Mary Deckert

Mary Deckert has over 40 years’ experience in multiple communications and strategic functions including leadership, marketing, crisis management, creative and problem-solving roles in government and business (both private and public sectors); for-profit and ... read more

5 Things You Don’t Want to Forget Heading Into Christmas

What If Christmas Could Be Different This Year?

Christmas can be tough for church leaders. It’s one of the busiest times of the year, one of the busiest days on the church calendar, there’s just so much to do. How can you hope to make it special this year?

It can be, truly. Christmas can be different and better than it’s ever been before – for you, your family, your ministry, your church, your community. And it can be easy and inexpensive too, honest!

Let’s start with this: You have permission to do something different with Christmas. Sometimes church leaders just need to hear that. Although the heart of the Christmas story will never change, you are allowed to look at it differently than you ever have before. It’s OK. 

So let’s agree to at least consider the possibility of something new this Christmas season. Read through these ideas without thinking, “We could never do that.” Because you can.

Getting Ready for Christmas … Don’t Forget

Let’s start with the things you don’t want to forget when planning for Christmas. Bottom line, it’s all about Jesus. Yes, you are going to try to engage as many people as possible, nothing wrong with that. You want as many people as possible to come, enjoy themselves, and you want to help if you can. But in the end, what we’re really trying to do is connect them to Jesus. No matter what we’re doing, no matter how crazy, busy, and complicated things may get when we take a step back and say, What’s this about? It’s Jesus, let’s focus there. Make sure Jesus is your anchor and you’ll weather any seasonal storms that may come.

Having stated the obvious, here are five things you should make sure to not forget during Christmas at your church.

1. Don’t Forget to Focus Outward

Whatever you choose to do this Christmas season, don’t forget that community engagement should be at the heart of your church’s activities. Help your congregation understand that it’s not about them but the community. For ideas on how to creatively engage your community, plan to attend the Church Fuel Planning for Christmas Lab on Oct. 12. 

In that Lab, we’ll help you to focus “out” – by offering ways the church can be involved in the community, engaging the community during the Christmas season. The goal here is not to get those people to show up for a service (that will happen, organically), but rather to determine how we can get out, serve and be visible in the community.

It’s also a season of generosity, so help your people embrace and enjoy their giving – find a worthy cause in your community to adopt as a church. You’ll be amazed at the engagement something this simple will generate.

2. Don’t Forget to Invite

Christmas is a great time to invite non-churchgoers to church. It’s one of those times during the year when people are open to all things “spiritual” – you know that. But do you go all out as a church to take advantage of that spiritual hunger?

We’ll teach you how to equip your church attendees to invite others at Christmas without turning them off at the Church Fuel Planning for Christmas Lab on Oct. 12. There are some very easy and inexpensive ways to do that.

If you’re not a member of Church Fuel or Church Marketing University, apply for a scholarship here so you can attend this insanely practical event where you will plan out your entire Christmas season. You’ll work with other pastors, leaders, and Church Fuel coaches and discuss ways to engage the community this Christmas that will help lead more people to your Christmas services. Sign up for the Planning for Christmas Lab today!

But Christmas is also a time when you should be reaching out to invite your community, to support those personal invitations with “formal” invitations from the Church. That means an online “selfie” invitation from your lead pastor on all your social media channels. For help in creating your video, check out the CMU Resource Selfie School Playbook.

And augmenting those invites with well-placed advertising that will target people in your community looking for a church this Christmas. Do you know that one million people search Google for “church near me” every month; millions more will be searching for Christmas events. Make sure your church shows up in those searches and follow it up with an ad inviting that searcher to your Christmas services.

We’ll cover all the best practices and provide insanely practical steps you can take during our Christmas Ads & Plan Your Visit Lab on Nov. 29 & 30. You’ll walk away with your ads done and scheduled, making Christmas a season of no stress! If you’re not in our Grow program, apply today so you can attend this training to take the chaos out of Christmas. 

One more thought – be sure to engage the kids as much as possible during this season – make them part of the outreach into the community and watch them invite their friends and schoolmates! Make it fun and exciting for them and the whole family will follow.

3. Don’t Forget to Follow Up

After pulling out all the stops and going full steam the whole month of December, it’s tempting to take time off after Christmas, for you and your staff – you’ve certainly earned it. But don’t forget to PLAN for that time off and ensure that follow-up happens even while everyone is resting. All the people who aren’t part of your church – those folks you worked so hard to invite from the community, typically have free time after Christmas and are eager to engage – help them do so. Don’t forget to follow up with all those visitors who showed up during the Christmas season and give them a reason to come back:

  • If you typically have a Christmas Production, consider hosting it earlier in the month so you’re not competing with so many community events, then follow up to invite attendees to your Christmas services (and follow up with them after that too)
  • Consider hosting a family-friendly event post-Christmas or even New Year’s Eve – a family game night or movie night with pop and popcorn. Add in an ugly sweater contest just for fun. For ideas on other event ideas, check out 101 Church Outreach Ideas and focus on the Christmas-themed ideas (although any of them will do!)
  • Have a fun gift or “event” in your kid’s ministry for the Sunday after Christmas and invite all Christmas visitors to bring the kiddos back for that.
  • Invite visitors back to hear a new sermon series you plan for after Christmas – give them an incentive to attend and a little FOMO if they don’t.

