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Christmas Eve is a Sunday this year (the big opportunity)

REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski
REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski

The holiday season is demanding. Pastors and church leaders must move from one event to the next in rapid-fire succession. The whirlwind lasts from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day. Most pastors get a small break between Christmas and the New Year, and then it’s time to launch again. Ministry is a grind. The deadlines never end, and Christmas is the busiest and most chaotic season.

Christmas Eve lands on a Sunday this year. I understand the temptation to scale back. We briefly discussed this option at my church. The reality is this Christmas Eve may be one of the biggest opportunities you have for several years to come. You should do more, not less, this year. Here is why.

The unchurched (and de-churched) will show up in greater numbers. Families are often together during this time. That uncle who refuses to attend church will often capitulate and go to a Christmas Eve service since the rest of the family is going together. Those who are detached from the church will often return for sentimental reasons. For most churches, approximately one-third to half of attendees will be guests at a Christmas Eve service. Since December 24th is a Sunday, anticipate more guests, not less.

Everyone can participate together. The unchurched will recognize many Christmas songs, so they are more likely to sing with the congregation. If the New Year is all about resolve, then Christmas is all about hope. Christmas is one of the few traditions in our culture that is universally accepted. Remember, keep it simple and classic. Sing songs everyone knows. It’s not the time to be avant-garde. Most people expect a traditional feel and tone to the service.

Go shorter and make guests feel welcome. Hospitality is your best investment on Christmas Eve. A giant production may be memorable, but people will return because of genuine hospitality. The service should last less than an hour. The message should be about 10 or 15 minutes. Younger families tend to come to an afternoon service, while those without young children prefer an evening service. I recommend having both if possible.

Your tone should be encouraging, not pointed. Should pastors call out the woes of culture and stand against the rising force of secularism? Yes. Is Christmas Eve the right setting for an angry message? No. Be encouraging and communicate the hope of the Gospel.

Solve the scheduling dilemma with an easy solution. Since Christmas Eve is a Sunday, how should you structure your service schedule? I recommend having your typical morning services during the usual timeslot, then adding your Christmas Eve services in the afternoon and evening. Your regular people will likely come to both services, while your guests are more inclined to attend the afternoon and evening services. Why do both morning and evening? It could be your highest-attended Sunday in years! Even more importantly, Jesus deserves a giant celebration on His birthday.

Christmas Eve services are always a great opportunity to connect with guests and people from your community. This year could be one of the biggest yet.


Originally published at Church Answers. 

Sam Rainer is president of Church Answers and pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church in Florida. 

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