The summer is over and the busy autumn schedule is in full swing. Before you know it, it will be Christmas. I know, this is where most people moan about consumerism and advertising, but for church leaders now is the time to be thinking beyond the shopping to the church plans.
Christmas is a season that rolls around very quickly. What will you do this year? For some it is a festival of special events that require lots of planning. For others it is a quieter season with the special carol service and maybe even a lighter load. Whichever way you plan your church Christmas schedule, you do need to pray for sensitivity to a set of potential people present:
1. Seasonal visitors – some people will go to church because it is Christmas. They typically are not expecting a life changing experience, but we can be praying for that. We also need to make sure the welcome, the experience of being at church, the message and so on are all conducive to motivating them to even consider coming again, finding out more, etc.
2. Family and friends – some people will go to your church because it is Christmas and they have a connection to someone in your church. Maybe a family member visiting, or perhaps a friend from work. They need everything the seasonal visitor needs, but it is good to also recognise what their experience means to the person who brings them – it can cost a lot to bring someone to church.
3. Church regulars – some people will go to your church because it is their church. Don’t forget them. It is easy to rely on them for extra manpower in a busy Christmas season, but pray that they will also be touched afresh by the wonder of the incarnation and God’s great rescue mission.
So as you think about the different categories of people, think also about these issues (all of which need planning before the tinsel is visible in the shops) …
Experience – The experience of visiting church begins with how people hear about the church (advertising, invitations, etc.), and continues in the car park, and into the building, etc. Perhaps get a small group to think it through from the perspective of a first timer!
Message – Will you do an advent series? How will you make each message work on its own? How will you combine satisfaction of traditional expectations with fresh material for regulars and guests? (Can I also suggest my book, Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus, 2014) … it contains a lot of potential message material!)
Follow-Up – With all the energy going into the Christmas events, it probably feels like a stretch to run a “just looking” course in January, but it may be ideal timing!