Wreaths on the front doors, red and green suit ties and dresses, families from out of town and hundreds of little white candles that you know will melt all over your chairs— it must be Christmas Eve! And while Christmas Eve services can often feel like a time to simply deck the church halls and sing Silent Night, there are bigger opportunities that can make a lasting impact for your church.

Here are five things that you need to make sure you have ready to go for the most wonderful time of the year:

1. Make sure your elves are ready to go! As much as we’re tempted to give a lot of our staff Christmas Eve off, this is a critical time to have all hands on deck. There are only a few times a year that people come to church out of tradition or expectation, and Christmas Eve is one of those times. Capitalize on the opportunity by having your team in place, ready to help execute the services with excellence. Typically, working on Christmas Eve is expected when you work in ministry, but consider giving the staff extra time off the week after Christmas to make up for the time they put in over the holidays.

2. Offer multiple Christmas Eve services. Multiple service time options give people a reason to say yes to an invitation to attend your service. Even if you only have two services, say one at 3:00 p.m. and another at 5:00 p.m., it gives people a chance to come to church and then hit the road to visit family and friends (without forcing people to choose between a church service or dinner at grandmas). By the way, grandma wins every time.

3. Use“cutting edge” creativity sparingly. If you know me, you already know that I’m drawn to high-energy, creative environments. But when it comes to Christmas, I’m looking for a traditional, warm, chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire type of service. And the majority of other people are looking for the same thing as well. A lot of folks I speak with around Christmastime are displaced from most of their families and are looking to make traditions of their own. Christmas Eve, for many of us, is a very sentimental time, and we want to feel more like George and Mary Bailey and less like Homer and Marge Simpson. Consider less lasers shooting across the room and more candles (even though we all know that you’ll be cleaning up the wax for days to come). It’s worth it.

4. Allow your pastor to be on stage. The number one reason people decide whether or not to come back to a church they visited is how they felt about the pastor. I’m not advocating for an hour-long message, it’s Christmas after all. However, the teaching pastor should have at least a 10-minute message prepared so he can engage newcomers and share with them his heart and teaching style.

5. Give them a reason to return.  So, you had multiple services on Christmas Eve and it was beautiful; people showed up in droves, and you had one of your best attendance days yet. And then what? Are you going to let them walk out with just a pat on the back? Well, the first of the year is just one weekend away and it’s a key time for people to make new year’s resolutions— and often, one of them is to get back in church. Have a new year’s series ready to promote. Enclose the graphics and message titles in the bulletin for your Christmas Eve service. Produce a short video that promotes the new series and invite people back. You’ll be surprised how many people will take you up on that offer.

I hope these tips are helpful to you and your teams as you’re preparing for Christmas. While there is a lot of hustle and bustle around this season, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy it. Celebrate the wins along the way and enjoy every second of it. 

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