Thanks to Ann A. Michel of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership for sharing this Great Idea!
In her article, 7 Suggestions for Reaching More People This Christmas, Michel fleshes out the following 7 tips:
- Equip church members to invite their friends, families, and neighbors.
- Make a plan to personally invite church members you haven’t seen in a while.
- Enhance hospitality and follow-up efforts.
- Plan community-facing events and services.
- Up your game online.
- Give your Christmas visitors a glimpse of what matters most to your church.
- Give visitors a reason to return.
Read Ann Michel’s full article here.
To her suggestions, I add the following:
A. Equip church members:
- during worship or Bible study: role-play actually inviting someone. I am not a fan of role-playing, personally, but for a lot of people getting over the awkwardness while in the safety of one’s congregation might help one feel less awkward inviting someone outside of that group.
- AND: I double-down on Michel’s suggestion of low-barrier invite-worthy pre-Christmas events: get people in the doors for a hymn sing-along (get them familiar with a few hymns before Christmas Eve!); caroling [warm-up/rehearse in the building, then spread the cheer with your neighborhood, hospital, shelter (see Give ’em a Glimpse, below); then warm up back in the building w/ cocoa, etc.]; cookie bake and/or exchange; and don’t forget THE PAGEANT: invite neighbors whose kids might participate as last-minute angels, shepherds, sheep, etc.
B. Make a plan:
- Again, don’t forget to invite non-participating families to participate in THE PAGEANT – a chance for in-house kids to shine while mentoring/supporting/bonding with new kids who show-up last-minute; a chance to get reacquainted with the variety of gifts of your members (think costumes, sets, props, cat-herding, rehearsal snacks, treats afterwards, etc.)
C. Enhance hospitality:
- YEEESS!! Get your A-team in on this (don’t forget to recruit from those folx who’ve been away for a while, too!)
- Create gift-bags for visitors (see Michel’s tips on this AND include information on outside organizations with whom your congregation is partnering to make your community shine)
D. Community-facing events and services:
- My little Northern MN congregation shares a carol sing-along in our local bar at which we sell $5 plates of cookies (baked by members); the funds go to a local organization other than the church. It’s a huge success, annually.
- Our 1 Christmas/Epiphany Psalm 148 sermon/reflection is a free option you might share anywhere to invite folks to a more contemplative, restful post-Christmas gathering. Register to receive the link here.
- Michel’s advice is great AND:
- Encourage members to share your website and other online platforms freely, as part of their invitations to others. Then be sure you are posting regularly with refreshed content, directing people to upcoming events and, again, connections with other community organizations and the work you support through them.
F. Give ’em a Glimpse:
- Could your pageant and/or worship time include content relevant to (and revelatory of) your mission, community partners, etc.? That is, hopefully your mission and external partnerships are built on core faith values – many of which are likely expressed in the Christmas Narrative. It’s easy to make explicit links, then, to these items so worship is infused with who you are as a congregation, the values you aspire to uphold, and the good you endeavor to do in the world.
G. A Reason to Return
- Again, see our 1 Christmas/Epiphany Psalm 148 sermon/reflection for a contemplative opportunity anytime during Epiphany.
- Plan a fun, contemplative, and/or missionally-focused Epiphany gathering for outside of your congregation – where would the Star lead the Magi in your community? What gifts would the Magi bring to that location this year? Invite people to join in!
Blessings for a beautiful Christmas celebration – to you and your congregation as you bring Joy to the World!!