It’s time to talk about church Christmas planning (again).
Last year on the blog, we talked about two things churches should rethink when it comes to Christmas––getting back to their mission and prioritizing meaningful experiences over big productions. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s still a great resource for churches just starting their Christmas planning.
And while our stance on that hasn’t changed, this year we’re diving a little deeper into the why behind church Christmas planning.
While fewer people regularly (weekly or monthly) attend church each year, the U.S. population hasn’t completely given up on church quite yet. In the world of church slang, you might have heard of those dubbed “Chreasters”––nonchurchgoers who still make their appearances every Christmas and Easter.
In 2022, Lifeway Research published their findings on holiday church attendance from pastors’ points of view. What’d they find? Around half of U.S. Protestant pastors reported that Christmas Eve was the most attended holiday service in their experience.
Over the past few decades, seeing this trend, many churches have taken to spending a lot of their time, money, and effort on their holiday services—and for good reason. Generally speaking, Christmas has so much potential to reach the unchurched and dechurched. In the United States, the holiday is a widely beloved celebration that even non-churchgoers tie to religion in some capacity. Whether it’s because it reminds them of the meaning behind Christmas or the pure nostalgia of the season, it always offers solace in the midst of mass consumerism.
There’s no doubt that the Christmas season offers promising opportunities for evangelism––and discipleship. But with that in mind, it might be time to think critically about how we approach our Christmas planning.
Our team works with a number of churches, nonprofits, and other mission-driven people throughout the year. Our job is to partner with them to grow and communicate strategically while keeping their mission and vision at the core of everything they do. And while aligned, mission-driven decision making tends to resonate with an audience—bringing meaningful results—there’s still a nuance between easily visible, external success and your values that might not be as tangible.
The same can be said of churches planning for Christmas. The end goal? A meaningful experience––whatever that experience may be for your particular congregation. You can’t put a price tag on eternal value. On the other hand, when you’re spending time, effort, and the hard-earned money of a congregation who has entrusted it to you, it’s important to understand what is futile and what is furthering your mission.
It’s not about raw ROI, but about finding solutions where our practical resources, opportunities, and constraints meet with real people who are impacted through your church this Christmas season.
If your church has been around for more than a year, take a look at last year’s inputs and outcomes. If not, keep these in mind as you move forward with your Christmas planning this year.
Typically, there’s a lot that goes into church Christmas planning. Since it’s one of the most important celebrations of the Christian faith, it’s easy to adopt an attitude that neglects practicality and resourcefulness. Without a proper focus, a pragmatic evaluation can feel distant and out of place—like you’re bringing worldly business principles into the church. However, time and again, Scripture is filled with examples of and calls to stewardship. And stewardship starts with evaluation. With that, start with your “inputs.”
What resources is your church spending on Christmas?
Sure, a marketing budget is a resource, but there’s much more to it. What about the time of your faithful volunteers who’ve given up other things to participate in your church’s work this Christmas season? What about the energy of tired church leaders and staff? What about the hard-earned money your church congregation has joyfully entrusted you?
When it comes to evaluating your outcomes, this will look a little different than a first-quarter review for a for-profit business. You’re likely––and hopefully––not calculating a traditional ROI or lost deal percentages.
But there are ways to adapt best practices to your church’s goals. How? By focusing on meaningful outcomes.
Even among Bible-believing churches, there is a wide spread of meaningful Christmas celebrations. Some pour their effort into a Christmas Eve service, some bring in historical elements such as Advent, some double down on evangelistic outreach in their community over the holidays, while some craft stripped-down, meaningful experiences for their own congregation. There’s no one right way.
Meaning is derived from the people in your congregation. What do they specifically need this holiday season? Rest for a tired soul? Hope in a dark season? A helping hand in a time of struggle? How you think about and design what you do during the Christmas season should revolve around what you believe your church and its people need to hear while anchoring to the love, joy, hope, and peace found in the birth of Jesus.
This church evaluation resource from Pastor Mentor could be a helpful tool. While not specifically geared toward Christmas planning, they break down the core elements needed to assess your church—and give caution and advice on walking through this process in a healthy, Biblical, eternity-focused manner.
At the end of the day, church Christmas planning is about creating holistic, meaningful experiences for those in your church or community. While this isn’t a comprehensive guide, we hope it gave you some inspiration and practical tips when it comes to sharing the Gospel authentically and resourcefully this Christmas season.