SPRING HILL — With an emphasis on building strong families, Journey Christian Center will host its third annual Easter Extravaganza this morning on the grounds at Stage West Community Playhouse.
"When you bring family together for a good, wholesome time of fun, I think it gives honor to God, as our heavenly father, and it helps strengthen the family," Pastor Dan Bierworth said. "We believe that the family is the core of society. As the family goes, so the nation goes."
The event is also a means of giving back to the community, the pastor said.
"There are countless churches around the community, and if we all do something to give back to our community, it will make it grow stronger," he said.
The church will accomplish that goal by offering children egg hunts, face painting, food, games and prizes — all for free.
"We try to make it fun for the kids," Bierworth said.
Diana Campo is heading the event.
"It's geared mainly to children in preschool and elementary age," Campo said. "But the whole family is included in what we want to do."
The fun begins at 9 a.m. Egg hunts will be at 9:30 for the 0-3 age group, at 10:30 for children 4-6, at 11:30 for ages 7-8 and at 12:30 p.m. for ages 9 and 10. Children should bring a basket or bucket for collecting eggs and prizes.
There will also be free raffle tickets for bicycles, two per age group.
"We like to give one to a boy and one to a girl in each group," Campo said. "And we have consolation prizes like filled Easter baskets, stuffed animals, DVDs and CDs."
There are also prizes for games.
Food being given away includes hot dogs, sodas, chips, snow cones and cotton candy.
Live inspirational music will be presented throughout the morning.
Bierworth said the Easter event builds a bridge between the traditional and the spiritual.
"Most Americans celebrate Easter with things like egg hunts," he said. "We want to bring in the Christian element that points it to Jesus and the time that he was crucified and rose from the dead."
Along with information about the church's children's and youth programs, Gospel bracelets will be offered.
"It has colored beads, and the different beads each show a different aspect of presenting the Gospel through the Resurrection story," the pastor said. "We share that with the children, but the adults sit there with the children and can hear the Easter story. We explain it in a way the children can understand."
Bierworth said about 500 people attended the event last year.
"Out of that, maybe a couple of dozen people showed up for church services. So it's not like half the people will show back up, but those who are looking for a spiritual family have an opportunity to get to know us outside the context of a church and get a little bit of a flavor for who we are."
The Easter event, he said, helps the church with its primary goal.
"The first goal is changed lives," Bierworth said. "We believe if we can show people that Christianity and church can be fun — that it can be a family event — then I believe it helps change lives for the better."