5 top tips for welcoming once-a-year Christmas worshippers

November 29th, 2022

This is the time of year when you prepare, once again, for the Christmas crowd. Specifically for the once-a-year Christmas crowd. You know you may not see them again for another year. But it’s still important to create a high-quality worship experience that engages them fully. While you can’t pre-determine if any of these guests will join you for worship before the following Christmas, you can make sure you have created an environment that makes it more likely. These are the 5 top tips for welcoming once-a-year Christmas worshipers.

#1 Be Hospitable

Consider that the people who are entering your doors are guests. Whether this is their first or their fiftieth time at Christmas services. These guests are coming because you and your congregation have issued an invitation—either explicit or implicit. Treat these beloved guests with extra care.

The best way to be hospitable is to put yourself in their shoes. What might your guests need to feel safe, secure and expected?

Is extra signage needed to get into or around the building? Are detailed explanations or advance notice necessary to navigate parts of the service? Will people know when to sit, stand, sing, give, and pray?

Be hospitable by providing everything a newcomer would need to get to the exact place of worship, and once there, to participate fully in it.

Both greeters and a staffed information booth can be quite helpful.

Most important of all, greet guests with a smile. Call them by name whenever possible.

#2 Remember and Nurture Your Online Guests

Not only will you have guests show up in your sanctuaries, fellowship halls, and live nativities, you will have guests showing up online. Be sure to remember and prepare for your online guests as well.

The best way to do this is to have virtual greeters and guides to accompany worshipers through the online experience whether it’s Zoom, Facebook or YouTube.

These virtual greeters and guides can post words of welcome, respond to questions, and create a warm environment for each person that joins your congregation online.

Every time you give live worshipers the ability to respond, share, or engage during the service, create an equal opportunity for the online community as well.

For instance, have your virtual greeters and guides put bulletin information in an easily accessible format that can be accessed online.

Include PowerPoints and videos. Be sure to include a link for giving in the chat and respond to prayer requests in the comments.

Remember that part of the beauty of being online is that people don’t have to be “quiet.” They can ask questions and post comments in the chat window as the service unfolds.  Depending on the format, they can even unmute to sing or pray when appropriate. Your virtual greeters and guides should encourage that engagement.

Worshiping online needn’t be a lesser experience. Especially when you give the same respect and attention to those worshiping with you online as you do those in person.

#3 Retell the Story of Christmas

Christmas is a magical time. Christmas services provide a “thin place” where the presence of God is felt in powerful ways.

Don’t be afraid to simply retell the story of Christmas. Remind the people of Joseph and Mary’s journey, of their struggle to find a place in Bethlehem, and how they found comfort through God’s grace. Remind them of the shepherds watching their flocks by night, the star that shone brightly, and the good news of great joy brought to them by an angel.

Understand that even your once-a-year Christmas guests want to be reminded of what they may already know.

The purpose of the service is not to chart new territory. But to retrace the lines of connection between the ordinary and the miraculous.

Your job is to invite people to experience once again the mystery of God entering the world in human form. All because of God’s great love for humanity.

Save deep theological and existential questions for January.  This Christmas, stick with the most captivating mystery of all:  God became one of us!

#4 Sing Traditional Christmas Carols

People love to sing traditional Christmas carols. They have been doing so for centuries, and it is a cherished part of the holiday season.

Resist the temptation to get caught up in wanting the well-worn season to be different and more spectacular.

For many of our guests, participating in the hallowed traditions of the season IS spectacular. Especially the traditional Christmas carols. Be mindful and intentional of the moment.

Refrain from introducing new or little-known songs on Christmas. Instead, give people the joyous opportunity to be moved by singing songs they know and love.

This is the time to celebrate Jesus entering the world through traditional Christmas carols, made all the more sacred with the passage of time.

#5 Include the Entire Family

Christmas is THE intergenerational holiday. The more you can involve the entire family, including children, in worship, the better. It lets families know that each member is welcome.

Here are some ways to do that:

Host a special intergenerational family service.

Set up interactive stations around the sanctuary. The hands-on approach allows those who worship best through activity to participate comfortably in worship. Without necessarily disturbing others.

Have a section near the front just for kids.

Create a “parent corner” where parents can bring their kids and stay together while still participating in the service. Include books, toys, and activities for the children to enjoy while parents listen.

If your church uses candles with open flames at Christmas, give out LED lights to children so they can pass on the light as well.

Have a few rocking chairs set up for young mothers, or, alternatively, for those with aching bones.

Age-appropriate foods after worship also send the message that all are welcome. When serving food, be sensitive to peanut allergies.

Be sure to arrange for rides in a church van, for those who don’t or can’t drive. Including younger and older generations is equally important.

The Benefit of the 5 Top Tips

Together, these 5 top tips for welcoming your once-a-year Christmas worshipers can create an environment of deep spiritual connection. That’s a tremendous benefit for you and your guests. But even if you can implement just two or three of these 5 top tips, you’ll find that you create an atmosphere that invites return.

Merry Christmas!


Excerpted from Rebekah Simon-Peter's blog, used with the author's permission.

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