The leader of our prayer team at church asked us to pray for the Easter egg hunt outreach and for new families who visit on Easter Sunday to return afterwards. As I began to pray, my spirit did not feel right. I had to ask myself, “What am I praying for? For families to be drawn to our church because it’s a fun place for their children?”
One of the troublesome trends in churches today is the high numbers of young adults who reject their Christian upbringing and stop attending church, once they graduate from high school and enter the “real world”. At least one explanation for this phenomenon is that children’s and youth activities are so driven by fun activities and entertaining events in order to attract and hold their attention, that when they grow up and are no longer being entertained, they turn their attention to “adult” fun, such as parties and sex, rather than Christian worship.
Despite the fact that we sing a worship song that talks about God changing us from the inside out, we often place too much emphasis on children’s and youth activities that are done on the “outside”. We place great importance on the planning and preparation of these activities, and it requires a great deal of time and effort to make them happen.
The trend has been that when young adults discover there are no longer fun or entertaining activities for them, they stop coming to church. This phenomenon is a demonstration that the teaching of the gospel has become just like any other subject in school — something you have to learn, but not something that actually transforms your life.
For this reason, I question the value of my church sponsoring an easter egg hunt. Sure, they are fun, but easter egg hunts have nothing to do with resurrection. One point made clear by Zola Levitt in his presentation of The Seven Feasts of Israel (the 7 Biblical feasts fulfilled in Christ) is that the resurrection of Christ which we celebrate on “Easter” Sunday is supposed to be the feast of First Fruits, according to the Bible.
“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20
Zola made the distinction between the new (eternal) life of resurrection and the renewable life of fertility, associated with Spring, flowers and baby animals — particularly bunnies, chicks and eggs — symbols used for thousands of years to celebrate fertility. These are two entirely different things: resurrection and fertility. Yet the Church persists in celebrating “Easter”, named after a pagan goddess of fertility on a date that intentionally does not coincide with Passover.
The feast of First Fruits is supposed to be on the Sunday following Passover. But in the year 325, the First Council of Nicea decided to separate the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Christ from the Hebrew calendar and make it distinct from the Jewish feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. Ever since then, Good Friday and Easter do not necessarily correlate to the events according to the Hebrew calendar, and the significance of those Old Testament Feasts being fulfilled by Jesus has largely become lost to Christians.
So, we make Easter fun for children by hiding colorful plastic eggs filled with candy — little treasures for them to find and eat. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong in that, what purpose does it serve to make it a church function? It has nothing to do with the inculcation of Biblical values. It teaches nothing about Jesus. It simply and only is an activity for fun — perhaps so that children will associate fun with church and want to come and learn more about Jesus? I don’t think so. That is the basic failing of children’s and youth activities. Perhaps Easter egg hunts are best left for families to do on their own.
Why does the Church celebrate “Easter”? What is it about “Easter” that is so important? When I was a child, my family did not regularly attend church. But every Easter we donned our new Easter outfits and went to church. It meant nothing to me, because I hated to dress up and have to polish my shoes. The part I liked about Easter was the Easter basket my mother always gave me. I loved the chocolate candy and the Easter Egg hunts. And somewhere in all that I got the message that Spring meant the renewal of life. It was kind of poetic: new seedlings sprouting forth, flowers blooming, the promise of life renewed. But there was nothing about resurrection. I didn’t really learn about resurrection until I first read the Bible at age 31.
Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ perhaps holds the greatest significance of any aspect of Christian worship. 1 Corinthians 15:17 tells us, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” Lee Strobel, in his book, The Case For Christ, wrote, “The Resurrection is the supreme vindication of Jesus’ divine identity and his inspired teaching. It’s the proof of his triumph over sin and death. It’s the foreshadowing of the resurrection of his followers. It’s the basis of Christian hope. It’s the miracle of all miracles.” (page 276)
That is what Christians of all ages should be celebrating and teaching on Resurrection Sunday. Believing in that miracle and that miracle alone is what will keep young people in the church. Do we want to forsake that by staying on the well-beaten path of tradition? Apparently, we want to have it both ways. One definition of insanity is to continue doing the same thing while expecting different results. If the Church keeps celebrating Easter with traditions like Easter egg hunts, what reason is there to think that youth won’t continue to leave the church when it is no longer fun?
I think that’s something to consider.