5 Positives for the Church after the Coronavirus Crisis

By | Christians, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization | No Comments

I think there are some positives for the church that will come through this Coronavirus crisis. 

Yes, there are tremendous negatives. The costs are mounting. Almost everything we currently count, other than online engagement, will likely be a loss for weeks and perhaps months to come. Budgets, attendance, and even volunteer hours will likely all be somewhat lower, simply because our routines have been disrupted.

That’s disheartening in many ways, just to be honest. Many pastors have worked for years to build to the place they are today; especially heading into the Easter season. 

Likely, in many ways, things will never be the same.

I’m not one who says nothing will ever be the same. I think we have a Biblical mandate to gather together as a church. Size isn’t dictated, but corporate worship is a command. Things might be altered, especially temporarily, but I think we will see people in our church buildings again someday. 

But some things will change for the foreseeable future. And the good news is that some of those changes will be positive. 

5 Positives for the Church after the Coronavirus Crisis: 

Crisis will allow change to happen faster. Churches have had to move fast in these days to make decisions. Even as an interim pastor in church revitalization, I’ve had to make some calls quickly before I could “get everyone on board”. No one has complained. In fact, people have been very appreciative recognizing that decisions needed to be made.

Of course, people will be people and power struggles will remain, but I suspect we will come out of this with far less concern with structure and more concerned with seeing the mission of the church succeed. This may be the day revitalization and church mergers happen even faster. Our buildings may be seen as more of an asset to reach our community than facilities for our own comfort and convenience. 

For churches willing to embrace this new reality we may be better able adapt and reposition quickly to meet the changing needs of our communities. 

Online and digital engagement will remain strong. Churches would be foolish to completely leave this opportunity after it’s no longer a necessity. I would even contend that it is necessary. We have had to do some things during this crisis that we should have been doing all along – reaching people where they already are. 

People are already online. They were before the crisis. They will be after it’s over. We have a mandate to “Go”. If we want to reach people we will have to “go” where they are. 

What we measure will change. Already, to measure our effectiveness as a church, we’ve started to place more emphasis on digital engagement, for example. This was not a church that necessarily measured that sort of thing. When you begin to value online metrics there are so many areas to consider. Facebook Live, website involvement, Zoom participation, and online reach are just a few of them. 

I realize a number of churches were doing this, but the church I am in now never paid attention, for example, that there were people engaging with the church from Romania. Or that a sizable number regularly watch services from places like Atlanta (300 miles away). New opportunities may present themselves when we look at different variables of engagement. 

No doubt we will still count the offering and the Sunday attendance, but I think we won’t see those as exclusive measures. Digital giving will be important even to the smallest churches. And, while it may still not be the preferred or most effective option, online participation will be seen as a legitimate means of making disciples. 

Human relationships will be valued more. You can’t replace a hug or a handshake virtually. I’m an introvert and it was into week two when I realized how much I missed interactions with people – beyond virtual. 

This is reminding us as a society that we are built for community. I love all the stories from places like Italy or New York where people are finding ways to engage outside their windows, even while social distancing. I wonder if we might go back to more front porches on our houses rather than decks hidden behind fences in our back yards. 

The church has an opportunity to build genuine community better than any organization. It’s part of our original design. May we never again confuse the simplicity of this basic human need for relationships with structured programs or traditions. 

Additionally, churches are coming together for their communities. Perhaps this will continue and some of the walls between churches in our communities will be lowered and we will do more together to truly be the Body of Christ in our communities.

Talking about faith will be more culturally acceptable. People have needed hope more in the last few weeks than in recent memory. The Church has the corner on providing a sense of faith and hope. 

I’ve seen less shaming online for people expressing their faith. I’m sure it’s still there, but it seems less prevalent in the feeds and posts I’ve encountered. I think we have been given a unique opportunity as a Church to truly live what we believe even more boldly than we may have in recent years. This could be our finest hour to let our lights shine. 

Those are just a few initial thoughts I’m processing. I naturally try to look for the positives. I know God has guaranteed His Church a place in our society. May we come through this crisis with that place more defined, at least in our minds, than before the crisis began. 

7 Ideas To Feel Productive During Quarantine and Social Distancing

By | Christians, Family | No Comments

Many people are stuck at home during this Coronavirus pandemic. For the first week or so it might be fun. After a week or more, some will become stir crazy. It may require discipline not to lose patience with the situation. 

