You’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do to leverage Christmas better to reach the people in your community who normally don’t attend church. I’m with you.
The conversation is even more important as our culture becomes more and more post-Christian. As the general population thinks less about the Christian faith, Christmas provides a unique opportunity to reach people who no longer ordinarily attend church.
After all, there is now only one time of year left in our culture when people still celebrate something Christians hold dear—and that’s Christmas.
What’s surprising is that many churches don’t really leverage Christmas to make the impact it could.
Over the years at Connexus Church, where I serve, our Christmas service wins hands-down every year for both overall attendance AND attendance by unchurched people. Although, theologically, Christmas will never be bigger than Easter, practically, our Christmas outreach is always bigger than Easter simply because the culture is paying attention.
Too Many Christians Blow This
If you follow many Christians on social media leading up to Christmas, too many people lament over the culture’s disregard of Christ.
Well, you can see the obstacle. Or you can see the opportunity. I choose to see the opportunity. There are so many connection points with our culture you’ll miss if you only see the glass as half full.
When else will you ever hear theology this solid playing from speakers in a mall:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
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 in the year.
TV and film celebrate Christmas in all of its expressions.
Almost everyone decorates their homes, businesses and cities.
On December 24th and 25th, the Western world comes as close to stopping as it ever does.
I’m not sure there’s a better time to connect with your friends and neighbors who rarely if ever go to church.
The Biggest Mistake Churches Make
So what’s the biggest mistake many churches make each Christmas?
Simple. Too many churches hold a quiet Christmas eve or Christmas Day service for members and leave it at that.
Others will do little to nothing special.
That makes Christmas be the biggest missed opportunity of the year.
Unchurched people want to celebrate Christmas. Why can’t your church help them?
10 Ways to Leverage Christmas to Reach Unchurched People
Here’s are 10 ways you can leverage Christmas to connect with unchurched people:
- Hold multiple services
Not everyone can make it to your ‘one’ service. This year we’re doing 5 services over two days (the 23rd and 24th).
Yes, those are long work days for staff and volunteers, but you could reap a harvest all year long from that investment.
- Theme the event around the community, not around your church
For a few years now, we’ve decided to call our Christmas Eve Services Christmas Eve in Barrie and Christmas Eve in Orillia (the cities in which we serve). Cross Point recently did a similar thing, creating a Merry Music City Christmas.
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. Go buy them today.
- Hand out invitation cards
Make up some full color cards with details on it people can hand to their friends.
This year we tied candy canes to the Instagram-like cards to make them easier to hand out to friends.
It’s even easier to invite a friend to something like Christmas than to a regular Sunday morning.
- 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 centres and more.
We’re doing that again this year.
- Build a special Christmas website
Don’t just buy the websites for your city, build a special site.
Our team built two new websites this year for our two locations that are devoted only to Christmas Eve. Use an easy to remember URL. We used the names of our cities (ChristmasEveInOrillia.com and ChristmasEveinBarrie.com).
- Use social media
Sure, maybe you don’t have the bandwidth to build fresh websites. Just do it for free using social media. Create a Facebook event or promoted posts. Use all your social media channels and get the word out.
Even encourage your people to share with their friends. We’re going to be all over that.
This year we’re doing a Photo Booth at our campuses that will create some fun Instagram moments with dressed up kids and people holding a “Join us for Christmas Eve” signs.
- Sell (free) tickets
Free tickets of course, but tickets help create demand.
They have also helped us manage fire code. Eventbrite is an inexpensive and easy solution.
Plus, having tickets drive decisions and commitments to attending.
- Love your community
This year we again participated in BeRich. We’re sponsoring children through Compassion, giving to our 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. In one of our locations a few years ago Be Rich made the front page of the local paper.
Generosity makes an impression on unchurched people.
- Invite them back
Every year, without hopefully sounding like a commercial, we invite people back for January.
They get a card explaining the new 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 inviting can sound basic, but you’re dealing with unchurched people. Think about it, you would never go to a party unless you knew you were invited.
Unchurched people don’t know they’re invited unless you invite them. So invite them.
- Plan a call to action
God’s grace is sovereign. We’ve had people commit their lives to Christ during volunteer events and during series about tithing. 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. People will leave mostly unchanged unless you create a different expectation.
Almost every year, we give people an opportunity to surrender their lives to Jesus…and it’s amazing how many people do. And when we invite them back and offer them steps to take in the new year (like beginning Starting Point), Christmas starts a journey for them that often ends with them surrendering their lives to Christ.
What are you learning? Got any tips?
Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.