For churches in North America, the Christmas season brings one of the largest audiences of the year. Knowing that we can count on higher than normal attendance, many of us choose to put in extra effort, time, energy, and resources for our Christmas services. Often, Christmas and Easter Sunday services feel like the church’s version of Superbowl Sunday. It can be tempting to pour in resources to make things bigger, better, and more memorable. But just adding resources without thinking about why can not only be wasteful, but also send unintended messages to those who visit. With these things in mind, let’s talk about planning for Christmas.
Keep things simple & authentic
Understandably, we want to take “special” Sundays and make them something to be remembered. We want to be over-the-top, extra-creative, and exciting (or at least more exciting than usual). I agree that we should take every opportunity we have to create a lasting impression and experience for guests. Taking that opportunity may allow us to share the gospel with someone we wouldn’t have the chance to otherwise. However, Christmas is an incredibly busy time. When people come to your church at Christmas—be it guests, members, or those twice-a-year attenders—they come expecting something. They want tradition, carols, warmth, and that chestnuts roasting over an open fire-type experience. So, be aware of this desire as you plan your service and as you think about creating your communication plan. Be creative as you design your materials, craft your messaging, and plan the Christmas service, but remember to keep things simple. And above all, remember who you are as a church. Don’t present yourself as a high-production church on Christmas with stage lights, a full praise band, and elaborate sets when the other 51 Sundays of the year you are a liturgical, hymn-singing congregation. Your guests will want to know what to expect if (and hopefully when) they return the following weekend.
Think about kids
When you prepare for your Christmas services, kids should be an important factor to consider. Will there be children’s classes or childcare? If yes, who will be leading these classes? If not, how will having the kids in the regular service affect what you do and how you do it? These are all important factors that should play into your overall service plan. Your regular volunteers will want, maybe expect, to be able to sit with their families. You will also have an influx of children with the added guest families in attendance. Those children and families will not know the normal check-in and classroom procedures. Be sure to have clear signage and even communicate childcare availability and services on whichever platforms you use to promote your Christmas service.
If you keep families together in the service, you may want to consider thinking about a shorter service than normal—maybe an hour in length. This will help parents not feel uncomfortable when their kids start to make noise or begin to squirm and fidget toward the end of service. You may also want to create something special for the kids while they’re in the service. A coloring or activity sheet and a small box of crayons can go a long way. Either way you decide to go, make sure that kids and guest families are at the forefront of your mind when planning the rest of the service.
A successful Christmas service can’t really adhere to the “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Many people are looking for a church to worship at during Christmastime, but how will they know about your service? It is essential to be intentional about inviting guests, marketing your special service, and having a plan in place. One of the most successful ways to get people to attend an event, program, or service, is through personal invitation. When creating your theme and designing materials, make sure to include an invitation card or other promotional item that your regular attenders can use to invite their family, friends, and neighbors to. Even in the era of social media and mass marketing, a face-to-face, personalized invitation from a friend or relative is still the most effective way to get guests into your building come Christmastime.
Be intentional about follow-up
Christmas will be great. You’ll have lots of guests attending. You’ll have a service with just the right balance of creativity and authenticity. And you’ll have a well thought-out plan for children. But one of the biggest mistakes you could make is to leave your planning there. Always be sure to think about follow-up first. Create a follow-up plan that thanks your guests for spending Christmas with you, encourages them to return, and helps answer any questions they may have. Give guests a reason to return. As part of your service, make sure that you tell them about the exciting new series that starts the following weekend, or a program that will be picking back up after the holidays. A lot of people will make resolutions to attend church more often; help encourage them to keep that resolution!
Christmas is a great season of joy, hope, and family tradition. While you’re in the planning stage for your upcoming Christmas services, keep these things in mind, and your service will be a successful opportunity to present the gospel and impact lives. Thinking through the details will help you deliver a quality experience for families, one that they will want to return for.