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Balancing Christmas Tradition with Creativity

Balancing Christmas Tradition with Creativity

Posted December 10, 2015 by Jerod Clark

Planning for Christmas can be tricky for church leaders. There’s a sense of wanting to do something big. We know this is a prime time for people to come to church and we want to deliver an experience that’s memorable and different from what people expect church to be. It’s a time where church leaders put a lot of pressure on themselves to do something different.

Yet I think the average Christmas churchgoer is looking for something familiar. There is a certain expectation of what Christmas should feel like. It’s warm and cozy.  It’s a time of cheer. There are songs people know, love and look forward to singing.

Holding on to the traditions of Christmas are important, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. The two are not mutually exclusive. 

  • Be watchful of going over the top. Veering too far away from who you are comes with a cost of decreased engagement. I used to attend a fairly large, contemporary church. One Christmas, they decided to make the whole Christmas service a drama. While the church was contemporary, it was never good at drama. This play dragged and missed any element that resembled what a Christmas service typically looked like for this church. 
  • Don’t experiment too much.  Something I heard Stephen Brewster, the Creative Arts Pastor at Cross Point Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee, say has always stuck with me. “We have 50 other weeks to try something new.” He shared this when talking about how he almost ruined Easter at his church several years ago. They tried something very experimental, but it lacked the basic truth that hope comes through Jesus’ resurrection. Big weekends at churches, like Easter and Christmas, are times to avoid experiments.
  • Do something your congregation can trust. As churches, Christmas is a time where we want people to invite their friends. But if your church does something outside the box every year, can your members trust that what you’re going to do isn’t going to embarrass them in front of their friends? There needs to be some level of consistency and familiarity from year to year so people are comfortable inviting people to join them at a Christmas service. 
  • Find something that’s sustainable. Oftentimes at Christmas we go big and do extra work to make our holiday service something amazing. That’s great. Christmas is a special time. But also remember the weeks that follow it. Will people who visited on Christmas be disappointed that the rest of your services aren’t anywhere close to being as impactful or well done? Consistency is important. Think of ways you can make Christmas special, but also something that isn’t disconnected from what you do week-to-week the rest of the year.
  • Remember the joy. Christmas is an upbeat time. Scripture talks about Jesus’ birth being good news of great joy. Yes, the holidays can be tough for people, but churches have an opportunity to inspire and give hope. Don’t create a Christmas experience that’s a downer.

How do you balance creativity and familiarity at Christmas?

Filed under: Communications, Holidays, Christmas, Creative Process, Worship Service

About the Author

Jerod Clark

Jerod joined ReFrame Media in 2007 and built Church Juice from scratch. He poured all his passion for branding, marketing, and messaging into the ministry, publishing e-books, blog posts, and speaking at conferences to help churches energize their communications. He also served as ReFrame’s in-house graphic designer. Before beginning his work at Church Juice, Jerod was a local TV news reporter. In 2016, Jerod stepped away from the ministry to pursue interests in marketing and communications on new horizons.

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Comments (1)

  • Titus Curtis
    4:31 PM
    Fri, Oct 26, 2018

    I’ll be the first to admit that I love creative elements…especially around the holidays. I mean, let’s face it…the opportunities to engage peoples imagination around Christmas time are endless.  So how do I balance creativity and familiarity?  I make sure that they’re woven together without jerking people around.  I make sure transitions are smooth, seamless, and move from one element or segment to another in a way that follows a train of thought, or progression of an idea.  Creativity just for the sake of creativity will always come off disjointed and disingenuous.  I try to make sure that my creative elements serve a purpose; that they point back to, clarify, and enhance a theme that’s already being established with the familiar (instead of just being thematic).  I also make sure to assess my audience.  Will there be young adults present?  How about families with young children?  Is this an outreach event, or primarily our regular attenders?  These are all questions to consider when planning creative and familiar elements.  It’s not one size fits all.  Last, if I’m looking for participation from a crowd, I try to err on the side of the familiar.  Think of how you feel when you go to a concert of your favorite artist.  The entire venue goes nuts when the band plays songs from albums that came out years ago.  How about when they want to introduce a new song during the concert?  In my experience, the entire vibe of the venue shifts toward disengagement.  That’s why bands and acts are super careful to mix just a little unfamiliar in with a bunch of familiar.  We all could take a page from that cue book around the holidays.

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