By Sam S. Rainer III
Christmas Eve is the most likely time an unchurched person will walk into your worship space. It’s a huge opportunity.
My fear is some churches go through the motions since Christmas Eve is the peak of busy season and volunteers are short in supply.
Your Christmas Eve service is worth the effort. Families are often together during this time. That uncle who refuses to go to 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. Additionally, the unchurched will recognize many of the Christmas songs, so they are more likely to participate. 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.
With these thoughts in mind, there are 4 essentials of a great Christmas Eve service.
#1: Keep it simple; keep it classic. Sing songs everyone knows. It’s not the time to be avant-garde. Here is a list of the most popular Christmas songs. It’s a good place to start when selecting music.
Also, most people expect a traditional feel and tone to the service. Light candles. Sing “Silent Night,” or something similar.
#2: Make the service guest-friendly. You will likely have more guests at this service than any other service in a given year. Let people know when the services start, make signage clear, and advertise on Facebook.
The community is coming to you on this day. Greeters need to be extra sensitive in helping people get to the right place.
Lastly, think carefully about doing things like the Lord’s Supper. A large portion of people in the service will not be connected to the church. Ask the question, Is this the best time for things like the Lord’s Supper?
#3: The service should be shorter, not longer. Since most churches have limited child care, and families are sitting together, the service should last at most 45 minutes. I typically teach for about 10 minutes, with a focus on sharing the gospel through the story of Christ’s birth.
#4: Be more positive and less prophetic. Pastors who neglect the prophetic voice — those who are not forthtelling — are not really preaching. There is a time to call out the woes of culture. There is a time to be pointed, even angry. Christmas Eve is not that time.
Understand your culture and consider your context. The setting of Christmas Eve is ripe for encouragement. Reach people in the right way with the right methods and in the right tone.
If you do not have a Christmas Eve service, then your church is likely missing a big chance to interact with the unchurched and share the gospel. Incorporate these 4 essentials and capture the opportunity.
Sam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research, a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog, samrainer.wordpress.com.