When much of life is out of our control, it is often therapeutic to focus on some things you can control. 

I previously posted some ideas to help with children – especially elementary aged

Here are 7 ideas of things you may be able to do at home.

Write letters to your family. I’ve written before about one of the best gifts I ever received was a Bible from my grandmother when I was about 20 years old. The Bible was my first study Bible. I loved the Bible, but the best part was the handwritten letter she placed inside of it. I still have it today. 

Journal your thoughts during this period. You’ll look back some day and this will just be another memory. It will be interesting then to see how you are feeling and what you are experiencing now. (Some of these may even turn into a blog or social media post and be encouraging to others.) 

Make a checklist of activities around your home. Complete them one by one. Organize the closet you’ve been meaning to do for years. Rearrange the furniture. Clean the windows. Organize pictures. You don’t have to do all of them immediately, but making progress on something will make you feel productive. Just do something. 

Make a list of things you are thankful for. We used to do this every year at Thanksgiving as a family. We would each list our “top 10” things. It’s good to remind ourselves there are blessings in our life. 

Call friends you haven’t seen in years. Try calling someone you haven’t talked with in a while. Perhaps a childhood friend. (You may have to stalk them first on Facebook and message them for their number.)

Learn something new. There are apps where you can learn a new language. (What if you only learned a few words?) Explore your genealogy online. If you’re computer savvy at all you could even learn a new skill that could become an income stream – such as coding or graphic design. 

Record all the questions of Jesus from the Gospels. Go through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and look for question marks for the words written in red. I’ve done this twice and it’s powerful. Jesus asked the best questions. 

Share some other ideas in the comments. I may add some of them to this post – and give you credit.

5 Practical Steps to Managing a Stressful Period

By | Christians, Church, Faith, Fear, Prayer | No Comments

I realize anxiety is high for all of us. I have a “system” I have used over the years when I’m in an especially stressful season. It is a sort of therapeutic exercise that seems to work for me.

As I type this the current stressor in all our life stems from the COVID-19 Coronavirus. That virus has caused strains on our economies, relationships, calendars and even personal care products. Who knows how long this will last?

God is in control, but you may need some practical ways to navigate these days. Again, this has worked for me.

Here are 5 practical steps to managing a stressful period:

Get a set of index cards. Write what you are most concerned about in life right now on the cards. Put only one concern per card but use as many cards as necessary. Everything you’re concerned or worried about goes on a card.

There is something cleansing about writing out your concerns. Again, it is a therapeutic exercise. (Insider information—you’ll find some of the things don’t merit a card once you must write them.)

Place cards in front of you. After you’ve completed your cards, lay them face up on a table in front of you. This is a bare-your-soul moment. You may feel a bit overwhelmed at this point.

Analyze. How real is this concern? Can you fix it? Are there practical things you can do to address the concern. In this current scene, you may need to limit your exposure to people. You may need to review your budget. Do the best you know how to do. 

After you know what you can and can’t fix, share them with God. He knows them already—better than you—but do it anyway. It is freeing to give your burdens to your Creator.

Pray. Pray something like this: “God, this is what I have before me, which I can’t handle. I’m asking You as my Father, who loves me more than I can imagine, to give me direction, success, wisdom, patience, and understanding in every area of my life. Lead me along the path You would have for me. I’m trusting completely in You. If this season is a success in my life, it will depend on You. I love You Lord. In Jesus name, Amen”.

Rest in God’s hands. Once I’ve left my concerns in God’s hands I must trust Him with them. This may need to be a daily practice. It could even need to be hourly for a while.

This is not a formula. And it won’t necessarily take care of deep or dark emotional issues. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. But if you have the normal stress of life, I’ve tried this for years and have always found it helpful.

By the way, I didn’t invent this system. I got this practice years ago by reading the story of Hezekiah in 1 Kings 19.

12 Ideas to Help Young Families Endure the Lockdown of COVID-19

By | Children, Christians, Church, Encouragement, Family, Parenting | One Comment

Our boys are grown. Cheryl and I enjoy empty-nesting. I remember a few times when the boys were little that we were stuck at the house and couldn’t go anywhere for a period of days. 

There was an ice storm. Times when we had no electricity in our town. And there were a number of times one of the boys was too sick to get out of the house. 

