Getting ready for your Christmas service requires more than a few extra chairs on Sunday morning.
People who don’t normally attend church just might come out to a candlelight service or look for a place to sing classic carols on Christmas Eve. There’s just something magical about the Christmas story that draws people in. Imagine that!
While we love to see familiar faces around the holidays, we can’t miss the opportunity to capture the hearts of first-time visitors. And if we want them to come back the week after Christmas, we have to plan accordingly.
If you're overwhelmed at the thought of preparing for your Christmas service, consider breaking your planning into three big ideas.
Spend some extra time on your promotional materials—logos, graphics and videos—and remember to create shareable content. A highlight video isn’t going to spread like wildfire, but a clever, entertaining or motivational video might. Provide these resources to your church members and ask them to spread the word on social media.
While you’re at it, invite your people to invite others. Dr. Thom Rainer, author of The Unchurched Next Door, found that seven out of 10 unchurched people have never actually been invited to church. That’s seven too many. A lot of friends and neighbors will come if they’re invited, but we have to ask. Offer tickets to your services or create invitation cards that members can hand out in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Get volunteers engaged early—especially your greeters and hospitality team. Talk through what needs to be done and cover any details that might otherwise fall through the cracks. You can offer hot chocolate at the door, create designated visitor parking spots, or decorate the entrance with Christmas trees. Staying on top of these details goes a long way toward making guests feel welcome.
Tip: It’s also a good idea to love your volunteers well in this busy season. Consider providing food and a special thank-you for their time and service.
Put together a strong worship team and sing songs people know. People still love to sing classic Christmas carols—and this is especially good for your guests who might not be familiar with Christian music. You may consider blending a contemporary worship song with a classic.
Get the kids involved in the service. Ask the children to join their parents for the worship portion of the service, or invite them in for the reading of the Christmas story. This is a great way to promote your children’s ministry.
From parking to worship to the final amen, you want people to walk away talking about your service. Creating an unforgettable experience is some of the best marketing and outreach you can do, but don’t stray so far from your regular programming that guests feel like they’re at a completely different church if they come back next week.
Tell the Christmas story in a way that relates to your visitors. They came to church fully prepared to hear it, so make the most of your opportunity. People are familiar with the story—how can you structure your message in a way that connects with them personally and inspires them to come back next week? If visitors can’t see how Jesus relates to their real, messy lives, the chance they’ll come back for your next sermon is slim.
Planning a Christmas service is not for the faint of heart, but it’s a great chance to reach out to first-time guests. It lets you challenge them to think about your church—and more importantly—their personal relationship with God. So put in the long hours, focus on the details, and deliver a moving service.
Above all, keep the story at the center of the season. Christmas opens the door for ministry in ways few other seasons can. Use it to make a difference in your church and your community.
If you want to hear America's leading pastors share their experiences and advice on issues that matter to other pastors then download the Leadership Momentum Podcast from the iTunes store or find it at stewardshipcentral.org.