Next to Easter, Christmas is your church’s opportunity to attract the largest number of visitors. As people anticipate the holiday and its traditions and festivities, they’re more open to visiting a church and hearing the gospel message.
While some of those visitors may have never attended a church service, many of them have. In fact, they’ve probably sat through a lot of Christmas-themed services—so you don’t want to simply go through the motions. You want to honor the creativity God showed in the incarnation by putting together a thoughtful and original series of Christmas services.
Unlike Easter, you’re not just pouring all of your time and resources into one service. You want to pull the four Advent Sundays and Christmas into one cohesive and powerful experience.
If you’re not planning these five services by the end of July, you’ll end up settling for a been-there-done-that Christmas experience.
Here are a few specific areas your staff should focus on:
1. Children’s ministry
You might think that deciding on the sermon series or seasonal theme should be first on your to-do list, but I’d disagree. Most churches want their children’s ministry included in the Christmas services. The earlier you decide how they’ll be involved, the more time they’ll have to prepare.
Too often, the children’s participation in Christmas services is decided with only a week or two of preparation. This inevitably leads to service elements that are chaotic and not very inspiring to anyone but the parents.
The earlier you can decide how they’ll be involved the better. This gives the children’s ministry staff time to devote to practicing in a way that doesn’t completely take over their entire ministry for weeks at a time. They get to rehearse more with a lot less interruption to their regular schedule.
So decide early whether the kids will be doing a Christmas pageant, choir, special music, or series of skits—then start focusing on the specific content.
Timeline: By July 31, you should know how the kids will be involved. This gives your children’s ministry director time to plan out a practice schedule. By August 15, they should have the content (songs, scripts, etc.) in their hands.
2. Sermon series
It’s likely that your seasonal theme will be built around your Christmas sermon series, so you really want to get this locked down as soon as possible. The earlier you get started, the more people you can include in brainstorming something really special. One reason a lot of churches end up with uninspiring Christmas services is that the sermon series is chosen in a vacuum.
This is one time of year it’s good to pull your staff together, discuss the incarnation, and throw out creative ways to approach the material. This gives good ideas an opportunity to become great ideas!
As soon as you’re able to come to a clear decision on what and how you want to communicate across the five services, you can start putting the other service elements together.
Timeline: Getting this pinned down early is important. Plan to have a series decided on by the first week of August.
3. Music and worship elements
When you start planning early enough, you have time to assemble worship elements that add depth to your services. This allows you to add new or special music in a way that bolsters and supports the overall theme, instead of being thinly related elements.
It also gives you enough time to pull together components that you’ve hoped to try but never had the time. Have you always wanted to pull together a special Christmas choir? Now you have opportunity to do so, and by the time Christmas rolls around, they’ll be glorious.
By planning early, you can also create a more interactive worship experience. This could include creating in-house responsive readings, lining up dynamic prayer times, and even planning ways to make your worship environment serve your services with thoughtful set design and lighting decisions.
Timeline: You want to get started on this as soon as the sermon series is mapped out, but it’s probably going to evolve over time. Plan to have these elements mapped out by the second week of August (although the content and set pieces don’t need to be created until mid-October).
4. Marketing plan
You don’t want to put all of this work into services that aren’t well attended. Thankfully, you’re putting the pieces together early enough to get a good marketing plan in place.
First, you want to decide how you’ll market your series of Christmas services. You’ll do this by deciding who you really want to reach. This will help you decide how you want to speak to them. Is the gist of the series timely and enticing to a particular group? Do you want to focus on how they’ll benefit by attending? Planning early will help you focus in on the best possible messaging.
Next, you can decide the best ways to reach your ideal demographic. Are there local businesses and hangouts that will allow you to put up posters? Do you want to invest in Facebook ads? Do you want to order attractive signs that you can hang outside of your church? You’ll have time to do all of these things.
Timeline: You want to get the messaging together as promptly as possible. Shoot for mid-September. Make sure all of the marketing pieces are planned out with adequate time to get them looking professional.
5. Mission and vision
If everything comes together like it should, you’ll have plenty of new people attending your Christmas services. So you want to make sure to integrate information about who your church is and what you’re all about into the services.
Putting together a fantastic Christmas series might get people to come back, but they’re going to respond a lot more positively when they see how your purpose syncs up with their principles.
You can communicate your vision and mission by setting aside a few moments to share testimonies or invitations to join the work your church is doing in the community. Maybe you want to create special handouts to give to visitors during these services. However you communicate your mission and vision, make sure it’s done in a way that’s intentional and meaningful.
Timeline: Have a plan by the end of September. This gives you time to put together quality videos or print pieces without being in a rush.
A Good Plan Makes All the Difference
It might seem crazy to start planning for Christmas in the middle of the summer, but the earlier you start, the better your services will be. Planning early means that your staff isn’t cramming a season’s worth of preparation into a couple of weeks! And that’s going to translate into more meaningful services.
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