How to Screw Up Christmas 5 Different Ways


Christmas Eve is a great opportunity to reach those outside the church that often goes unused. I’m usually arguing with several pastors during this time of the year. Seems like every year I have to convince a Senior Pastor that Christmas Eve is a powerful and great opportunity for outreach. Catholic churches have known this for centuries. Evangelicals are just now waking up to it. Here are the top 5 mistakes churches can make when planning their Christmas services.

5 ways to screw up Christmas

  1. Give the staff Christmas Eve off. That’s a critical mistake that a lot of churches make. Christmas Eve is a great opportunity to reach out to people who want to connect with God and their families and who are looking for an opportunity to do so. Done well, your Christmas Eve service could be one of the best attended service of the entire year. If you are in ministry, working on Christmas should be expected.
  2. Have only one Christmas Eve service. Different time options give people a reason to say yes to an invitation to come to your service. Even if you only have two services, say one at 3 p.m. and another at 5 p.m. they give people a chance to come to church and then hit the road to visit relatives and friends without forcing people to choose between a church service or dinner at grandma. By the way, grandma wins every time.
  3. Go “Cutting Edge” creative. Well, if you know me you realize that I’m drawn to high-energy, creative environments. But when it comes to Christmas, I’m looking for traditional, warm, chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire type of service. And most of everybody else is looking for the same thing as well. A lot of people I talk with around Christmas time are displaced from most of their families and are looking to make traditions of their own. Christmas Eve, for those of us, is a very sentimental time, and we want to feel like George and Mary Bailey and not like Homer and Marge Simpson.
  4. Don’t have any preaching. The number one reason people decide whether or not to come back to a church they visited is how they felt about the Pastor. I’m not advocating an hour message, it’s Christmas after all, but the Teaching Pastor should have at least 15-20 minute message so he can engage newcomers and share with them his heart and teaching style.
  5. Don’t give them a reason to return. Ok, you had multiple services on Christmas Eve and it was beautiful; people showed up in droves, and you had one of your best days. And then what? Well, the first of the year is just a weekend away. That’s a key time when people make new year’s resolutions and often, one of them is to get back in church. Have a new year series ready to promo that day. Enclose the graphics and message titles in the bulletin for your Christmas Eve service. Produce a short video that promos the new series and invite people back. You’ll be surprised how many people will take you up on that offer.

How does your church celebrate Christmas?

  • Anonymous

    This makes so much sense, but I must admit that I have not thought through my Christmas strategy. We have not planned a Christmas Eve service for this year. Maybe it's not too lateDo you think we can pull it off now?

  • There's still plenty of time to come up with a great service. Most people will not make up their minds on what to do on Christmas Eve until just a few days before–even the day before. Create a nice-looking invitation that your church members can use to invite family and friends. That usually works well.

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  • Sally Smith

    I hear my church is not having services on Sunday the 25th of December. I’m not sure how I feel about this. What’s your take? 

    • That’s a tough one. Some churches are doing several services on the 24th and don’t feel the need to have one on Christmas day. Personally, I think churches should have at least a “drop in” communion service on the 25th. It just feels odd to close a church down on a Sunday morning on one of the biggest Christian holidays.

  • The church I recently got involved in is a campus church that just opened at Easter, so I’m not sure how we celebrate Christmas yet.

  • i think ours is one better… December 23rd, the eve of Christmas eve. Very popular and meaningful, you’ve nailed it with this one Maurilio!

  • Anonymous

    We were going to do a Christmas Eve Eve Eve service to one up everyone…ok, just kidding. This was encouraging for us! We are stopping our 16 year tradition of a huge Christmas Production this year and asking our church family to focus that energy on serving at a Christmas Party we’re throwing for the community…all the while focusing our creative talents on four traditional Christmas Eve services. We’ll see if you’re right (I’m convinced you are),  and this is where God has led us!

    • That’s an excellent idea. I hope it goes well for you. And, I’m always right. Just ask my wife. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and we’re doing one 11am All Family (yes all the kids too) Christmas Day service.

  • Traci

    I am not a fan of the whole interpretive dance / bring children out to perform / something totally weird so people can show their “spiritual gifts.” I do not really like those EVER, but I certainly don’t think when your church is packed with new people that you should bring out a ten-minute interpretation of some song written by a church member that no one has ever heard. It never goes well.

    • Traci, you just described my Christmas nightmare service.

  • I’d add “Make your Christmas Eve service significantly different than your usual services.” Some people veer way off the course of their usual services for this “special service”. So people who might want to come back for a regular service are turned off. Then you lost your opportunity.

    • That’s a great point, and it’s true for Easter as well. Allow newcomers to experience your DNA and the type of services they can expect the next time they visit the church.

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  • linnie

    hey! who translated ” Merry x’mas” to Chinese like that? What is written in Chinese on that card means totally differently than “Merry X’mas”………

  • Oscar José Gaspari

    Muito lindo!

  • Becky_nelson2000

    We are in Church Planting and  we liked your words of wisdom for the season.  It is true that most folks- I think from decades before 50s and after 40s remember the importance of church in families. Easter and mother’s day are also high attendance days.  We church planners tend to think about Dec. celebrations as *the End* and the beginning comes later after all the high energy planning from End of November/thanksgiving/ through to the end of Dec. Then the church is closed , New Years celebrations are “not” for church:o(.  It is wise to spread the energy from Thanksgiving through Happy New Year.  Reaching the lost and bringing believers back into their saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.   God Bless you. Richard and Rebecca

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