Are you ready for your Christmas sermon?
As you are well aware, Christmas Eve services are one of the highest attendance days of the year for most churches.
It’s the big event, the big night.
Hundreds — maybe even thousands — of people will trust their valuable time to your church. But the week after that, will your guests come back?
This could be the only chance you get to make a good impression.
The stakes are high. So here are five tips that will help you preach a sermon that brings guests back for more.
1. Think appetizer, not buffet.
Think of your Christmas sermon more like a gourmet appetizer at a fine dining restaurant than the average food at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The appetizer may be small, but it’s packed with flavor, and you’re left wanting more.
Preaching too long will leave a negative impression. You will never have enough time to cover everything in a single sermon. The goal should be to give people a delicious taste of Scripture so they want to come back for more.
I won’t dictate how long you have to preach, but try to shave some time off your average time. If you typically preach 45 minutes, try 30. If 30, try 25.
I know some pastors will push back on this. “If this is our only chance, we must maximize every minute we can!”
True. But although you may love listening to yourself talk forever, your audience has a threshold. After a certain amount of time — no matter how great your sermon is — people will look at their phones and watches.
If you run long, you will give people a bad taste in their mouth. It is rude to promise a 60-minute service and hold them hostage for 75.
Less is more.
2. Bring your “A” game.
If Christmas is like the Super Bowl for churches, you’d better give it all you’ve got.
Don’t just preach the same old sermon that you preach every year.
Don’t slack on the hard work of creativity.
Don’t be boring.
Spend more time preparing this message than you do on a typical sermon.
Begin preparing the sermon in advance, so it has time to marinate.
Collect excellent illustrations.
Get help from other people in your preparation process.
Give it all you’ve got!
If you aren’t excited, why should they be? If you aren’t passionate about Jesus, you’d better get there or get someone else to preach.
Make this the best sermon you have preached yet.
3. Be remarkable.
Something that is remarkable is simply something that causes people to remark — to talk about it.
To be clear, I mean remarkable in a good way.
I have been to plenty of church services that are remarkable for bad reasons: the confusing sermon, the painfully bad music, the hideous decorations, the awkward moment when the projectors/sound system/lighting stopped working mid-service.
The thing that causes people to remark in a good way is to exceed expectations. Surprise them in a positive way.
What do you want people saying when they leave your church?
- The music was good, and that song was amazing.
- The sermon was good, and that illustration challenged my entire perspective.
- I expected a church service, but I never expected to enjoy it so much.
Put extra effort into exceeding expectations. Give the people something good to talk about.
In every area of your service, ask: What do people expect, and how can we exceed expectation?
- What do people expect in the parking lot? How can we exceed expectations?
- How do people expect to be greeted? How can we exceed expectations?
- What do people expect from the music? How can we exceed expectations?
- What do people expect from the sermon? How can we exceed expectations?
You get the point.
4. Have a hook.
Give people a reason — a hook — to want to come back.
- Start an awesome new series the following week that solves a problem or answers a controversial question that they have.
- End your sermon with a tease or a cliffhanger that will draw them back the next week.
- Give visitors a card for free coffee and donuts on their next visit.
- Collect their contact information to send them a welcome letter, mail them a gift, or give them a personal phone call.
Get creative, and present “the hook” in a remarkable way that exceeds their expectations.
If you want people to come back, you need to give them a reason to. But don’t bait and switch. If you promise something, you better deliver.
Don’t tell them they will get one thing when you secretly plan to give them something else.
Whatever you do, do everything you possibly can to help visitors want to come back.
5. Tell the whole story.
Everyone expects to hear it. Everyone wants to hear it. A few may have never heard it.
You’d better tell the Christmas story.
You can still be creative. Tell it in a different way. Show people something they’ve never noticed before. Take a different twist on the story, if you want.
But PLEASE, talk about the reason everyone has gathered to celebrate in the first place. Tell the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth.
And don’t stop there!
We celebrate Christmas because Jesus left Heaven to come to earth, but that’s not all Jesus did. The Christmas story introduces the story of our Savior. Jesus conquered Satan, sin, and death. The Christmas story is the beginning of the Greatest News of all time.
So tell the birth story. Then point to the Gospel.
You don’t know who is in the audience. Maybe they finally accepted the invitation of a friend or family member. Maybe they are “CEO” Christians (Christmas and Easter only). Maybe they got lost and wandered in. Who knows?
However they got there, do not let them leave without hearing the Good News! Make sure everyone leaves your church knowing why Christmas is worth celebrating.
And don’t let them leave without a chance to respond to the Good News. Invite them to pray a prayer, check a box, come forward, meet with a pastor — or whatever your style is.
Don’t just assume that people will know what to do with what they just heard. Give them a clear call to action so that you can help them in the beginning of their faith journey.
This post was originally published at ProPreacher.com.