It never fails to amaze me. It just gets earlier and earlier every year. Christmas is officially on the mind of almost every American.
If you haven’t started already, your church is probably already planning to buy your Advent candles, wreaths, and lights for Christmas. But have you and your staff sat down together to plan for the most important thing in your sanctuary this Christmas: the visitors?
At Nativity, we are still catching our breath after our big Matter Conference, and already our staff has shifted focus to December 24/25.
Of course, every Sunday in Advent is important and special. I love the joyful anticipation each Sunday brings as another Advent candle is lit. It only increases our hope and desire to bring God’s love closer to the unchurched in Timonium through an excellent Christmas Eve experience.
Ever since we decided to relocate our Christmas Eve Mass to the local fairgrounds, conveniently a mile north of our church, we have adopted this maxim: Christmas Eve is a paradigm for everything. What does that mean? Here are just a few things we learned in the process.
1. It’s All About Perspective
The reason we moved our services off campus wasn’t really about a change in location; it was about a change in perspective. We changed our primary focus away from the people who are in our pews every Sunday to reaching the ones we knew we’d only see on Christmas. Each Sunday leading up to Christmas, respectfully challenge your parishioners to keep these people in mind, and to issue a personal invitation to a friend or family member without a church to attend church with them.
2. It’s All About Environment
Environment is not the same as location. We don’t have a pretty church, but the fairgrounds, locally called “The Cow Palace,” wasn’t an aesthetic improvement! It did help create visibility and accessibility. Environment is ultimately about creating a worshipful experience that unchurched people will feel welcoming and engaging.
3. It’s All About Excellent Ministry
Christmas Eve requires the ministry and involvement of lots of people. Start preparing your ministry teams early on- not a week before Christmas. We discovered that our Christmas programs were a great opportunity to re-evaluate our existing ministries and use the momentum to build new teams to kick-start ministry for the rest of the year. Let your Christmas ministry set the standard for the rest of the year.
It’s not too early to make Christmas a priority in your parish planning. Make no mistake, the unchurched are already thinking about Christmas. Is your church thinking about them?