We had to improvise to find fun things to entertain the boys – and us. 

I have a suspicion there are many families in this scenario with the COVID-19 crisis. Who knows how long many will be stuck in their home? 

I see my role as a pastor to help families. I spent some time brainstorming things families could do together – especially families with younger children who have a harder time entertaining themselves. 

Here are 12  ideas you can do at home to hopefully pass the time and enjoy each other. 

Get out all your old picture albums. Discuss when the pictures were taken and tell stories you remember about those times. 

Build a life map for every member of the family. Include critical moments, spiritual markers, funny stories and hard times. This may especially be good for elementary students, but I think high school students could even enjoy it.  This could be a great way for parents to share their legacy with children. 

Play a FaceTime game with grandparents or elderly people in the church. You may have to coach them through it on the phone, but this would be a way to spend quality time with people you miss and love. 

Write and make an original movie with your phone camera as a family. Dress in costumes. Share it online. Who knows? It might become a hit and go viral. It could also be entertainment for the rest of us waiting out this crisis. 

 Make a collage of things you want to do when this is over. Find pictures in old magazines or just draw them. Do you want to go to your favorite restaurant, to the beach, or even on a cruise? 

Spend time dreaming about the future. Where Do you hope to travel someday? What would be a dream vacation? Let children share what they would want to do vocationally someday? Where would they want to live? What will their family be like? 

Discuss your family’s genealogy. Talk about relatives they may have never met. What are unique stories about your family? How is the father’s family different than the mother’s family? 

Parents, tell stories from your childhood. Share some funny things you did. When is a time you got into trouble? Who was your favorite teacher? What was your favorite class and why? Share what you liked to play and talk about some of your best friends. 

Trace the story of the Bible. Google if you need to, but cover the major highlights from the Creation to the coming of Christ. (This one may require some research on your part, but it would be a learning experience for the whole family.) 

Decorate the house for Christmas. Why not? You might be inside a while. You could watch Christmas movies and sing carols. Let it remind you of fun times to come. 

Do an Easter Egg Hunt. It’s almost Easter. If you don’t have eggs – improvise. You could even just do a scavenger hunt. Hide items in the house and have fun looking for them. Be sure to share the real story of Easter.

Build a tent. You can build inside or, if weather allows outside. Pretend you are campaign out. Maybe even pack a picnic. Let everyone plan their own meal. 

Bonus: Plant something outside and watch it grow over the next few weeks. Take pictures or a video every few days to compare the progress.

Feel free to share some of your own ideas in the comments. I may add some of them to this post. 

Let’s get through this together! God bless you. 

5 Actions that May Combat Worry and Anxiety

By | Christians, Church, Culture, Encouragement | No Comments

Worry is like a plague to our body. It attacks our mind, then our heart, and over time, it can consume our overall health. Continuous worry leads to a state of anxiety, where you rarely have periods of the day when you aren’t worried.

Wouldn’t it be great to never worry again?

I’m not sure this is humanly possible – although Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life.” How good are you at obeying that verse?

I can’t imagine either why Jesus would give a command He wouldn’t fully allow us to obey. But He commanded a lot of other things I’m not perfect at either.

So, I’m still much a work in progress when it comes to eliminated worry and anxiety from my life.

I know this, however, part of maturing as believers should mean we begin to worry less.

Let me share a few things I’ve learned, which may help.

Here are 5 actions to combat worry and anxiety:

Pray more.

It’s a trade-off. You can pray or you can worry, but you can never really do both at the same time. Which would you rather do?

Seems to be a reasonable trade. How amazing is it the Creator of sunsets wants to have a conversation with me? Worry seems to be a cheap substitute in this regard.

Do wise things.

As a believer, sin is always going to cause my inner conscience to feel guilty – which usually translates quickly into other emotions, such as doubt, worry and eventually anxiety. When I know I’m doing the best I can to be obedient to God’s commands the relationship with Him is stronger and my heart is freed of needless worry.

But this also involves taking care of ourselves physically, socially and emotionally. It means we need to eat right, exercise, and limit exposure to negative influences – which might include people who are constantly negative. Our environment helps determine our attitude. If the actions we are taking are leading to more anxiety then it makes sense that we need to change our actions. Sometimes the best thing I can do when I start to worry is go for a walk, pray, and clear my mind.

