“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10b NIV).
Christmas is the good news of great joy for all people. Christmas should be a party — a birthday party for Jesus. It’s the reason we say, “Merry Christmas.”
So how do we as church leaders keep Christ in Christmas by creating a celebrative environment that attracts newcomers to our churches at Christmastime.
Here are some suggestions.
1. Give people tools to invite their friends and neighbors.
A lot of the guests at Christmas services will be there because someone invited them, so it’s a great time to encourage your people to make the extra effort to invite friends and family. Provide them with tools that include both digital and printed invitations with information about the upcoming Christmas activities and services. Use e-mail, Direct Messages, Twitter and Instagram blasts to generate a buzz with people, promoting your Christmas series and activities that culminates on Christmas Eve.
2. Preach an Advent message series.
A message series like “Christmas at the Movies” is a great way to appeal to unchurched people and church members alike. Showing clips from Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life help bring home the Advent messages of hope, joy, peace, and love. On any given December series, we would line the platform with poinsettias. During this “Christmas at the Movies” series we placed those potted poinsettia plants in popcorn tubs we got from our local movie theatre.
3. Get the word out
If you’re going to use advertising, Christmas and Easter are the days to do it. Local radio is not that expensive and don’t purchase ads on Christian radio stations or on the “church page of your local newspaper. Call your Christmas Eve services “A Community Christmas Eve Service” letting ll know they are welcome at your church.
4. Post an upbeat video to Meta (Facebook) and Instagram.
Record a video on your mobile device of you speaking directly to non-Christians about why there’s hope and how they can find it this Christmas Eve at your church. Boost it and then upload it to social media and ask people to share it.
5. Use your Christmas kids’ programming as an open door for new families to get involved.
Remember being in the Christmas play when you were a kid? I don’t remember the quality of our productions, but I do remember having fun. I also remember new kids (or kids we hadn’t seen all year) showing up.
Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes are also a great way to teach kids about giving at Christmas. Invite families to fill them up and put them under the Christmas Tree in the church lobby. Some people are more likely to come back to your church if they feel like they can make a difference by getting involved. Community service projects are great ways to attract these folks.
6. Don’t abandon Christmas Caroling.
This time gather some folks who love to sing and go out into the community and meet people you don’t know—don’t just visit people from your congregation. Make it a genuine outreach project like caroling at the mall or at the movie theatre before showtimes and hand out invitations for Christmas eve services at the same time.
7. Invest in yard signs.
Purchase yard signs (like the signs politicians use) and place them at strategic intersections. If you do them, keep the text on the sign to three lines max, or people will not be able to read it. Use the signs to promote Christmas eve services and you’ll be able to reuse the signs in coming years.
8. On Christmas Eve offer something for children.
Think through what kind of experience you can offer children. It doesn’t matter what parents think about the service if the kids have a lousy time. Have a special video for kids to watch at children’s church or if they remain in the Worship Center with their parents, have a short “time for kids” and show a kid friendly video that explains the real meaning of Christmas.
9. Be ready for extra people.
You want to make a great first = impression on guests every week, but it’s particularly important at Christmas. You can’t control how many guests you’ll get for special days, but you can control how well you prepare for them. Enlist more greeters and prepare them to engage guests and provide a warm welcome as people arrive. Set up information tables with campus maps and basic information about the church. Make it easy to find parking, restrooms, and childcare. Christmas is about giving gifts, so be sure to provide a nice gift to the guests you have joining you for the first time.
10. Follow up with your guests.
Have DM’s and emails ready to send out on the day after Christmas, welcoming the guests who gave you their contact info. Invite everyone to your next sermon series and tell them how they may possibly connect with a newcomer’s lunch. The email is also a great place to include any follow-up information from your Christmas service (maybe specific contact information for ministries you mentioned).
If you have a large crowd on Christmas, that’s great. But it’s not the end of the story. It’s really the beginning. How we follow up with guests makes a big difference in whether they’ll come back and eventually get more involved in our congregations.
11. Promote your next sermon series and other coming activities during Christmas Eve services.
Have you ever noticed how the broadcast networks relentlessly promote their other shows during big television events? It’s because they know they have a “captive” audience. People who are visiting your church for the first time will be more likely to come back if you get their attention. Give your January sermon series an interesting title focused on a need meeting topic, and preview it during Christmas Eve announcements. Don’t settle with doing the same candlelight service year after year. Remember, Christmas Eve is prime time.
12. Offer Christmas Eve services at times people want to attend.
For most people and especially unchurched Christians, a Christmas Eve service at a church is something they do in addition to what they already have planned. They decide if they can squeeze in a service between getting off work and going to Grandma’s house. We found that the best attended Christmas Eve service of the three we offered was at 3pm, then 4:30 and then 6pm.
For more tips on how to grow your church throughout the year check out my latest book on, Church Turnaround A to Z. on Amazon.