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.
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.
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!