Easter is one of the biggest days for the Christian faith, so it's no surprise more people fill the pews on Easter than on other Sundays. Local church leaders said this isn't necessarily because they're seeing people who don't normally attend church.
The Rev. John Elkin Sr., of Lighthouse Church, Fort Dodge, said over the last few years the church has seen more of an uptick in attendance at Easter than it has in previous years, but much of the increase can be attributed to families getting together.
"We have a lot of people with children who live two or three hours away, who come home for Easter and make a weekend out of it," Elkin said. "I don't see a lot of people who would call this their home church who only show up for Christmas and Easter."
The Rev. Gary Armstrong, of First United Methodist, agreed many of the extra Easter worshippers are out-of-town visitors.
The Rev. Austin Hill said the same thing, but added that some visitors aknowledged some of the visitors are people who rarely come to church.
"Certainly Easter Sunday is usually a fairly big Sunday," said Hill. "A lot of them are either first-time visitors, or members who live out of town coming together as a family. And then there are some people in town who, for whatever reason, only come a few times a year."
The Rev. Shane Deman of Holy Trinity Parish agrees too.
"Many are guests visiting their own family members, but there are those who only seem to make it on Christmas and Easter," he said.
Armstrong and Peitsch both said that whenever people come to church, they shouldn't be judged.
"I'm uncomfortable with the term I've heard some people use of 'Christmas and Easter Christians,'" Armstrong said. "That's not an appropriate term. I think people are moved to worship because they feel God's nudging in their lives, and we don't have any reason to question that."
Peitsch said, "That term is not fair to people. On one hand, it seems like that's the only time they come, but at same time, it just means that on those two particular holidays there's higher concentration of people coming.
"It's justified to some extent," Peitsch went on. "Those are the two big holidays when it comes to Christianity - at Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Savior, and at Easter we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Savior, so it's kind of the two big things of the Christian religion."
The church leaders said that while they'd love to see people come to church more regularly, they are very happy when people attend on Easter.
Armstrong said the Easter holiday "puts newcomers in the mode where they're thinking about worship in ways they weren't on other Sundays.
"Easter is about new beginnings. People in their own lives sometimes get to thinking about new beginnings in their life, and that's an impetus that they follow up on."
Said Hill, "We're hoping they have a great experience and say this is something they want to experience more frequently. Some of that comes through special music offerings - we'll have a brass ensemble, our choir sings, and we'll have our additional service in the morning. Our hope is with all these different things we're doing something might meet someone's need in a way they hadn't perceived in the past."
Elkin said, "I hope people can come away fully understanding Jesus died, was buried, and rose for them, for the forgiveness of their sins. I want them to walk out the doors saying, he is still alive."
Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org