5 Ways to Engage the Unchurched in Your Community This Christmas

5 Ways to Engage the Unchurched in Your Community This Christmas

Christmas is one of the three holidays that bring the most non-Christians to your church. Your congregation feels more comfortable inviting their unchurched friends and family because it’s a major service, and since the gospel is an intrinsic part of the holiday (and they want to maximize time with loved ones), non-Christian members of your community are more willing to visit your church.

In fact, for many unchurched people, attending a service during the holidays helps to rekindle nostalgia associated with the holiday. Many of them actually want to go to church because that makes the holiday feel complete.

But Christmas is also the perfect time to get out in your community and show people what your church is all about. Not only will that maximize the number of unchurched people who visit your church, but it can also help build meaningful relationships with non-believers who may never set foot on your campus.

Here are five ways to engage non-Christians in your community.

1. Facilitate a toy drive

Serving the poor in your community is an aspiration that Christians and non-Christians alike can rally behind—especially during the holidays. It’s also a Christian mandate. By hosting a toy drive, you’re providing an outlet for your church’s generosity.

It may seem insignificant next to feeding and clothing the homeless, but a toy drive is a great way to serve low-income families, and it provides multiple opportunities for church members and others in your community to participate. People can purchase toys from the store or serve on the other end, volunteering to help distribute toys, wrap gifts, etc.

2. Partner with a secular charity

It probably wouldn’t take you long to create a list of non-Christian organizations who are doing work you can support. Some of them probably even parallel work you’re doing through your ministries. Partnering with them would be a great way to build relationships with their staff and the people they serve. You could coordinate to plan a shared event, or simply ask how they need support and then flood them with volunteers and help.

3. Support school staff

For school staff, the holidays are like half-time: it’s a much-needed moment to recharge and regroup before they get back out there to keep serving kids in your community. This is a great time to honor the hard work they’ve done by affirming them with encouragement or blessing them with gifts. If you need help coming up with ideas, ask your district office what would be most meaningful to your local school staff, and consider focusing on the particular school or schools that need the most support.

4. Go Christmas caroling

Some people can’t stand Christmas music—usually because someone they know plays it all year round. But for many people, listening to Christmas classics is one of the most delightful parts of the holiday season. It’s nostalgic. It’s expected. And it plays a key part in the seasonal ambiance.

That’s what makes Christmas caroling so special. Not everyone wants a bunch of strangers showing up to sing at their front door, but most people enjoy listening to carolers in public places, like the mall, and on street corners. But you could also use this as an opportunity to bless the elderly in your community by sending carollers to retirement homes and elder care facilities. Think of the people and places that could use the gift of song most, and make sure your church has a presence there.

5. Host a community meal

Like Thanksgiving, Christmas is a time when families and friends get together to share meals. But not everyone has friends, family, or food to celebrate the holidays with. Your church can bless the lonely and less fortunate in your community by hosting a meal that’s open to the public. If you specifically want to use this opportunity to reach unchurched people, consider hosting in a community space that isn’t associated with your church.

Be the hands and feet of Jesus

For Christians, Christmas is about the incarnation. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). The Christmas story has so saturated our culture that this is one of the easiest times to share the gospel with those who have never heard it before. It’s also a great time to live out the gospel as a church. However you choose to do it, we hope you’ll make the most of this opportunity to engage the unchurched.

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Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson has been a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for nearly a decade. He writes in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his wife and twin boys.