By the way, one wise thing may be asking for help when you need it.

Fill our minds carefully.

Of course, I’d recommend reading the Bible. I think followers of Christ should read it everyday. It’s where we find the hope, faith and trust spelled out for us by God Himself. But there are others things, which bring encouragement. It could be a good novel or something humorous.

For some people this may mean turning off the news and shutting down social media. It’s not that television or social media is necessarily bad, but I just don’t seem to find much which really encourages me these days.

The point is when we fill our minds with good things it crowds out some of the bad things.

Choose our thoughts strategically.

The Apostle Paul said to think about these things – “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.” (Philippians 4:8) It isn’t even enough what we fill our minds with if we don’t carefully place our thoughts in the right directions.

I always ask myself: Why worry about what I can’t control? And why worry about what might happen when I can choose to think about good things which are happening? Lots of good things occur everyday – when I choose to think about them.

Trust more.

This is the key to worrying less and ultimately having less anxiety. The more I trust the less I worry. This is true in so many scenarios. It could be flying in a car, riding in a car with someone, or taking a doctor’s advice. The more I trust the less I worry.

As a believer, I can step up my faith, because I know God is on His throne. He has a plan and He will do what is best. Every time! And the key to trusting Him more is simple. I have to spend more time with Him And get to know Him better. Like any healthy relationship it grows stronger with time and effort. The more you know God the more you will love and trust Him. 

This is not a script or a recipe to rid your life of worry or anxiety. I think it will help. But there are times we all need professional help. Don’t be afraid to seek it when you do. In my experience, these five things help me combat much of my worries if I will practice them daily.

7 Suggestions to Help Your Children Deal With Fear

By | Christians, Church | 3 Comments

Sickness. Violence. Economy. Weather. Political divisions.

Tragedy is on the news every night and all throughout the day. We talk about it at the dinner table. And, as fun and engaging as it can be, we can thank social media for keeping us constantly informed of all the bad things happening in our world.

As I type this the Coronavirus is one of the leading news stories. Someone said fear is spreading faster than the virus.

And it doesn’t only impact us. It impacts our children.

Our children are not immune from fear. In an Information Age hey know what we know – filtered through their childlike mind.

Childhood can naturally be a scary time of life, but especially these days. We should never diminish a child’s fear or the impact the news of the day is having on them. It may even be totally irrational fear – something you know is completely impossible — but it’s very real to them.

How should a parent or teacher address a child’s fear?

Here are 7 thoughts to help children deal with fear:

Don’t assume their thoughts

Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what has happened or is happening that they don’t know about it or care. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it. Assure them there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid — even a recent time.

Limit their exposure

You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations more frequently. What are they covering right now? Remember children process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. Make sure there our times you turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance than their time with you.

Ask them questions

You may think children are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address their fear if you know the roots of them. Getting them to talk about what they are afraid of can help them learn to better rationalize and seek comfort and assurance from you.

Assure them they are safe

Let children know they are safe. Don’t lie to them or give them false assurance, but remember the chances of what they see on the news happening to them is rare — very rare. Remind them you will do anything to protect them. Show them ways you’ve already provided for their safety. (If crime is one of their fears, for example, let them help you lock the doors or turn on the alarm.) You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live a normal life as much as possible

As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to muster the faith to move forward.

Be calm around them

Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Our children need to see us walking by faith and trusting God. Watch what you say in front of them. Discuss the world events, and especially your fears of them, outside of their listening ears. Let the home be their “safe place”. (I also contend parents should rarely fight in front of kids, but especially during a time of uncertainty.) In scary seasons it’s good for parents to renew their own faith and their commitment to each other. Children often get their faith through parents.

Read them Scripture

Children need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word of God, which will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often. Help them memorize some. (When our boys were young we played Scripture music appropriate for their age. Steve Green’s “Hide ’em in Your Heart series was great for this. You can find them online.)

The Best Christmas Gift You Can Ever Give

By | Christians | No Comments

What’s the best Christmas present you can ever give?

Give words. Share the gift of words.

Words can harm. They can bruise a spirit and injure a soul. Some people spend years trying to recover from crushing words. Of course, I’m not talking about these kind of words. I’m talking about encouraging, affirming, life-giving words.

My Story

Years ago, when I was almost 18, and just about to graduate from high school, my grandmother gave me a Bible for Christmas.

