Making the most of the year’s easiest invite
September is almost here, which means Christmas paraphernalia will soon be in the shops! You might find that a bit annoying, but Jonathan G thinks it’s time for us to be planning our church Christmas activities too.
FACT: People love Christmas.
Even when it’s tough and stressful, there’s a bit in us that welcomes the warm, tasty, gift-giving festivities in the middle of the cold winter. It’s also a particular time of the year when it’s easier to invite people to a church event.
Here’s our challenge: If this might be the one experience someone has of church in a year (or longer!) then let’s make it count.
Here’s the scary bit: To make it count, you probably need to start thinking about it before you see anything to do with Christmas in the shops. Seriously!
My favourite Christmas event at my church (Magdalen Road Church, Oxford) has to be our candle-lit carol service. Last year it was standing-room-only! Our shabby church hall in East Oxford gets transformed each year into an atmospheric festive delight. But I sometimes wonder if the words of the songs and readings pass people by. They can attend and experience the tradition but simply put up with the short talk at the end.
I’ve often thought that it would be great if we had something visual – for our visual culture – that fitted the festive feeling, but captured people’s imaginations and told the Christmas story in an intriguing new way.
That’s why I’m currently working on a new short video for church carol services that aims to do just that! It’s called “Someone is Coming” and it picks up on the prophecy of Isaiah 7, with a non-Christian-friendly Bible overview that starts just after Eden and follows the story to the modern day. I’m aiming to make it available to churches to buy online from the start of November (along with matching flyer designs and other resources to help churches promote their Christmas events and make preparations that bit easier).
See the project at someoneiscoming.com
Here are some other things you probably need to be thinking about now – even though it’s August:
- Get your dates in the diary and plan early. Some carol services happen as early as November to catch students, but for local people, closer to Christmas could work much better. But don’t wait until everyone has left to visit relatives!
- Offer a whole Christmas package. Who is in your local area? Who do you have contact with? Get the creative people in your church together and think of something that’s attractive to those in your area. If you have lots of families then a nativity service could work. But how about doing something more dramatic with a real-life donkey? Maybe try a Christingle service in an afternoon. Why not try a candle-lit carol service like ours at Magdalen Road? Are there international students around? Make sure they get invited for a meal on Christmas day.
- Get ready to invite people every way you know how. That means: church members giving personal invites at work or the school gates or sports clubs, flyering your local area, using social media – and more.
- Change your goals. A successful, wide-reaching flyering campaign is not just about getting feet through the door. A well-designed flyer speaks of a living church open to the local community. You can also use flyers to share a bit of the Christmas story – just a small seed the Lord may use to get people curious. They might not come this year, but they might be more open to the next invitation…
- Plan follow-up. You might need different kinds of follow-up. The Alpha Course or Christianity Explored aren’t for everyone. How about encouraging your church members to do one-to-one evangelistic Bible studies using something like UCCF’s Uncover resource?
- Pray like it all depends on the Lord. Because it does. Obviously.
May the Lord bless your plans and use them to plant many gospel seeds this Christmas!