Bottom line, whatever your regular follow-up plan, don’t let it drop off the map during the Christmas season. Although it may seem more difficult because of family travels and other competing community events, when you get first-time visitors during the Christmas season, think about what you’re pointing them to in order to get them the return:

  • Next series
  • Kids event
  • Mentioning you have something for them while they are there (free gift for new visitors)

If you don’t yet have a follow-up plan, now’s the time to put one in place so you don’t lose all those new visitors who show up for Christmas services. Church Marketing University/Church Fuel offers a Guest Follow-Up Course if you need help in setting a system up. In it, you’ll learn the three things you SHOULD do and the three things you SHOULD NOT do when it comes to follow-up.

4. Don’t Forget Your People

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not suggesting you and your staff give up all family time during the holiday season, not at all. Rest is good and if you plan, you can and should plan to rest. So plan rest for you, your staff, and your volunteers in your Christmas preparations. Remember, if your church staff needs rest, your key volunteers likely do as well. Don’t overwhelm people with activities during this season – one or two is all you need. Consider engaging new volunteers for the Christmas season as a first toe-dip into service (when they have more time and are thinking of “giving back”), then leverage that into longer-term service opportunities afterward.

We’ll show you how to focus “up” and “in” during the Planning for Christmas Lab on Oct. 12. We’ll offer some devotional ideas to help staff and volunteer teams stay connected to God during the busy holiday season, and offer ideas to help them to be creative and have fun.

We’ll also cover how to encourage and care for your volunteer teams and how to utilize this season to mobilize more volunteers. Christmas is a great time to get people to volunteer for just the season. Plan to leverage that for service later on; we’ll offer ideas for engaging those new volunteers after the season as well during the lab. Sign up for the Planning for Christmas Lab now or ask for a scholarship if you’re not currently a member of Church Fuel or Church Marketing University. You don’t want to miss the Planning for Christmas Lab on Oct. 12!

5. Don’t Forget the New Year’s Series

We already mentioned the value of having a sermon series planned for after Christmas in encouraging new visitors to return. But preparing ahead and having a series already planned out and done will do wonders to remove any post-Christmas exhaustion for lead Pastors and staff. 

There are many resources available to you to help with this. Life.Church offers many sermon series on its Free Open Network

Church Fuel/Church Marketing University created A New Beginning kit specifically for use at the beginning of the year when so many people are ready to recommit to regular church attendance. This kit is designed to give your church a strong launch at the beginning of the year and includes a 5-part message series along with all you need to promote, engage, and disciple your church to begin the year. It’s pre-done so you can promote it at Christmas to entice new visitors to return after the New Year without putting any undue stress on you or your church staff during the hectic Christmas holiday season.

CF/CMU offers additional kits as well, any of which can be used for a series starting after Christmas:

  • Run to Win – This sermon series is designed to be done at the beginning of the year and focuses on the spiritual disciplines critical to spiritual growth.
  • The Big Win – This kit is a sermon series designed to help your church have a great theme to rally around. It looks at the difference between winning and finding the Big Win, by focusing on what really matters – a vibrant and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • The Fight –This Sermon Series is based on the book of Ephesians and uses examples from boxing and wrestling to help you draw people to your church every week to hear how they can overcome their everyday battles. 

All of these kits, and the accompanying “done for you” materials, can be found in your CMU/CF dashboard. Or, if you’re not yet a member, apply for a scholarship here to get access to these and other resources to help make your Christmas season the most productive and least stressful ever.

Pastor – Don’t Forget YOU!

The Christmas season is such a busy and chaotic season for a lot of different and amazing reasons – lots of great things happen. But I encourage you, above all, to make a concerted effort to slow down this December. You don’t want to get to December 26th standing knee-deep in wrapping paper and say, “Christmas is over, what was that? It was a blur.” 

Slow down, enjoy it – you, personally; your family; and your team. Don’t get lost in the season’s “busyness.”

Above all, decide ahead of time to have fun!

THE Church’s Role at Christmas

Christmas is the time of year when the church has a huge role with everyone in your community. Who else will ensure that we keep Christ in Christmas? We above all others know the true reason for the season. 

But people are at different stages and we should be prepared to play a role both with the spiritually mature person and with someone who doesn’t yet know Christ. The season is an opportunity man created, but God uses it to honor himself – through worship, teaching, and experience, to provide a pathway for those who don’t know Jesus to come to know him. Wherever someone is on their journey, the Church has a role to lead them to their next step.

Remember that this Christmas season, keep Jesus at the center, and you’ll experience a whole new level of discipleship.

It’s always easier to talk about it than to actually do it. It’s quite simple to list the things you should do but another thing to actually DO it. Keep this one thought in mind:

You never know until you know. 

It may be more doable than you think. So, if you’re worried about how hard it’s going to be to implement, take just one idea. Go for the lowest hanging fruit and do that one, easy thing – but dive all into that one thing.

If you think you need a fresh approach, something new, or something different than you’ve always done, do that one thing and soar this Christmas.

It’s difficult for churches to think beyond just the service itself – what’s the worship going to be, any creative elements, multiple services, Christmas Eve only, or Christmas Day … those are all great, and yes, a lot goes into the Christmas service. But what comes after? 

Don’t miss the opportunity to build on the most wonderful time of the year.