By Debi Nixon, UMC of the Resurrection
Think about the high-attendance times of your church year. If you took a survey, most churches would probably say that Christmas Eve and Easter are the most-attended services. Our growth at Church of the Resurrection has, in large part, been driven by our Candlelight Christmas Eve Worship Services. The worship services are designed so that when visitors come, they feel welcomed and understand what is happening throughout the service insuring they can fully participate. We offer the highest quality worship experience possible with great music and a sermon designed for people who do not necessarily know Christ, helping them understand what Christmas really means. And, each year we donate the Christmas Eve offering to an international or local mission cause. Even non religious and nominally religious people want to be a part of changing the world. Our offering has doubled since we decided to give it all away, and it has changed our congregation.
Worship services on Christmas Eve include the retelling of the Christmas story thru scripture starting with the Annunciation, Birth, and Revelation to the Shepherds. Music focuses on participatory joyful, upbeat songs of Christmas including traditional carols so that each congregant has an opportunity to sing and connect into the service. And, every worship service ends with the powerful passing of the light thru the lighting of candles. The lighting ritual includes fully darkening of the sanctuary, the reading of John 1:1-14 with one lighted candle entering into the sanctuary piercing the darkness, then while singing Silent Night the one light is passed, lighting the candle of each person present, ending with a room filled with light. The entire congregation is then invited to lift their candle to see how bright the room has become while joining together to sing Joy to the World.
Every year we receive e-mails from people who tell us they gave their lives to Christ for the first time during a Candlelight Christmas Eve worship service. The image of Christ entering a broken world and piercing the darkness with light is brought to life in a transformational experience on Christmas Eve.
It is important to view the Christmas Eve service as an invitational evangelism opportunity. Your sanctuary will be filled with members and their out-of-town guests as well as those in your community who may not know why they go to church on Christmas Eve, they just know they always do. Here is your chance to connect with them and open them up to the life-changing love of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ. Don’t waste an opportunity to reach this group of people.
Ideas to reach them include:
- Prepare a direct mail piece targeting a specific geographic area in your community. Rethink Church has postcards available athttp://umc.org/rethinkchurch. A local mailing company can help with a mailing list, or you may want to consider using EveryDoor Direct thru the USPS.
- Put up large outdoor banners at your church posting your Christmas Eve worship service times.
- Provide corrugated yard signs to church members to place in their yards saying simply, “Join us for an Inspiring Candlelight Christmas Eve Worship Service at (your church and website with more information).
- Design tools your congregants can use to invite others such as a simple postcard or business card with the worship times. This year at Resurrection we are printing a small booklet of Christmas carols a congregant can give to a friend. The back cover of the booklet shares information about our Christmas Eve worship times.
- Implement an effective social media strategy using your website, emails, Facebook, and Twitter.
- Conduct a phone calling campaign to invite members who have become less engaged and visitors who have attended the church throughout the year.
This one hour of worship will help all remember the Good News which is “great joy to all the people…”