Because questions about a Christmas Eve service come up every year, here are my thoughts to consider if your church is planning a Christmas Eve service this year. I published many of these thoughts last year but have added a few for this year.
- Pray about it as much as you prepare for it. I’ve seen too many churches prepare much, and then only briefly ask God to bless their work.
- Challenge your church members to invite a minimum of five people each. Give them a goal, and you might find that they’re much more willing to invite others. Most members can find at least five people to invite.
- Enlist a “follow up” team to contact guests and returning church members who attend. If you secure contact information but never follow up, you’ll have missed an open door.
- Have greeters everywhere from the parking lot to the parking lot—that is, from the time folks enter the lot to the time they leave. Be friendly.
- Consider asking everyone to wear a nametag. Knowing names facilitates conversations and makes the evening more personal (and, if you assume that everybody will already know everybody else, you’re probably not using the evening evangelistically).
- Ask everyone to complete a registration card. When everyone does it, guests are typically less reticent to provide information you need for follow up.
- Don’t forget about the kids when you preach or tell the Christmas story. Intentionally draw in the children, and you’ll draw the adults in, too. The opposite is not always true.
- Don’t try to impress people with your message–just communicate the simple, beautiful, childlike gospel story. If your community leaves talking only about what a good speaker you are, the devil may have hijacked your message.
- Don’t use the service to introduce new choruses or hymns. Christmas is often a time of familiarity and tradition. Use the music portion of your service wisely.
- Use older adults in the program, too. If your church is a multi-generational church, let the community see that reality on the platform.
- Spend a few minutes praying for a nation or a people group that will not be celebrating the birth of Christ next week. While we celebrate, much of the world will have no idea what Christmas is all about. December 25 will be only another day to survive.
- Be clear, and be clear again, about how folks may contact you if they have questions about the church or the gospel. Many may not respond to the gospel that evening, but still have questions in the days to come.
- If you take an offering, think about a benevolence offering for the needy in your community. This is a season of giving, so do something that will help your church give to others when Christmas is over.
- Enlist some prayer warriors to pray for one month for guests who attend your Christmas Eve service. That is, pray intentionally before the service, during the service, and after the service. Don’t carry out this special service or its follow up in your own power.
- Evaluate the service as soon as possible. If the Lord doesn’t return in the next year, Christmas Eve will come again. Celebrate it better next year because you’ve evaluated it this year.
What other thoughts would you add?
Take a page from the book of the seventeenth century Anglican poet-priest George Herbert and focus upon the whole experience—taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. Decorate the worship center with boughs of evergreen and sprigs of rosemary. Pass out candles and paper collars to catch the drips and sing at least one Christmas carol or hymn in a candlelit room. Serve hot spiced apple cider and a selection of Christmas treats—cookies, tarts, and that sort of thing. Use real freshly-baked bread for the Communion. Rub the base of the pews or the legs of the chairs with frankincense oil. Create an experience that guests will remember and which they will associate with Christmas. Enjoy the experience yourselves. Put your heart into singing the Christmas carols and hymns; listen attentively to the story of Jesus’s birth. Share together the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper, remembering that we are celebrating the coming of a Saviour who died that we might live and who one day will come again. Truly celebrate the occasion. And most of all, let the Holy Spirit do his work.
Have you trained Evangelism teams ready for each service to meet with those who respond to the message of Christ’s coming.