A friend recently asked me a great question:
“With all of the visitors you gain on Christmas Eve, what would be the best thing to preach at the next worship service (in our case January 1)? I have heard it said that the most important Sunday of the year is the one after Christmas or Easter when some visitors return to see if church is different than the boring thing they remember from the past.”
I thought you might find my response helpful:
Sermon Topic To Follow Christmas Eve
I would disagree – the most important Sunday after Christmas Eve is not the Sunday following, but Easter, because that’s when most of your new Christmas Eve visitors will come back.
Few truly unchurched non-Christian people come to church the week after Christmas or Easter. Usually it is weeks after at the earliest.
Truly unconverted people just don’t think that way. It’s like going to a special restaurant with your wife that you’ve always been wanting to try. You want to go there ONCE. Not every week after. Truly unchurched non-Christians must be coaxed back again, and that takes time, pain, and spiritual pressure. If you have a massive influx of people the week after Christmas that is a sign that you failed, not succeeded. Only creepy church-hopping transfers behave that way. I’d rather quit the ministry than build a church with those people.
Who Is This Church For?
In all matters of church practice, we must decide up front whether we’re going to build a church of converts or transfers. Focusing on making converts that become disciples is foreign paradigm for most. It takes much longer and is riskier, but in the long run builds much healthier disciples and churches.
Now, of course, this does not mean we don’t TRY to get them to come back the next week!
What we do is put a 5×7 postcard on every seat at every Christmas Eve service pushing two events in January. One is what we call “Justice Day” the second Sunday in January. And usually one more thing for later that month. This time around it is the launch of our new campus. Here are the front and back of this year’s postcard.
We focus the two Sundays after Christmas Eve on the two most important habits Christians need to develop – Bible study and prayer. Sometimes we’ll throw in “community” as well. We always wrap these in a “New Year’s Resolution-y” type of veneer. I’ve attached the message I wrote for the Sunday immediately following Christmas Eve this past year that will give you a feel for what we’re going for (FYI: please use it if you like – I give everyone blanket permission to use all my sermons).
I believe Christians must read their Bibles and pray, and for them to do this consistently we must preach on it consistently. That’s why we do this every year. Since everyone is thinking about self-improvement during these weeks, we feel the connection is natural.
My biggest piece of advice: work with the natural grain of your congregation. Focus on the way people behave, rather than how you want them to behave. Then adjust your ministry model accordingly.
Love you brother!