says:

    All very true. Plus from a pastor’s wife, I am always feeling a little melancholy as everyone else goes home to eat with their extended family and we are alone on Easter. Easter is definitely not my favorite and I always feel a little guilty for that.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Michelle, your honesty grabs my heart. Thanks for helping us to consider this question from the perspective of a pastor’s wife. I pray this Sunday will be a great day for you.

    • Carla says:

      Hi Michelle,
      I’m a pastor’s wife as well and it broke my heart to read your words. I truly understand the lonely times in the pastor’s family and I wanted you to know you have a sister praying for you. Be encouraged in this season.

  • spot on analysis- I would add, however, that at least in my area -southern Oregon-there is usually no attendance spike on Easter. I’ve been pastor at the same church for neat 24 yrs-we have advertised heavily some years and some years we have not and rarely does attendance spoke on Easter-but we still press on proclaiming the truth of the gospel!

  • Steve S. says:

    Great article Dr. Lawless. Especially thoughtful on the last point.

  • Thank you for this article. I’ve been feeling this way about Easter for years. I once told a church member about how difficult Easter can be for the pastor, and he looked at me like something was wrong with me. Why on earth could a pastor struggle with Easter?

    Anyway, it was nice to see some of what I go through in writing from a legitimate site and a legitimate author.

  • Craig Giddens says:

    Let me say upfront that I believe we have liberty as to whether or not to set aside a special day out of the year to observe/celebrate the birth of our Lord or his crucifixion and resurrection. It doesn’t make us more spiritual or pleasing to God either way. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus should be relevant every day. If a church wants to highlight Easter Sunday with special music and events then I say go for it, but the most important thing a pastor does is preach and teach the word of God. If you want to preach on the resurrection then do so, but If you’re struggling to find “a unique approach to the Easter story” then preach on something else. If you’ve been preaching a topical series or going through a book of the Bible then consider continuing with those studies. You shouldn’t tailor your sermon to someone who only shows up once or twice a year plus if God is dealing with them then the preaching of God’s word, no matter part of scripture it comes from, will suffice.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, Craig, for your thoughts.

  • Randy says:

    Dr. Adrian Rogers once quipped, “It is my job to fill the pulpit and God’s job to fill the pews.” We try to keep that in our mind every week so that discouragement does not set in and a competition with surrounding churches.

  • Randy B says:

    Dr. Adrian Rogers once quipped, “It is my job to fill the pulpit and God’s job to fill the pews.” We try to keep that in our mind every week so that discouragement does not set in and a competition with surrounding churches.

  • I appreciate this insight and your heart for pastors. Much of this resonates with me. It is the best, hardest Sunday of the year.

    Thanks Dr. Lawless.

  • CathyV says:

    I am thankful for all you pastors/ shepherds and your unwavering service to our Lord. I was saved 43 years ago Easter week, at revival services, and my husband was led to the Lord the week before Easter 41 years ago, when a dear Pastor came to our house at 11 pm after we watched an Easter type movie on tv, and my husband had questions that I couldn’t answer. May the Lord reward your faithfulness and give you great joy! The two of us are soon to be twenty in number. 3 John 4, Psalm 71 :17-19.

  • Roger Dail says:


    It should be noted that this article not only applies to senior pastors but also to vocational staff members as well. Not only do they feel the same pressures in their areas of ministry focus (worship, music, education, students, children, etc) but they also have a tendency to worry about whether or not the senior pastor is happy with their performance. They, too, sacrifice family time leading up to and on Easter Sunday morning…especially worship leaders.

    I would encourage writers of these blogs to consider including vocational staff members in their surveys, observations and analysis. In many ways, they function as “pastors” alongside the “under shepherd” but are too often viewed by the laity as “hired hands”.

    Thanks, Chuck (& Thom) for these blogs. They are extremely helpful, encouraging and thought-provoking.

  • Shelby says:

    I am an older church lady 78 to be exact and I love Easter services, it reminds me to pay extra careful attention to visitors that day. I love to greet guest and try to do it each week even when I don’t feel too spry. Maybe just maybe I might plant a seed in a life that needs to feel welcome and loved, then in return be more open to God’s word. Pastors, just preach the word, don’t be fancy just be obedient and tell it like it is. Faithful folks who are always there just want to hear the Word as it is written. God will bless everyone for it…even you, Pastor. God bless all Pastors and their families every day! We do love and appreciate our pastors! Happy Easter to you all!

  • Donna Lynne Vaux says:

    My favorite service is Maundy Thursday – not as pressured and often most touching. I always seem to do the Easter sermon earlier than most sermons that I do – it doesn’t usually stress me as much as Christmas Eve. But the biggest thing for me on Easter in the usual multiple point charge of the UMC is that I just go home and sleep most Easter afternoons with anywhere in my history of 5-7 services of Holy week and now being 21/2 to 3 hours away from the closest family and 12 from the farthest family we like very few in our churches spend this day without family. And, if they did come, I would be sleeping!! BUT, very small sacrifice compared to what Jesus did for me and all humanity! Blessings and prayers – we are all in this boat together!

