How To Reinvigorate Your Christmas Eve Service
Christmas is a season of hope. It’s a time when many re-engage with their faith or encounter Christ for the first time. So it’s only natural that many churches feel tremendous pressure to effectively engage the current congregation and the local community during their Christmas Eve services.
So how can you create a compelling, engaging service for your church this year? Consider referencing the following list to guide your planning and reinvigorate your Christmas Eve worship experience.
Stay true to traditions.
These traditions might include singing Christmas carols, lighting an advent candle or wreath, or taking communion.
It’s important to remember that Christmas carols carry with them a lifetime of memories. Sometimes, for the sake of creativity, Worship Leaders and Creative Pastors have tried to change or rewrite carols. People want to sing and be reminded of what they know – especially during Christmas. Altering a Christmas carol too much can backfire. Let the singing of age-old carols be a medium through which the gospel can be shared with hearts ready to receive it.
A familiar Christmas Eve service with candles and an Advent wreath cultivates comfort and brings down guards. The flames of candles spreading across the sanctuary at the end of a Christmas Eve service – beyond being a powerful and moving spectacle – may bring to mind Christmases past and childhoods filled with the wonder of the season. You might consider lighting candles on stage or having individual candles lit all across the room. In many churches, this is a beautiful memory-maker that families look forward to year after year.
If your church is participating in an Advent Calendar or lighting Advent candles each week, make sure this component is incorporated into the Christmas Eve services as well.
Communion is not only a holy sacrament, but it’s also a time to remember and reflect. Allow the taking of the communion elements to help attendees remember Christ’s birth and sacrifice this Christmas season.
You can also balance tradition and innovation by including a few recognizable contemporary songs to draw in those who are curious and exploring the idea of church, but still delight the more traditional attendees with timeless carols.
Engage the family.
Another way to transform your Christmas Eve service is to engage families. Christmas is a time when many families are all together during the holiday. This might mean some may attend a church with extended family where they are not a member. This is a great opportunity to engage those who are outside of your typical demographic.
Tell the Christmas story and have a book for kids to follow along with during the service. Create a coloring book for children that connects with content that can be seen on the video projection screens. Have stickers for them to place when they see certain items or hear certain words or songs in the service. You could also have a kids' storytime where kids come up to the stage for a special 5-minute time with the Pastor.
Some churches do a Bible story for the children in the service, where they’re invited to come up, sit at the feet of the storyteller, and hear the story of Christmas and the true reason it is being celebrated. You may even consider designating one of your earlier services as a “family service” with kid-friendly elements especially included that aren’t in the later services. If you’re including this element in your Christmas services, have the book or script ready, some costumes on hand, and the storyteller lined up. The more imaginative, the better it will stick in the mind of a kid.
Get kids involved in the service either through a special song, drama, reading, or children’s choir. Make your message memorable with visuals and props. People of all ages will remain more engaged in the message and story when visual aids are used. Consider teaching from within a nativity or with a life-sized visual to represent a key point in your message.
Another way to engage families is by providing tangible ways to serve and give back that will encourage discussion and foster generosity among members of the family, no matter their age. Consider planning for designated missions giving ahead of time, having a special offering, participating in an active service project like a coat drive or canned food drive - families will see the impact one coat or a few cans of food can make when combined with a local church body.
And don’t let it just stop at Christmas - find ways to incorporate the giving and serving elements into your service programming past the holiday season so that you can maximize both continuity and impact.
Utilize creative set designs.
The atmosphere and the “look and feel” of Christmas can be just as important as the actual content of the service, and can go a long way in helping you transform your Christmas Eve service if you’ve been doing the same things for years. You could have your tech guy experiment with creative lighting design, LEDs, or environmental projection for your Christmas services, and utilize themes such as Christmas trees, winter wonderland, or candles.
Get creative with a special item such as coroplast or wooden pallets and turn your stage into a different time or place such as Bethlehem, a living room, or a nativity scene. Seize the opportunity to buy additional items for your set design that you can use creatively now and throughout the New Year such as new soft goods or truss.
On the technical side, if you expect your services to have more people than the sanctuary holds, make sure you have an overflow space with plenty of chairs for extra seating. That space needs to be fully equipped with screens for the video feed and the proper sound equipment. And make sure there are volunteers in the overflow space to assist with the offering, candle lighting, etc.
Keep it fun.
A key to transforming your Christmas Eve is to keep things fun. You can do this in a variety of ways. Some of our favorite ideas include having a photo booth in the lobby, setting up a table for hot cocoa and cookies, including a fun opening song or video or ending the service with a winter wonderland snow machine.
A Christmas service can go by in a flash, and sometimes the best gift can be time together after the service. Our suggestions above will hopefully help create memories as long-time members or attendees engage with first-time visitors and continue talking about “that time it snowed on Christmas Eve at church!”
Rely on volunteers.
Because you’ll have many more people attending your Christmas Eve service than a typical Sunday, you’ll need more high-capacity volunteers to make your service run smoothly. Make sure you have done a volunteer push in the weeks beforehand to cover all of the Christmas services and the additional service elements. You’ll probably need extra volunteers to greet, serve in the nursery, direct traffic/parking, make sure the bathrooms are tidy, hand out candles, etc.
Make sure there is enough parking available and people directing traffic. If adding additional parking means the attendees will have to walk long distances, then offer shuttles that can pick up attendees to save them from the long walk. Also, give your congregation an overview of parking for the Christmas Eve service ahead of time so they can arrive earlier if needed or leave some of the closer spots to first-time visitors.
Make sure your Worship Band is organized weeks or even months before the service. Well in advance, get your set list arranged, practice dates set, and music distributed. Many churches hire additional instrumentalists or vocalists to make the services’ worship and musical elements even more robust and beautiful. However, many musicians get booked quickly or plan their Christmas travel far in advance, so make sure you book these additional musicians well ahead of time.
For church staffs, the Christmas season is especially busy preparing for one of the biggest services of the year: Christmas Eve.
In our work with pastors, we know firsthand how much the Christmas Eve service can impact first-time visitors, and play a vital part in future church growth or outreach. Whether you have 75 people of 5,000, these ideas are meant to help you transform your Christmas Eve service into a creative, imaginative, moving experience for anyone who comes through the doors of your church, regardless of their experience.