Christmas planning at your church is most likely underway. And while some churches may be further along in the process than others, there’s one thing I want you to think about this year. Are your services going to be an experiment or something tried and true?
The inspiration for this question stems from a 2012 Echo Conference session where Stephen Brewster talked about the creative process. As Creative Arts Pastor at Cross Point Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee, he was honest and open about how he ruined Easter one year. They dreamt big and did something very experimental that ended up missing the true message of Easter: the hope that comes from Jesus’ resurrection. He went on to talk about how big weekends at churches, like Easter and Christmas, are times to avoid experiments. He said, “We have 50 other weeks to try something new.”
For me, this doesn’t mean that you can’t do creative things. You can create an awesome experience. What it does mean, however, is that people coming to church on Christmas have expectations in their head. They have some sort of emotional tie to Christmases past. Especially for people who haven’t been to church in awhile, they are coming back because those positive, past memories are something they are looking for today.
I bet you’ll find your members have certain expectations, too. Maybe it’s the anticipation of singing some favorite Christmas carols. Or it could be an expectation of hearing a joyful message based on the Christmas story. Whatever those things are, there’s a tradition that comes along with Christmas for which people yearn. And when they walk into an experience so far disconnected from that, they turn off. It may not be as big a deal for members. They might be disappointed, but they’ll be back next week. (Although if they brought friends and were embarrassed by the service, they may not invite someone again.) But for that person visiting for the first time or coming back after years of being away, an out of the norm experience means they may never come back. It’s a lost opportunity.
Celebrate the joy and warmth of Christmas. Be creative. Stay true to who you are as a church. Avoid experiments. Do you agree?