Rarely in church… except at Christmas

Group 236

by the Rev. Phil Hirsch

The single best opportunity to connect with new people all year may be Christmas. This article can help your congregation make the most of it. The 10 tips for positive impact are really good.


Many Christians lament the culture’s disregard of Christ at Christmas, but I choose to see Christmas as an opportunity. This is no time for the church to be more cynical than the world, which still remembers something is different at Christmas, even if they’re not exactly sure what it is. Our culture pauses for Christmas in a way it pauses for little else throughout the year. TV and film celebrate Christmas in all of its expressions. Almost everyone decorates for it. At Christmas, the Western world comes as close to stopping as it ever does. I’m not sure there’s a better time to connect with friends and neighbors who rarely, if ever, go to church.

1611christmaswelcomeThe biggest mistake many churches make each Christmas is to hold a quiet Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service for members and leave it at that. That makes Christmas the biggest missed opportunity of the year. Unchurched people want to celebrate Christmas. Here are ten ways your church can help them.

1. Hold multiple services

Not everyone can make it to your one service. Last year, we did five services over two days, December 23 and 24. Yes, those are long work days for staff and volunteers, but you can reap a harvest all year long from that investment.

2. Theme the event around the community, not around your church

For a few years now, we’ve called our Christmas Eve Services “Christmas Eve in Barrie” or “Christmas Eve in Orillia” (the cities in which we serve). Why? My theory is that’s how unchurched people think. They’ll be asking where they can celebrate Christmas in their city. Why shouldn’t your church be the one to help them figure that out? Chances are the URLs for ChristmasInYOURCITY.com are still available. Buy them today.

3. Hand out invitation cards

Make full color cards with details for people to hand to their friends. Last year we tied candy canes to the Instagram-like cards to make them easier to hand out to friends. It’s easier to invite a friend to something like Christmas than to a regular Sunday service.

4. Make posters

A few years ago we experimented with creating really beautiful posters advertising our Christmas Eve services. They popped up all over our cities in places like Starbucks, hockey arenas, community centers, and more.

5. Build a special Christmas website

Don’t just buy the URL address for your city; build a special site. Our team built two new websites last year for our two locations that are devoted only to Christmas Eve using our personalized URL addresses.

6. Use social media

If you don’t have the bandwidth to build fresh websites, do it for free using social media. Create a Facebook event or promoted posts. Use all your social media channels to get the word out. Encourage members to share with their friends. Last year we did a Photo Booth to create some fun Instagram moments with dressed up kids and people holding “Join us for Christmas Eve” signs.

7. Sell (free) tickets

Tickets, even free tickets, help create demand. They have also helped us manage fire code regulations. Eventbrite is an inexpensive and easy solution. Having tickets helps drive decisions and commitments to attending.

8. Love your community

Each year we focus on giving to our community through local food banks, raising money for local partner charities, and serving friends and family. It’s a way of not only giving back, but of capturing a community’s attention at a key time. A few years ago, our efforts made the front page of the local paper. Generosity makes an impression on unchurched people.

9. Invite them back

Every year, without sounding like a commercial (we hope), we invite people back for January. They get a card explaining the new sermon series and dates, times, and locations. We don’t usually have services the Sunday after Christmas, so we let them know that too. But we tell everyone they’re invited for the first Sunday in January. I know sending an invitation can sound basic, but you’re dealing with unchurched people. Unchurched people don’t know they’re invited unless you invite them. So invite them.

10. Plan a call to action

God’s grace is sovereign so God can do anything. But you need to do your part. Don’t let people walk away bored or with a big warm fuzzy. Challenge them. Almost every year, we give people an opportunity to surrender their lives to Jesus, and it’s amazing how many people do. For others, Christmas starts a journey for them that often ends with surrendering their lives to Christ.

* This article was originally posted on November 2, 2016. It is reprinted by permission from Leading Ideas, a free e-newsletter from the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary and available at churchleadership.com