Christmas as an On-Ramp For Your Church

Christmas as an On-Ramp For Your Church

November 7, 2016 by

Christmas is coming! The songs and carols, the gifts and parties, the people and shoppers, the guests to your church. Are you ready?

In the era of super cool churches and over-sensationalized Christmas experiences, my church found ourselves right in the middle of it all.

A Dust Bowl Christmas Story2016_10christmas-on-ramp-1

During my first year working at my church, we did a take on Church On The Move’sChristmas Story.” We purchased the score and script. However, we decided to take their simple Christmas narrative to another level.

We decided to re-imagine the script as a movie from the Dust Bowl era. We displayed it on a custom-made triple-wide screen. All of this was underscored by our band, dressed in Dust-Bowl-era attire.

Creating an “Experience”

Needless to say, this was an ambitious and artistic pursuit for creating an “experience” for our guest. We worked hard and planned exhaustively to make all this come together.

And, with all of those moving pieces, we pulled it off even better than hoped for. Success!

Finally, we were part of the super cool church elite, right? Wrong.

Sure, thousands came to the service. And yes, they clapped. But their fix wasn’t filled.

Make Christmas an On-Ramp to Church

We boiled down the concept of Christmas to be an on-ramp to church.

We made the entire production hoping guest would fall in love with it. But we forgot to use our most basic instincts. We forgot the basic goal of Christmas services.

When asked for feedback, we heard things like “It was nice,” and “I’m not sure we got the point.” Worst of all, people were asking if we were still doing a Christmas play.

In our planning for the next year, we boiled down the concept of Christmas to be an on-ramp to church.

We boiled it down until there was nothing left but the basics of Christmas. At the heart of it all was every cherished memory, every funny story, every burnt turkey, and awkward mistletoe kiss.

Christmas Is All About Nostalgia

We realized that Christmas is tied up with heartstrings of nostalgia.

We realized that Christmas is tied up with heartstrings of nostalgia.

For once, as a church, we had real marketing power. We could do what so many marketing firms and advertising agencies do commercially every day—play to our audience’s nostalgic and sentimental values. Ideas started to fly.

A Classic Christmas Service

2016_10christmas-on-ramp-2We started the evening with memorable movie clips from decades past as people came in. We played snippets from classic movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Miracle On 31st Street, and Home Alone.

Musically, we had a band and stage inspired by Lawrence Welk. Our musicians wore white tuxedos and gowns. They played tunes like “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” and “Silver Bells.” As the evening progressed, we all sang well-known Christmas carols.

In our lobby, we had a Norman-Rockwell-inspired photo booth where families sat at a faux Christmas dinner table and take pictures for social media.

We served free apple cider and hot chocolate and had a pianist in the main lobby playing Vince Guaraldi’s “Charlie Brown Christmas” tunes.

Connecting with Christmas

By keeping our goal at the forefront, we were able to sell our church’s personality.

2016_10christmas-on-ramp-3Once again, thousands came. But this time, we had an overwhelming response to the fun and connection felt in those services.

By keeping our goal at the forefront, we were able to sell our church’s personality and casual family feel. We treated our service like a fun family time and nothing else.

We wanted our guest to feel relationship and community rather than a “service” or a “building.”  That simple idea was easy enough for guests to feel like they belonged with us.  

Inspiring People to Invite Others

After the show, many of our church family asked if there would be more shows like this. Because they had guests they wanted to invite. The proof of our success was that subsequent Christmas Eve services were even better attended.

By tapping into people’s fond memories, we were able to walk through an open door to present our church in the best light.

God Rest Ye Stressed Communicators: Planning Christmas for Your ChurchMore:

Whatever your church plans for Christmas this year, we’ve got plenty of resources to help:

Post By:

Bart Anestin

Bart is a graphic designer and cinematographer based in Toronto, Canada. He works as communications director for and is passionate about the church at large winning through effective communication.
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