A few weeks back we talked about some of the reasons churches plateau. I know it’s a popular topic because so many pastors tell me their churches are stuck at a certain number of members or attenders.
Here’s the good news: Christmas is a great time to get unstuck.
People who wouldn’t come some other time of the year show up at Christmas. And we have a great opportunity to tell them about Jesus and to encourage them to come back to church. You can use Christmas services to help your members sense that they are a part of something big and exciting. It can be tough to keep people motivated consistently over the long haul, but we can get them fired up for a specific day.
A “Big Day” can help people feel like they’re on a winning team.
And a “Big Day” like Christmas can help break through growth barriers (whether it’s 200, 300, 400, or 1,000).
At Saddleback, we refer to it as pyramiding growth. You push past a barrier on a “Big Day,” then the numbers might drop a little bit the next week, but you don’t drop as far back as you were. Then you plan for your next “Big Day” (like Easter). Again, just like with Christmas, your numbers may drop after Easter, but you don’t drop all the way back to where you had started.
Here are some ways to intentionally plan for a “Big Day” at Christmas:
1. Give people tools to invite their friends and neighbors.
A lot of the guests at Christmas services will be there because someone invited them, so it’s a great time to encourage our people to make the extra effort to invite friends and family.
The tools we can provide include both digital and printed invitations with information about the Christmas services: name of the sermon/series, date(s), time(s), address of the church, and the names of any special guests. Even in our digital age, people still like to have details in a printed form. It helps them keep everything in one place and have something to stick on the refrigerator as a reminder.
2. Get the word out using advertising.
If you’re going to use advertising, Christmas and Easter are the days to do it. Even if people don’t come because of a specific ad, it will still help reinforce the personal invitations from your members. For instance, potential guests may see your ad and then get invited by one of your members, and that will let them know great things are happening at your church. Plus, you’ll always get a few people who want to go to church that day but don’t have any idea where to go. Your ad may be just what they need.
3. Be ready for people.
You want to make a good impression on guests every week, but it’s particularly important at Christmas. You can’t control how many guests you’ll get for special days, but you can control how well you prepare for them.
Get greeters ready to say hello and provide a warm welcome as people arrive. Set up information tables with campus maps and basic information about the church. Make it easy to find parking, restrooms, and childcare.
Part of being a good host means thinking through the questions and concerns guests may have. Ask someone who doesn’t currently attend your church to take a walkthrough of your campus and offer questions or feedback.
4. Offer something for children.
Think through what kind of experience you can offer children. It doesn’t matter what parents think about the service if the kids have a lousy time.
Be prepared for additional children during Christmas. You don’t want to overtax your current children’s ministry volunteers, so add extra workers and think about any changes that may make it easier to handle more kids at one time.
5. Follow up with your guests.
Have emails ready to send out Monday morning welcoming guests who gave you their contact info. Invite people to your next sermon series and tell them how to find a small group. The email is also a great place to include any follow-up information from your Christmas service (maybe specific contact information for ministries you mentioned).
If you have a large crowd on Christmas, that’s great. But it’s not the end of the story. It’s really the beginning. How we follow up with guests makes a big difference in whether they’ll come back and eventually get more involved in our congregations.