The Christmas season is just around the corner and it’s one of the best times of the year to reach unchurched people. I even think Christmas Eve is more important than Easter when it comes to reaching unchurched people. People attend worship on Easter because it’s the thing to do- or it used to be. But when people attend worship on Christmas Eve something is probably going on in their lives that has driven them to your door. So the following suggestions will help you connect with those people.
Focus Christmas Eve on the Guests
Too many Christmas Eve services are designed for the members of the church. You can tell because it has a family atmosphere and their might not even be a message. And worst of all, no follow up has been built into the service. So when designing the services, make sure you focus on the needs of the guests. That means they need to see that night a glimpse of what they will see if they return on a Sunday. That means your best message and music of the entire year. And please don’t do the “Lessons and Carols” service. Use the same music venue you use on a normal Sunday. If you have more than one style of worship then have different styles of worship on Christmas Eve and make sure the guests know there are always options in the style of worship (put it in the worship folder).
Choose the Best Hours
Drop or deemphasize the eleven o’clock service. The only people who attend then are long term members. It’s too late for families with children. We know that the best hours are (and in this order, all are PM) 7:00, 5:00, 9:00, 3:00, and 11:00. The more children you have in your church the more important 3:00 and 5:00 become. But by all means have a 7:00 service.
A Good Time to Raise Money
Christmas is a good time to raise some extra money for things that you aren’t going to be able do without additional money ( of course, this year may be different due to the recession). So we developed a month-long program called “The Living Christmas Tree.” We bought a 30ft fake tree that looked real and put thousands of lights on it.
On the first Sunday evening of Advent we had a hanging of the green party lead by the youth. The two weeks prior, all of the children in Sunday School made Christmas ornaments. That night the youth helped the children hang their ornaments (they had made extra ornaments for the guest’s children. While the children were hanging their ornaments the parents placed their offering under the tree. Each Sunday during Advent, as the offering grew, we would light another portion of the tree starting at the bottom of the tree. The offering goal was usually equal to an additional month of income. We did this for more than a decade and each year the excitement grew. Most of my church was Baby Boomers and I know this works with them. I don’t know if it will work with the under 35 crowd.
The following site has several suggestions for raising money http://www.fundraiserhelp.com/church-fundraiser-ideas.htm .
A Good Time to Advertize
Everyone opens every Christmas card even if it comes from a company. Don’t know why; they just do. So every year, beginning in September, we paid our youth to hand address 20,000 to 25,000 Christmas cards that we created. Then about two weeks prior to Christmas Eve we mailed the cards out with an actual stamp instead of bulk mail. We used a real stamp for two reasons: One, people are assured of opening the Christmas card; and two, you never know when the Post Office will get around to mailing bulk mail.
I just received this from Fellowship Church in Dallas.
“We’re putting together a mixed-media marketing campaign including promotional packs for local businesses, car antenna balls, a direct mail send out, and something we’ve never tried before. We’re printing vibrant t-shirts featuring our Christmas service information and giving them away to our entire church to wear throughout their Christmas shopping, with an emphasis on one specific shopping day. Seeing 20,000 Fellowship Church t-shirts throughout the Dallas/Ft. Worth area is a great way to start a conversation and invite someone to our Christmas services!
A Great Service Project
Setting up a booth in a major mall and offering free gift wrapping is a great way to connect with shoppers during the season. Of course on every package we would attach an easily removable note that invited them to one of our Christmas Eve services.
Great Christmas Series
Most people will spend less money this Christmas due to the recession. In fact, some 10% percent of the population won’t have a job so they won’t have any excess money to spend. So why not do a series on “How to Have A Great Christmas with No Money.” You could use the Beatitudes as the gifts that don’t cost money.
Or you could “Finding Peace in the Recession” and use John 14:27. Stress is a big item this Christmas- stress of not having a job, not having enough money to buy the kind of presents one is accustomed to, not finding any quiet time, etc.
Ideas for Children and Youth
For ideas on how to involve youth go to http://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/humorfun/funnystories/12.58.html
For ideas on how to involve children go to http://www.childrensministry.com/article.asp?ID=496
Whatever You Do Include Joy and Hope
This year, more than in a long time, people need to have fun at Christmas and experience the joy and hope that is always heard in the Christmas story. So whatever you do make sure it has huge doses of joy and hope.