[After taking off most of 2018 for a book launch I’m now back and look forward to connecting!]
Christmas 2018 affords a number of unique opportunities and challenges for churches this year.
Let me highlight some key considerations for your team to wrestle with to help you pick the right Christmas Eve service times:
Consideration #1: It will require a lot of energy to pull off good “normal” Sunday morning services, then come back on Monday night and pull off great Christmas Eve services.
I note this because no matter what direction you pick this year, your Sunday/Christmas Eve configuration will be out of the norm and require a lot from your team.
It’s like an NFL team playing a game on Sunday morning then coming back and playing again on Monday night. There’s simply not a lot of time to recuperate (though the impact of this can be mitigated if you offer the same service on Sunday and Monday, which I’ll explain in a second).
Just be mindful of this impact on your team as you plan.
Consideration #2: You already have a built-in desire from your people to want to worship on Sunday morning.
I’ve received countless texts and emails asking my advice about this year’s Christmas Eve service time(s) options, and the number one question is what to do with regular Sunday morning services. Keep them? Scrap them? Just do Monday services?
Here’s my thought: you’d be crazy to not have services on Sunday morning.
The reason is you already have built-in anticipation to gather that you want to capitalize on, not work against.
Why fight against that? Make it work for you.
Consideration #3 If you are doing Christmas Eve right, you have a stage design and rehearsal issue to address.
Flocked trees. Stage builds. Programmed light schemes. Vocal rehearsals. Band rehearsals. Speaking part rehearsals. Special seating configurations. Lobby set up. Etc. These are the kinds of things we leaders have to deal with when pulling off a community-wide Christmas Eve service(s) that attracts growing participation every year.
Here’s the problem this year: turnaround time.
99.999% of the payoff with a new Christmas Eve stage design is the way people are blown away when they come in the door. This is an integral part of what creates anticipation every year after year.
The problem this year is we don’t want to “steal our thunder” by having that stage already set up for our “regular” Sunday morning services.
But if we go all out with a creative set design for Christmas Eve the only way we could have “regular” churches services on Sunday morning and then set up the stage in time for Christmas Eve services is to hire U2’s 100 person road crew.
Throw in rehearsals on top of that and you make things that much more difficult.
Consideration #4: You need to take risks this Christmas.
The built-in disruption to our normal calendar afforded by this wonky Sunday-Monday configuration shouldn’t be wasted. We need to take advantage of this opportunity and take some risks. Normally we’re the ones who have to shake things up a bit to get our people to try new things. This year the calendar has done our bidding.
Think outside the box, take some risks with service times, and try some service times that you’d normally not try.
Consideration #5 You need to grow. Period.
I don’t know of anyone across the country who has grown so rapidly over the last 18 months that they’re like, “You know what, we’re good. We need to cool it this year and take it easy for Christmas.”
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, if you want to grow by 100 people in 2019, you need to get 1,000 people to attend your church. 25% of those people are going to visit on Christmas Eve.
While each congregation faces its own unique challenges depending on size and location, let me share with you what I’m encouraging the Senior Pastors that I coach to do this year:
1. Offer Christmas Eve services that start on Sunday morning and continue through Monday night.
In other words, I do NOT recommend offering “regular” Sunday morning services, and then turn around and offer different Christmas Eve service(s) with a different sermon and set of songs. Only offer one service: your Christmas Eve service.
Two reasons: energy and excellence.
If you’re creating the kind of community-wide event worthy of amassing an ever-growing cadre of participants – a vital part of a growing 21st-century church culture – you won’t have the bandwidth to do both well.
If you have “regular” Sunday morning services and then turn around and host a different Christmas Eve service(s), one of them will suffer, and I PROMISE YOU it will be your Christmas Eve service.
2. Offer Christmas Eve EVE Services.
This will be a new venture for many of you, but since it will be a service wedged between Sunday morning and Monday night it’s a low risk.
This is a great way to capture the participation of those going out of town to grandmas for Christmas Eve.
At CCV we will offer two Christmas Eve EVE services on Sunday night.
3. Offer at least one more service than you had last year.
In my article Please Rethink Your Christmas Eve Services, I wrote,
Last year I coached a great Senior Pastor who serves a church of 125. I told him he needed to do whatever it took to hold two Christmas Eve services last year, not one like they have always done. Doing so, I told him, would establish evangelistic DNA and reap long-term benefits. His response: “But we already have enough room in one service.” I reiterated that unchurched people don’t care about your seating capacity, they care about the convenience of your service times. “Trust me,” I said. “Two services.”
So, he took the risk and held services at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and had a great response: two services with 75 people in each of them! He was elated, and I was even more so. It was a HUGE victory for his volunteers, his church, and his leadership. Why have one service of 75 when you can have two with 75 in each?!?
Also – please read that article to understand my logic behind recommending early to mid afternoon services on Christmas Eve.
4. Do NOT offer Christmas services on Sunday afternoon.
I’m a huge proponent of offering multiple Christmas Eve services early on Christmas Eve (starting at 1pm), but I believe offering services the afternoon of Christmas Eve EVE would be unwise.
There’s an internal drive on the day of Christmas Eve to go to church, which translates into many wanting to “get church in” before they have family activities later that night. Afternoon services meet that need.
But that internal motivation will not be present on Sunday afternoon, the day before Christmas Eve.
No doubt there are going to be some Senior Pastors who will say, “Let’s just schedule a bunch of services all day Sunday and Monday and go for it!”
Keep in mind these are the same pastors who cheer for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees.
Be bold, but also be wise.
HERE’S WHAT WE’RE DOING:
We are offering the exact same service on Sunday and Monday and our services times will be as follows:
9:30 am 1:00 pm
11:00 am 2:30 pm
5:30 pm 4:00 pm
7:00 pm 5:30pm
Wherever you finally land, my hope is that you’ll stretch yourself this Christmas Eve and taking some risks.
You got this.