By Shanda Boyett
Your unique culture pulls guests in your front doors for the holidays, but digital commitment is required to keep them engaged afterward
Your church is probably already getting set for the busy Christmas season, preparing for a surge of guests that you typically don’t see more than once or twice a year.
It’s an exciting — albeit stressful — prospect to plan services and events for all those fresh faces.
One common mistake among pastors is misjudging how to present themselves, their church, and the gospel over the holidays. Those first-time and occasional visitors typically aren’t looking for a larger-than-life service, stuffed full of pageantry atypical to your usual program. Your guests might also be turned off by an overly forward sermon that feels like an effort to convert them to invested members of the church and followers of Jesus in a single morning.
That’s not to say your church shouldn’t put its best foot forward this Christmas. But your efforts should focus on highlighting the culture you’ve worked so hard to develop. Showcase what makes your ministry special, the hospitality of your church family, and then extend a warm invitation for them to continue engaging in the new year.
This approach all starts at your church’s front door — which, as more and more churches are discovering, is now online. A 2019 study discovered that 80% of guests will interact with your church’s website or digital properties before deciding whether or not to visit. And in the aftermath of the pandemic, when a huge majority of churches and Christians began streaming their services online, it’s likely that a potential guest will tune into your video content when debating whether to spend their holiday inside your four walls.
All that’s to say, the importance of making a good first impression through a clean and intuitive digital experience cannot be overstated. Confirm that your website’s up-to-date with all the details of your Christmas events — placing them front and center on the homepage can’t hurt — and promote your most popular video content and service livestreams through your custom church app to give prospective guests a gauge for what they can expect.
On the day of your Christmas service, be mindful that visitors won’t be familiar with your facilities and usual practices. If the goal is to make everyone feel as welcome as possible, consider having ushers on-hand to help direct guests to the best seats, and make sure that your signage for parking, restrooms, and other necessities is clear.
You can also leverage technology to elevate your guests’ experience. Custom QR codes, generated by your ChMS, can be scanned by attendees to direct them anywhere you’d like: view the day’s program, open a mobile giving link, download your custom church app and more. Post these codes at your church’s entrance, doorways, and even on the back of pews to simplify these processes for your visitors.
What’s more, by engaging your guests digitally, you’ll capture their contact information without the need for outdated address cards and sign-in sheets, which makes following-up a breeze for your team. As soon as the holidays wrap up — don’t put this task off! — reach out via your ChMS with a personal note of thanks, either for their donation or simply for their attendance, and invite them to take the next step in their journey by joining a future service, or perhaps an upcoming event with the community.
Preparing and executing a successful Christmas is still a tremendous amount of work, of course. Ministry burnout — the exhaustion and loss of passion that’s prevalent among those called to serve — is especially widespread during the holidays. Be mindful of you and your team’s energy levels and time commitments over the next few months, and look for creative solutions to simplify your workflows. Once again, technology is a lifesaver in this regard, as many of your manual processes can be streamlined by an intuitive and comprehensive ChMS.
If you feel like you’re falling behind with this year’s Christmas prep, or just looking for some more outside-the-box inspiration, check out Pushpay’s latest free workbook, How To Prepare For Your Best Christmas Ever. This guide will walk you through exercises to identify your church’s unique strengths, push you to consider areas for improvement, and help you take this holiday season to the next level.
Shanda Boyett is the Director of Corporate Marketing for Pushpay. For more information about how we’re working with churches to build community and inspire generosity, visit pushpay.com.