At Christmas eve services across the country, millions of people will be coming to church, and a significant number only come once or twice a year. Many churches that struggle with attendance the rest of the year will be packed on this one night. But in many cases, the disappointing service they experience only confirms that they should continue this once a year visit. How do we change that perception? Sure, a great number of those visitors are only there out of tradition, or to please grandma, and a few might even be tipsy. But how can we connect during that one night when so many people are out there?
First – don’t criticize them (even jokingly) for not showing up the rest of the year. You might think it’s cute, but they didn’t come to be made fun of, so you won’t score any points there.
Second – many of these once a year people fondly remember the traditional services from their past. That’s why so many TV networks broadcast liturgical services from the Vatican and other “high church” services on Christmas eve. So no matter how contemporary your church may be, consider adding elements from the historic church. It might be traditional music or hymns, communion, a more formal atmosphere – whatever it is, do something special. It will help bring back good memories of the past.
Third – this isn’t the service for your “B” team. Too many churches look at the Christmas eve service as an inconvenience. So they let the best musicians and choir members take a break, and let an assistant pastor handle the service. But this is your chance to connect with an entirely new community. Don’t pass that incredible opportunity to those who aren’t ready for the challenge.
Finally – remember that it’s about grace. It was grace that made Christmas happen in the first place, and grace should be the message that’s repeated over and over. Remember that many of the people coming in on Christmas eve have been beaten down by circumstances, are struggling financially, and are probably spending time with family members they don’t get along with very well. This could be your opportunity to connect the greatest story ever told with the people in greatest need.
The bottom line is – make them want to come back.
Oral Roberts used to say “Expect a Miracle.” When you conduct your Christmas eve service this year, I’d encourage you to do the same.