In just a few days, your church will be experiencing your greatest opportunity of the whole year. Are you just getting it over and done with or capitalizing on it for your long-term strategic advantage? Is Christmas only to be managed or can you make it all about your mission? Here are 5 things to do this Christmas Eve.
- Ask your regulars to help you out.
Your parishioners can help in many ways. They can choose to attend a less crowded Mass time and free up a seat for newcomers. They can park off campus and open up a parking space. They can invite an unchurched friend and accompany them to church. Best of all, they can serve on Christmas Eve by opening doors or greeting guests. Consciously ask your regular attendees to take steps to make your Christmas masses an irresistible environment for newcomers.
- Greet guests.
What if everybody at your church, from the pulpit to pews, acted like they’re glad so many guests have joined you for the evening? Smile, greet guests, make the experience joyful and welcoming. A simple greeting can completely change someone’s experience. The number one question your guests are asking themselves when they come to your church is, “Am I welcome?” Only you can convince them that they are.
- Preach to your guests.
Be very conscious and very careful to address your guests in the homily. Make sure it is free from “churchspeak” and insider references. Try to be especially relevant to the perspective of the unchurched, make it a message that means something to them. If guests feel like we have relevant things to say, it’s far more likely that they will return to church after you….
- Invite them back.
Before the service is over, make some kind of subtle invitation to return in the new year. Make it subtly and softly, make it sound attractive, not scolding. Share some of the upcoming events or activities your parish will be offering in the months ahead. Better yet, mention upcoming preaching themes or series that will be of interest to them. Maybe even have a printed invitation card inviting guests to return in the coming year… not a bulletin. Your bulletin has way more information than they want. Just use a card with Mass times and information on kids or student programs. That simplicity will appeal to newcomers and give them a clear next step.
- Don’t talk about money.
I know a parish that had a beautiful church, beautifully decorated every Christmas, and a fabulous music ministry. Christmas Eve was a very special experience until it came time for the collection. At that point the pastor would climb into the pulpit and make an extended and wholly annoying plea for support of the Christmas offering. It was entirely off-putting and absolutely killed the environment.
At no time, under any circumstances, talk about money. The unchurched can be very cynical about money (and the church) and they’re just waiting for you to nag them about it.
This Christmas you will face resistance from churchpeople who want Christmas Eve to be all about them. But following these steps will ensure that your Christmas experience appeals to everybody, especially newcomers.