It’s a great Bible. In fact, it was my first study Bible – a New American Standard, Ryrie Study Bible. I still have it and occasionally use it today. It was a quite expensive gift for her at the time.

But the greater part of the gift was a supplement to the book inside the Bible.

Inside she included these handwritten notes. Please understand, I know the words of the Bible are eternally more important than the words of my grandmother, but I have lots of Bibles. The words she wrote cannot be duplicated by anyone else.

She shared her heart, wrote Scripture which was important to her and encouraged me to live a life of value. In her note, she expressed her joy in being my grandmother.

It was the greatest part of the gift. The most valuable.

It was true then and it is true now. I’m 55 years old – almost 56 – and this is still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. 

I still have the Bible. The Bible could be replaced. I can’t replace the notes my grandmother wrote.

My grandmother died in 2013, a few months after my grandfather. She was my last remaining grandparent. As soon as I heard of her death, I went to that Bible – to read the notes she had written. I have read these notes 100’s of times since she first wrote them. I’m positive, Lord willing, I’ll read them 100 more.

The best Christmas gift ever- at least that a human can give – is to give the gift of words.

Who needs a letter from you this Christmas?

Maybe a child, a grandchild, a parent, a spouse, a friend. Write! Give. Bless.

10 Proverbs to Improve Social Media

By | Christians, Leadership | One Comment

These Proverbs Could Greatly Improve Social Media

If you are wise, you are wise for your own benefit; if you mock, you alone will bear the consequences. Proverbs 9:12

Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:13

A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked. Proverbs 11:11

Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a person with understanding keeps silent. Proverbs 11:12 

The one who searches for what is good seeks favor, but if someone looks for trouble it will come to him. Proverbs 11:27 

A fool’s displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible. Proverbs 12:16

There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18 

Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down, but a good word cheers it up. Proverbs 12:25

A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Proverbs 15:1 

Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent – discerning, when he seals his lips. Proverbs 17:28

Any you would add?

(All CSB Version)

Help For the Husband: Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

By | Christians, Encouragement, Leadership | One Comment

Maybe you’ve thought about Christmas for your wife, but you still have no clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

7 gift ideas for your wife this Christmas:

Make a coupon book

A date night a week – or a month – or make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit

She cares about you and who you are and what you do impact her. Perhaps you need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or, maybe it is the way you talk to her. Perhaps you are super critical of her or you talk down to her sometimes. You know its a bad habit, but you have just never improved. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly – or not so subtly – tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her. (Habits stick when repeated 4-6 weeks I am told.)

Give her the gift of you

To make any relationship strong takes time and commitment, but we all get distracted by life. Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? Maybe it is a golf club – one of yours – symbolizing you will give her more of your free time. Maybe it is access to the calendar on your phone. You know the distractions in your marriage. Give her the gift of time with you in the new year.

Open a savings account

Put $100 or $50 – whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it “future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Perhaps there is somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step this Christmas to make it happen someday. A great way to build relationships is to have something to dream about together.

One night in a nice Bed and Breakfast

Many men shy away from these, and many women do also, but for Cheryl and me, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Plan a gift together.

This is not for everyone. You know your wife. Some women have to have something to unwrap on Christmas. For Cheryl, she is just as satisfied if we are planning our Christmas giving together. We jointly agree to take a trip together as our Christmas gift to each other. We agree on something we want to buy for the house. This works for us. It might for you.

A trip away – in May

This is one of my best gift ideas. And, it does not have to be in May – just sometime later in the year. This isn’t as needed for us now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home. This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions leading up to the trip. When she was having an exceptionally stressful day she could remember – at least we were getting away tougher soon.

In addition, we could plan the trip at Christmas, but pay for most or all of it later – which helped stretch our Christmas budget. (To do this I would often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

The Reality

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now I should also encourage you to be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms.

Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

7 Thoughts For Pastors on Preparing For Christmas Services

By | Christians, Church | 3 Comments

As a pastor, I often told our staff that “Christmas is the new Easter”. It wasn’t something I could say as easily on Sunday morning without receiving the ALL CAP Monday morning emails. This requires a bit of an explanation.

Easter will always be the most important holiday for believers. Christianity is just a religion without the resurrection of Jesus. But in terms of reaching unchurched people – Christmas is the new Easter. From my experience, it appears easier to get people to attend at Christmas than it is on Easter Sunday.

