I’m an American serving as a lead pastor at a great church in Canada after serving over 30 years in the U.S. Canada is a great place to live and minister and I’m learning how to leverage key outreach events. Christmas Eve is by far the most attended service of the year, even surpassing Easter. This year Christmas Eve falls on Saturday which means Christmas Day falls on Sunday. As a staff we’ve spent considerable time planning how to maximize Christmas outreach. You might want to consider some of these ideas.
How to Maximize Christmas Outreach at Your Church
1. Provide multiple services.
Our church is one church with three unique language services. In addition to English, we offer a Spanish service and a Mandarin service, all at the same time on Sundays. We’ve tried doing a Christmas Eve multi-lingual service. We found, however, that some English speakers opted out of coming on Christmas Eve. This year we are offering four different services, three at 5 p.m. (English, Chinese and Spanish) and one at 7 p.m. (English only). Although we probably could cram all the English speakers into one service (our auditorium seats 800 and we have space for the Spanish and and Mandarin service in other areas), parking would be an issue. And, multiple services provides options for families with special family gatherings on Christmas Eve.
2. Pay special attention to families with kids.
This year for the first time we are providing a kids program through grade 2 during the 5 pm service. We usually include all kids in the service, but during the last two years we’ve had some screamers and runners which made it difficult to keep people’s attention. We are also providing two options for families on Christmas Day. We will hold our regular 10:30 a.m. service, although shorter and with no childcare. We also will provide packets of materials for parents who may want to have a family service at home on Christmas Day instead of coming to the church facility. We will make those available the Sunday before Christmas and at our Christmas Eve service.
3. Distribute invite cards.
The past several years we’ve designed an attractive card that we mail to our community and put into the hands of our attenders two weeks prior. We encourage everyone to invite one to three friends using the invite card.
4. Do a live nativity.
Our children’s ministry holds a live nativity in front of our building on Christmas Eve. That may sound old school, but people from the community actually come just for that. They and their kids visually see the Christmas story. We hire a company that provides live animals. The company also brings some smaller animals kids can pet. The highlight last year was a baby kangaroo. We even provide a petting zoo on Easter which is a huge draw. Kids (and adults) love animals.
5. Design a special bulletin.
Each Sunday we hand out a standard format bulletin which highlights events at the church. But for Christmas Eve we design a bulletin targeted to the unchurched attender. We highlight programs and ministries that might interest them.
6. Promote a felt-need sermon series.
In the U.S. I never saw many returnees to our felt-need series after Christmas Eve. However, some pastors in Canada say that they’ve seen unchurched people return to such a series. We’re going to try that this year.
7. Recruit a special greeter team.
We use regular greeters and ushers each Sunday. Those greeters and ushers will be on duty Christmas Eve as well. But this year we are recruiting a special team of greeters who will wear a shirt that says “Ask Me” on it. Their sole purpose is to mingle in the atrium to meet new people and to be available for questions new folks may have about our church.
8. Begin Christmas planning in September.
If you are just now planning Christmas, you may not have enough time to implement some of these suggestions. In the past couple of years it seemed that Christmas simply slipped up on us. Now, however, we have visually scheduled onto our staff wall calendar to begin planning for Christmas each September. We are in great shape for this year.
What innovative things are you doing this year as you prepare to reach out this Christmas?