It’s not too early to begin thinking about what you’re going to do to capitalize on the pagan holiday known as Christmas. Yes, you heard me correctly – Christmas is a pagan holiday. But contrary to what you might think, its status as a pagan holiday makes it an even more valuable evangelism tool than you think. Meeting unbelievers on their terms in familiar territory is the best way to connect with them.

One of the great sins of the church is turning Christmas into an in-house celebration when it’s one of the best evangelism nights of the year. Only 16% of the U.S. population is in worship on an average Sunday, whereas 47% of the U.S. population is in worship on Christmas Eve. That’s an evangelistic gold mine that needs to be mined by Christians.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, more people who attend Christmas Eve will return in the future than those who attend Easter services. So, it is possible to say, from an evangelism standpoint Christmas Eve is more important to the growth of your church and the Kingdom than Easter. It’s hard to believe that some churches don’t offer anything on Christmas Eve night.

So, when you plan for Christmas Eve, do you do it with the unchurched or your members in mind?

You can answer this question by answering some of the following questions:

1. Do you offer communion at each service?

2. Do you have a “lessons and carols” service?

3. Do you fail to have a sermon that night?

4. Do you fail to have your best choir or band at the service?

5. Do you choose to do nothing Christmas Eve because you want to be home with your family?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these, unless you’re Catholic, and even if you’re Lutheran or Episcopalian, you’re not thinking about the unchurched on the night of Christmas Eve. You want Christmas Eve night to be unchurched-friendly and as close to what you do on a normal Sunday as possible, only better. You want people to see what they would miss if they didn’t return the following Sunday. But, you want it to be unchurched friendly. You want them to feel comfortable enough to hear a dangerous gospel.

So, what should you do?

Prepare your best sermon of the year. This may be the only shot you get at a person. Make sure the message is biblically based, but also based on some felt need of the public. You might even want to start a sermon series on Christmas Eve and invite people to return next Sunday.

Have your best music. Don’t make the mistake of allowing your choir to take Christmas Eve off. And if you have a band, make sure it is the best band of the year.

Have your best hospitality. Go out of your way to make your guests feel at home and welcome. Greet them in the parking lot; shake hands with them as they enter. Welcome them in worship without embarrassing them.

Don’t offer Communion, even if you’re Lutheran or Episcopalian, unless you are Catholic. Communion is a special time for Christians and an uncomfortable time for non-Christians. Communion was meant for Christians, and to do it on Christmas Eve is shows that you put the wishes of Christians to those of non-Christians.

Have your best parking lot team in play. Guests often show up late and may have a problem finding a parking space.

Do whatever you can to have people register their attendance. Don’t just mention it; take time to point out the card and say to them, “When the offering plate is passed put your attendance card in the plate instead of money. You’re our guest today.”

Follow up on those who do register within 48 hours. Here is what we recommend. One, send them a FedEx package with a short CD introducing the pastor and his or her spouse as well as printed material about the ministries of the church and how visitors can plug in. On Tuesday send a handwritten note or email with an invitation to hear next week’s sermon and include the title. If they have children or youth, send their information to whomever is responsible for children and youth. Get back to them every time they return and sign in.

Send out Christmas cards to as many homes in the area as you can afford inviting them to attend and hear your message. Tell them they can come as they are. Have your youth start hand-addressing the envelopes in September so they are ready to go and use a first-class stamp to ensure everyone opens the Christmas card.

So start now on your sermon for Christmas Eve and line up your musicians and hospitality teams to ensure you are guest-friendly on Christmas Eve. Do what you can to secure enough money to send out a first-class mailing to every household in your ministry area.

Question: What else would you suggest churches do to ensure the most visitor-friendly Christmas service possible? Share your ideas in the Comments section below.