  • Hugh says:

    When I was pastor in a very conservative church group years ago not much fuss was made during the Easter Lenten period. There was no Ash Wednesday service, Palm Sunday, or Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Sunrise Service. Oh we might mention Palm Sunday and talk about it a little but we did recognize Easter Service with the traditional songs & celebration. Anything else was considered too Catholic, Lutheran or just plain liberal. However after I left that group I developed a love for all those parts of Easter that I had at one time rejected seeing the value in them for God’s people and those who had not accepted Christ.

    However, at the same time it can be stressful but then doesn’t the ministry in general tend to be stressful? I recognize that two times a year we have the opportunity to minister and bring the Gospel to people who usually will not darken the door of the church…. Christmas and Easter. Yes, there are other times but during those two, people come willingly. So for myself, I am thankful for the opportunity to share Christ!

  • John says:

    My issue this year has been attacks by Satan over the last two weeks, I know that tomorrow when we have a church function I will have to “put on my happy face” and on Sunday morning putting it on once again, while I am hurting. What does one do during this except give it to the Lord, though I am still hurting?

  • Dan Blair says:

    What a good blog! I can relate to most of those eleven. I tell people that I have a “love/hate relationship” with Holy Week. It is by far the most meaningful time of the year personally, and is also the hardest. Christmas is fun, but Easter is definitely hard work.

  • James says:

    Almost all of these seem like they are pressures created by a false idea of what church and gospel is. I can’t see most of these struggles being necessary to a church of Jesus. In other words, I don’t see most of these being a problem with Jesus walking around with his twelve, or being a problem with the early churches, or with the churches throughout centuries who were persecuted (Anabaptists for example) by the mainstream religions of their days.

    I hope and pray all pastors and churches everywhere can one day soon see what is truly important in the Kingdom changing the world. It isn’t the number of attendees, when door greeters show up, the dressed up presentation of a twice weekly speech, parking lot attendants or rehearsed musicians, or special efforts on special days. I write this not in any way to argue with the status quo, but to hopefully raise interest in the following.

    Jesus is here. Brothers and Sisters, Jesus – the Lord of all Heaven and Earth – lives in us. The God who died and rose again – the same God who created the smallest quarks and leptons and who created the vast edges of the universe… THAT God is in you and me. He is strong enough to change your life and the lives around you. He is smart enough to figure out how to change your life and the lives around you (through your actions). He certainly WANTS to do these things. His Kingdom is waiting to burst through in your life and change your world. What is holding Him back ISN’T how good you think you can be or how bad you think you are. What is holding Him back ISN’T how well or poor you preform. What is holding Him back ISN’T how confident you are in speaking certain kinds of words, or how many people you can draw. These things are all on the arm of flesh. The only thing necessary to allow Jesus to take complete and total control in your life is faith!

    Trust Jesus to live in you. Don’t try to be good and try to change the world, ask Jesus to do that in you and believe He will. Don’t try to work harder at services or other man-made activities not mentioned in the Bible, just ask Jesus to be in them and do His thing. He is able. He is willing. He will make you a new person and radiate in every aspect of your life if only you place faith in Him (not yourself) to do so. He did not often chastise his disciples for failing to live morally or for failing to accomplish tasks He sent them to do. He chastised them for “little faith”. Unlike the religion of Pharisees which was based in what men could do, how they could appear, how many others they could attract during their “sunday services” with nice speeches and fancy decorations, Jesus showed the disciples how to live by faith in Him. And that makes all the difference.

    May all pastors who read this find peace in Jesus and what He will do during Easter if they just stop trying and let Him do the work.

  • Rick says:

    Just a quick comment on what to preach on Easter Sunday. I too had got in that boat of trying to freshen up the Easter story, but last year as I was praying for direction the Lord reminded me that the C.E.O.crowd (Christmas and Easter Only) could recite the story as well as I, so preach something they haven’t heard! The music and worship told the Resurrection Story and the message spoke to Relationship versus Religion. Had a great service with a great response. Just my two cents.

  • Alan Rudnick says:

    Thom, dead on. Thanks for posting.

  • joshua wilson says:

    currently camping out in #11. trying/daring to hope for tomorrow morning.

  • Jack says:

    Chuck, these are some great points. Thanks from the bottom from my heart. I have had these feelings over the past few Easters. I am bivocational, ministering a small independent church in Outback Australia, and have started feeling very depressed over Easter and Christmas. We see the twice-a-year Christians these times, feeling that I have to preach the same simple messages over, be very tired as there is double the amount of church work while the secular job’s hours over these times actually gets longer. The results being a feeling of tiredness and being useless for Him as you see for another year that nothing has happened with these people. And then seeing everyone enjoying these times, having extra time off, and myself just stuck in my normal Easter/christmas rut. I am relieved to see I am not alone in this.

    Thanks again for the article!

  • Brian Culver says:

    Good points made! Hope your Easter is a blessed one

  • Joseph Jones says:

    I don’t get this article. Leading a church is difficult. I think Scripture teaches us that. Why would it be any easier on Easter Sunday? If you can’t celebrate the Savior’s resurrection, maybe you should consider going and doing something else.

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