Churches sometimes underestimate the importance of the Advent and Christmas seasons when planning their growth stategies for the year. Because December is such a busy month, it can be tempting to "just make it through" and save up energy for a fresh start in January.
But consider this. If church services were football games, Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday could very well be the Super Bowls. In other words, people who normally wouldn't be at church are more likely to show up for those services than any other time of the year. (And even people who don't usually watch football will tune into the "big game" and go to Super Bowl Parties.)
So how can churches take advantage of this window of opportunity this Christmas to create a lasting impact on what happens in the new year? Here are some ideas:
- Promote your January sermon series and other coming activities during Advent and Christmas services. Have you ever noticed how the broadcast networks relentlessly promote their other shows during big television events? It's because they know they have a "captive" audience. People who are visiting your church for the first time will be more likely to come back if you get their attention. So give your January sermon series an interesting and/or exciting title.
- Use your Christmas kids' programming as an on-ramp for new families to get involved. Remember being in the Christmas play when you were a kid? I don't remember the quality of our productions, but I do remember having fun. I also remember new kids (or kids we hadn't seen all year) showing up and wanting to take part in it. Don't make your children's programming so elaborate that the regular kids are stressed out and the new kids don't feel welcome. But do make it fun.
- Offer multiple mission opportunities. Young families want to get involved with a church that's helping change both their community and the world. Some people are more likely to come back to your church if they feel like they can make a difference by getting involved. Community service projects are great ways to attract these folks.
- Do the caroling thing. But really go out into the community and meet people you don't know—don't just visit people from your congregation. Make it a genuine outreach project! Have colorful brochures or flyers with basic church information (location, web URL, etc.) on hand. Read the Christmas story and share New Testaments with the people you visit. (The CEB New Testament Christmas Outreach Kit works well for this kind of outreach.)
- Use your church's small groups for outreach during the holidays. Many churches use weekend services to reach new people and then invite them to get involved in small groups as they become more committed. Why not reverse things and have Christmas parties in your small groups and use those as opportunities for people to invite friends and neighbors? People who like the groups may choose to get involved during the coming year. And they may eventually make it to a weekend service.
- Be creative and try new things. Don't settle with doing the same candlelight service year after year. Remember, Christmas Eve is prime time. Pull out all the bells and whistles. Get your most creative people on board and provide a worship experience that will make first time visitors want to return in the new year!
What does your church do during Advent and Christmas that encourages growth in the months ahead?