6 Ways to Keep Christmas Visitors Coming Back
Around holidays like Christmas and Easter, churches can expect packed attendance, full of faces both familiar and new. While it’s exciting to see new people in our rows, how can churches create a Christmas Eve experience that goes beyond a “one-hit wonder” and entices newcomers to come back for more?
Ideally, the message of the gospel does the compelling work of winning hearts, but organizationally there are things that churches can do to make it easy (and exciting!) for new visitors to get connected in your church and begin investing in their own personal relationship with Jesus.
Aim for Authentic Excellence
We all know that Christmas Eve services are big, exciting affairs. Most churches put plenty of planning, resources, and production value into their Christmas Eve experiences, and for good reason. This is a joyful season, worth celebrating to the fullest, and it’s an opportunity to connect and captivate first-time visitors who might be longing for spiritual fulfilment (whether they know it or not).
While it’s important to put effort and excellence into your Christmas Eve services, it’s important to remain true to who you are. If you create an experience that is a total left turn from your typical Sunday church services, when visitors come back, they’ll be confused and perhaps a little let down. Even when going all out, be sure that the experience you’re creating feels authentic to your church’s DNA and will remain recognizable, if to a slightly lesser scale, in services to come. God uses your unique footprint to make a difference in your community. Trying to be something you’re not on Christmas Eve (or ever) does no one any favors.
Communicate Next Services with Clear Invitations
We can’t expect all of our visitors to know when and where the next opportunities for worship will be. For instance, many churches take the Sunday after Christmas Eve off, but those who don’t yet call you their church home might not be in the know. Make it clear on as many platforms as possible— announcements, bulletins, social channels, your website, etc.— when and where your next services will be and how newcomers can get involved.
Build Momentum for Your January Series
Your Christmas Eve service is a great opportunity to plug your January series. Giving a glimpse of what’s coming next gives visitors an idea of what to expect and something to look forward to. While it’s important not to turn your Christmas Eve service into a giant infomercial for your next sermon series (please don’t do this, omg), having a quick video, a concise monologue, or a compelling flier tucked into your connection card can be a great hook to entice visitors to come experience what’s next with your church community. Choose a topic that can be widely appreciated by people without a church background— for instance, January might be the perfect time to address a highly relatable topic like managing stress or finding your purpose as opposed to a deep, eight week exegetical dive into Nehemiah.
Follow Up with Connection Cards
Make sure you have an actionable connection card for your new visitors to complete. It can be helpful to carve out a minute or two during your service where you prompt them to fill it out; people are more likely to participate if they are directly asked to and given specific instructions. Use this information to follow up with your visitors and extend personal invitations to an upcoming event or the following service. Get creative and make these invites personal and relevant, with a specific call to action.
Don’t Forget Children’s Ministry
Time and time again we see that if children enjoy their time in Sunday school, their parents will bring them back. Alternatively, if children hate their experience, it can be difficult for parents to return even if they themselves would like to. Creating a fun, safe, and exciting experience for children on Christmas Eve is a wonderful opportunity to share the message of Jesus and extend a holistic welcome to families during the holidays.
Put Together Your Following Services with the Same Excellence
As we mentioned in the first point, it does more harm than good to put together a spectacle on Christmas Eve that, though incredible, is completely out of character with your church’s true personality. It goes the other way, too. It’s important that the services that follow your Christmas Eve experience are just as excellent as your Christmas Eve production, even if by nature they are a little more low-key. Although the wreaths and candles and bells are put away for now, you can still deliver the same enthusiastic hospitality, tight transitions, and intentional invitations that hooked your visitors at your Christmas service.
Ultimately, retaining visitors from Christmas isn’t about inflating your numbers and boasting impressive metrics. It’s about connecting with people and giving them opportunities to build their own relationship with God. The holidays give us an incredible chance to impact people we might never see at other times of the year. Creating valuable, meaningful experiences is a way we show God’s love for them and mirror his hospitality that exists not just during Christmas, but all year around.
About the Author
Emma Tarp is a writer and worship leader based in Minneapolis, MN. On her best days, she's highlighter-deep in a good book or teaching herself to sew. On her other best days, she's helping passionate folks and inspired businesses put words to their work. Find out more at emmatarp.com.