Much of this has to do with the cultural implications we already deal with every Sunday. No longer is Sunday reserved as a day of rest from other activities. Going to the lake, attending a sporting event, or participating in traveling ball/dance is no longer taboo. 

Some of it has to do with the schedules of our church services. Typically, churches offer Easter services over a weekend. You could have a dozen services total. I’ve noticed churches starting their service offerings earlier in Easter week. (And I think that’s a good idea.) But regardless of the number you likely have them over a few days. Christmas-themed services can go from Thanksgiving through the New Year. (And if you want to follow the retail trend you can start decorating for Christmas in September!) 

Sadly, some of Christmas as the new Easter has to do with the message. Santa and Ho Ho Ho are more culturally acceptable at Christmas time than embracing the only One true God who got up from the grave.  (You can send me an ALL CAP email if you want, and I am certainly not agreeing with the culture on this, but it is true.) 

If this is true and Christmas is the new Easter in terms of reaching people who don’t regularly attend church, then our planning for Christmas must be more intentional than ever. 

I wanted to share a 7 thoughts with your church to consider. Many of these are things we did in our previous church. Some are derived from our experience over the last year or so sitting in the pews and visiting dozens of churches. 

My Suggestions

Recruit new volunteers. 

This one can potentially serve the church long after the Christmas celebration. You can onboard people easier during the Christmas season. Much like Easter, especially with vision-casting, church members will understand the need for new volunteers during a busier season. Use this as an advantage to get more people into key roles, but also as a discipleship tool knowing that people who serve are in a better position to be growing personally. 

Ask members to sacrifice. 

Christmas affords you a unique opportunity to ask your most committed people to serve in ways they may not otherwise. It is important to be fully staffed from the parking lot to the baby room. You will need extra greeters. People need to be willing to give up “their” seat for visitors. I personally believe you should always be thinking for your guests every Sunday. You should plan every detail you possibly can for them to experience excellence. In times where there are more visitors this is even more important. 

Pastors, this is an excellent time to vision-cast about the guest experience you want to create. Make it a big deal, because it is a big deal.

Let the story be the story. 

As a pastor, I felt so much pressure on the Christmas message. The fact that it is so well known and a part of the culture only adds to the pressure. My best advice is that you don’t have to find the new twist you’ve never shared. People watch Rudolph and Charlie Brown Christmas every year for a reason. “It’s a Wonderful Christmas” never gets old. The story of a baby, born to a Virgin, and laid in a manger is timeless. You don’t have to find something new. 

Share the gospel

I should have to say this. Hopefully, you don’t need that reminder, but with all the attention on the lights and tinsel, don’t forget to share the most important message of the year. A Savior has been born. He is Christ the Lord.

Share about the New Year. 

Find creative ways to talk about some of the things happening at your church; especially as you head into the new year. Help people understand the value regular church engagement offers them and their family. I always liked for the information we handed out to be unique from a regular bulletin. It’s nice if what people receive is big picture information about the church and our ministries at Christmas (and Easter). Visitors are more likely to read what you give them. 

Try to anticipate questions they may ask and answer them in what you hand to them. 

Christmas music. 

This was somewhat of a pet-peeve of mine. I’m sure our worship team felt my pressure here. But this is the time to sing Christmas music. I didn’t appreciate as much a service that offered songs we sang every Sunday and only one token Christmas song. 

I am not musical and have been told Christmas arrangements can be harder to put together and rehearse. This is not my area of expertise. I do know that culture actually helps us with this one. Where else can people sing Christmas music they know? They may actually sing Christmas carols they have known all their lives louder than any other time of year. Give them the opportunity even if it is simply a Christmas medley of favorites with little or no accompaniment. 

Plan good follow up.

If someone visits your church and takes time to give you information about them, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. The greatest return for visiting a church is often in the quality of the follow up after the service. People should hear from you. 

I personally like to give people options of how they want to be contacted and then obey their wishes. If they want a visit, someone needs to visit. But if they only want an email, then I would comply with their choice. But definitely let them know how much you appreciate them coming to your church.

Christmas is coming and, like most years, it seems to me like it got here sooner than last year. I pray as you prepare to meet people this Christmas that the joy of Christmas would be in your own heart and family. 

Please let me know any way we might serve you in the New Year! 

Merry Christmas!