Christmas Eve is a wonderful outreach opportunity!
Church Visitors come through your doors.
- Some will come for the first time since last Christmas Eve.
- Others still will be coming for the very first time with some spiritual thirst.
- Some will be out of towners who are visiting with family.
I visited a church Christmas eve 2010.
My experience could make a great lesson in church hospitality for many churches.
Did I visit your church?
I visited a suburban church on a corner of an busy intersection.
The building was presentable. In fact, it was clean and it’s interior was well lit.
The parking lot was clearly maintained and the grass/bushes lining the parking lot appeared well maintained.
Finding a parking spot and finding our way to the entrance of the church was no problem at 7.30 on a cold winter night.
It wasn’t easy to visit this church
However, to get this far, the church put up many obstacles.
For me to go back after this experience would be even another challenge.
Here are a few mistakes this church put up in the way.
Mistake Number 1. No Special Service Times on the Church Website
Before visiting, my question was
“What time is the Christmas Eve Service?”
I checked their website, which was hard to find due to poor optimization for any of the search terms I used.
Once I found their website, I looked at the home page for the special service times.
I found no information about Christmas Eve services.
I called the phone number and got a voice mail that didn’t indicate a Christmas eve service.
I kept searching around their website, only because I had heard from my friend that this church was having a Christmas Eve service.
In my search, I found the pastor’s email on the contact page and sent him an email asking if there was a service. The email address was [email protected][name of church].org, but I didn’t get an answer until 3 days after the Christmas eve service from the church secretary. The email didn’t even go to the pastor that day.
Eventually, I found the church calender for December in a PDF. It had a little note on the square for 24 December that Christmas Eve service would be 7.30pm.
I FOUND IT!
Solution #1: Use the home page of your website to feature times of special services. Make it easy for church visitors to get answers on line.
Solution#2: If you have the pastor’s email on there, I suggest it goes to a person who can answer it quickly. Four days later is not acceptable.
Mistake Number 2. No one said hello.
I’ve been to large churches where anonymity is important.
This church appeared to fit 100-150 people in the sanctuary, so it has a small church feel. I’ve pastored churches this size and know who is a visitor or not.
We had arrived about 10 minutes before service, but there were only 40-50 people there.
Even though we were early, no one took the initiative to say hello.
For a congregation this size, this creates awkward uncomfortableness for the visitors.
The pastor wandered about welcoming people he knew, but never bothered to approach us.
I noticed we were not the only 1st time church visitors – there was another clueless family in front of us.
Solution: You are likely to receive church visitors on Christmas Eve, some of whom might be seeking the Lord for the first time. Don’t neglect them or ignore their presence.
Make all efforts to welcome both members and guests.
Mistake Number 3: Impossible Hymns.
This church promoted a Christmas Eve service with traditional Christmas carols and communion service.
Together with a choir and the organ, we sang traditional hymns for this time of year.
The church did provide printed lyrics in their church bulletin and projected hymn lyrics on the wall to assist those who needed to follow lyrics.
However, two or three of the selected hymns were
- obscure in their lyrics and
- cumbersome in melody.
Since lyrics to those Christmas hymns were so unfamiliar even to choir, the singing of those hymns was a musical disaster.
- People in the church, including vistors, started and finished in different places.
- Some word syllables were held for 3 beats instead of 4.
- Some of those beats were in really weird places.
- One song was missing projected lyrics so only the pastor was singing.
- At one point, we had to stop and go look for hymnbooks, but by the time we found it, the lyrics were found and projected.
In that hymn in particular, we and most of the congregation gave up after the first verse.
Solution: Your Christmas Eve Services isn’t the place to introduce new hymns. If your eight person choir doesn’t know it to carry the lead, then please don’t do it.
Choose musically simple songs that are easy to sing and have worked their way into the culture.
Mistake Number 4. No one said hello as we left.
When the Christmas Eve service ended, we filed out of the sanctuary.
No one looked at us, nor engaged us in conversation. By this point, we really didn’t have an interest to start a conversation.
I expected the pastor to be standing by the back door greeting folks leaving the sanctuary, but he had gone somewhere else and I never had a chance to meet him.
Solution: These precious moments after your Christmas Eve service is over is THE BEST TIME to demonstrate the friendliness of your congregation.
How? Take the initiative and greet the first time visitors. In a church this size, saying hello is a great ice breaker and could possibly overcome those other mistakes above.
Your Christmas Eve Service is a great time to Welcome Visitors
The church did have some things going for it.
A nice building, a great location, and clean bathrooms.
However, the personal friendliness of the congregation fell way short. Our presence was obvious as first time church visitors. In a congregation of this size, the lack of greeting made for awkward feelings.
It makes it very hard for me to make a recommendation of this church to anyone else.