Planning for Christmas can be tricky for church leaders. There’s a sense of wanting to do something big. We know this is a prime time for people to come to church and we want to deliver an experience that’s memorable and different from what people expect church to be. It’s a time where church leaders put a lot of pressure on themselves to do something different.
Yet I think the average Christmas churchgoer is looking for something familiar. There is a certain expectation of what Christmas should feel like. It’s warm and cozy. It’s a time of cheer. There are songs people know, love and look forward to singing.
Holding on to the traditions of Christmas are important, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be creative. The two are not mutually exclusive.
- Be watchful of going over the top. Veering too far away from who you are comes with a cost of decreased engagement. I used to attend a fairly large, contemporary church. One Christmas, they decided to make the whole Christmas service a drama. While the church was contemporary, it was never good at drama. This play dragged and missed any element that resembled what a Christmas service typically looked like for this church.
- Don’t experiment too much. Something I heard Stephen Brewster, the Creative Arts Pastor at Cross Point Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee, say has always stuck with me. “We have 50 other weeks to try something new.” He shared this when talking about how he almost ruined Easter at his church several years ago. They tried something very experimental, but it lacked the basic truth that hope comes through Jesus’ resurrection. Big weekends at churches, like Easter and Christmas, are times to avoid experiments.
- Do something your congregation can trust. As churches, Christmas is a time where we want people to invite their friends. But if your church does something outside the box every year, can your members trust that what you’re going to do isn’t going to embarrass them in front of their friends? There needs to be some level of consistency and familiarity from year to year so people are comfortable inviting people to join them at a Christmas service.
- Find something that’s sustainable. Oftentimes at Christmas we go big and do extra work to make our holiday service something amazing. That’s great. Christmas is a special time. But also remember the weeks that follow it. Will people who visited on Christmas be disappointed that the rest of your services aren’t anywhere close to being as impactful or well done? Consistency is important. Think of ways you can make Christmas special, but also something that isn’t disconnected from what you do week-to-week the rest of the year.
- Remember the joy. Christmas is an upbeat time. Scripture talks about Jesus’ birth being good news of great joy. Yes, the holidays can be tough for people, but churches have an opportunity to inspire and give hope. Don’t create a Christmas experience that’s a downer.
How do you balance creativity and familiarity at Christmas?