How to Ensure You’re Placing Relationships Above Production at Christmas

It’s not uncommon to hear Christmas services referred to as a church’s “Super Bowl”.  Since more people attend Christmas services than any other time of year, church leaders often feel pressured to up the performance ante. The church facility gets a decorative facelift, church members are encouraged to be extra welcoming, and the worship set is carefully chosen with a mix of traditional and contemporary Christmas songs. Not to mention the many holiday events and outreach activities planned this time of year. As Christians, we know that the Christmas celebration is a big deal, and we want to make our services and ministries memorable and convincing. In theory, if we do something elaborate we’re hoping it attracts more people and gets them to come back for a non-holiday service. While it’s great to want more people at your church, we have to guard against sacrificing relationships (and discipleship) for a big production that can sometimes lose sight of our reason for gathering in the first place. 

As you head into this holy holiday season, here are some tips on how to ensure you’re placing relationships above production at Christmas. 

Tip #1: Be realistic about volunteer numbers

The months of November and December are busy, not just for church leaders but also for your members. The volunteers you normally rely on for church events likely have family commitments during the holidays. With that in mind, assuming they will be available to volunteer at multiple church Christmas events isn’t a great strategy. You first should determine how many volunteers you’ll need for the events you’re considering. This number should include the volunteers needed for the planning process as well the day of the event. Once you’ve figured out your number, cross-reference it with volunteer availability. Is it realistic to attain this many volunteers during this busy season? If not, you’ll need to reconsider which events you can effectively make happen. 

Tip #2: Consider how to best reach out to guests

Do potential Christmas visitors in your community want a big production or are they looking for a less flashy service with the chance to learn more about the church? Consider any feedback you’ve received after previous holiday services and talk with key volunteers to get their insights.  Some visitors might feel more comfortable with a low-key and reverent service while others may enjoy the energy that comes from a more elaborate worship service. 

Also, does your church have a plan for following up with church visitors? Sending out follow-up emails or text messages is a great way to reach out to guests. It’s also a great opportunity to learn what they liked or didn’t like about your church service. This can give you a good indication of how your church is being perceived externally.  

Tip #3: Account for the budget

Like it or not, your budget will have an impact on your planning capacity. Make sure you’re aware of the budget and reference it with every new idea you have. For example, you may want to put on a Christmas play to wrap up a week of outreach activities. Before you start gathering actors and props for the performance, check the budget. Saying ‘yes’ to too much is potentially going to put your church’s financial health at risk, and that isn’t being an excellent steward of the resources God has entrusted to you.

Once you’ve developed a budget (ideally a year in advance), stick to it. Some tips to saving money include: requesting for donations of time and materials, making decorations instead of buying them, and scaling back large props or decor items. I promise, you can communicate the Gospel and create an impactful Christmas service even on a small budget.

Tip #4: Don’t make your family dread December

If your spouse and children (and those of your staff members) dread the Christmas season because they know they won’t see you, that’s a sign you’re doing too much. This may require some tough choices and scaling back a bit.  If you’re not willing to scale back production, then consider adding more people to your planning and execution teams. Scaling back or adding to the team should help you go into the Christmas season reasonably rested and in one accord with your family.  Your ministry will be better as a result.   

As your calendar fills up and your good ideas run rampant, remember this: Jesus was born in a manger, to a poor couple, with little earthly fanfare. Though it’s wonderful to want to celebrate Him in a big way, it’s important to stay focused. Christmas should be a time for reflection on how God valued His relationship with us so much that He sent His Son to earth.  Whether your church provides a simple and impactful service or a more elaborate production, make sure to keep your eye on the true prize: His birth and His love.