The Importance of Planning Christmas (and other big days) Early

Planning can be a struggle for pastors. Last month, I spoke with several pastors who had not yet had a conversation about Christmas (which is right around the corner). I totally get it. I remember the days as a lead pastor. Every Monday morning, we are reminded that Sunday is coming…again. Unfortunately a lack of planning can result in missed opportunities to impact people with the gospel. Late planning usually means poor planning, which leads to frustration among volunteers that are trying to pull off last minutes ideas (that are under-resourced and unorganized). 

In the blink of an eye, Thanksgiving will be over, which is when many pastors start thinking about Christmas. If that’s your normal planning rhythm, keep reading.

Having early conversations about Christmas can result in gospel impact. It removes the "I wished we would have thought about that..." conversation that usually happens after Christmas (or other big days) have passed by. Planning as a team allows more opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak and tweak your plans and strategies, which makes them much more effective.  It also allows more time to pray, which is very important. In addition to being a good steward with your calendar, you’re also teaching your team the importance and discipline of organizational planning. In other words, it becomes an opportunity to develop your team, which should be one of the top three responsibilities of every lead pastor. 

Building your strategy for big days is vital. Even if you have no idea what Christmas looks like today, it's not too late to put something on the whiteboard and start brainstorming. Because people of all ages love Christmas, you have the potential to reach lots of people; it's the one time of year you can totally get away with nostalgia. Ask your team the question, "How can we create an experience instead of a service? Something that people will leave talking about?" If you are still looking at a blank whiteboard and have no idea where to begin, google, "Christmas Sermon Series" and then click on images (images can sometimes enhance creative thinking). You'll find hundreds of ideas that may help you spin your own. 

Once you determine your plan, here are three strategic pieces that can optimize your Christmas experience 

  1. Invite Strategy: People shouldn’t need a reason to invite their friends to church, I mean, what better reason is there than Jesus, right? But the reality is, many people struggle with inviting their friends, especially if their friends aren’t Christians. Christmas is a perfect time to create an invite platform, meaning, creating an opportunity for your people to invite their friends to something besides “church." That’s why it’s important (now) to know what your series, theme or event will look like. The series needs to be appealing and attractive to the people you’re trying to reach. Gather your team and ask, “What series and/or plans can we build that would encourage families to attend our church?” Also ask, “How can we equip and encourage our people to invite their friends?” Check out Creating an Invite Culture. It's also worth mentioning that whatever you plan, be sure to create an opportunity for people to hear and respond to the gospel. That's what really matters. 

It’s also important to determine the “big day” on the calendar. Some churches make Christmas Eve their big day (or evening). Personally, I like making the Sunday before Christmas the big day, except when Christmas falls on Sunday. 

  1. Hospitality Strategy: Charles McIntosh’s book, 101 Things Every Pastor Should Know, talks about the importance of friendliness. Studies prove that friendliness is the number one reason people come back to church. While churches should always have intentional hospitality every Sunday, it’s especially important for big days. It would be wise to gather your hospitality teams and ask, “What can we do on Christmas Sunday that will impact and wow new guests?" Give the team an opportunity to build the strategy. When people build strategy as a team, they’ll execute as a team

  1. Follow-Up Strategy: A strong follow-up strategy after Christmas can result in reaching and retaining new families. Usually the Sunday after Christmas is a low attended Sunday, but the first and second Sunday of the New Year are typically high days. Imagine if you were able to send a letter to all of your Christmas guests the week after Christmas, inviting them to “start the New Year off right!” The new year is a time when people are more open to starting new things (and making new resolutions). It’s also important to note that these people (who attended Christmas) have already been to your church and survived, which makes a second return less awkward. Take a moment and read this helpful article from one of our team members, Sean Bublitz, 4 Effective Ways to Connect with New Guests.
At the end of the day, anything that's worth doing is worth planning. Gather your team, dream and build a Christmas plan that will impact people for Jesus! 

Merry Christmas!

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