MISSION NORTHWEST NOTE: This article by Thom Rainer is important to consider as you plan your Christmas Eve service(s) this year. You may want to retool how your church does the Christmas Eve service in light of these insights. If you do not offer a Christmas Eve service you should know that you are missing a great opportunity to host unchurched people in your church. This service has the potential to pull in more people than Easter. Plan carefully and prayerfully.
Christmas Eve is less than a month away. Most churches have some type of Christmas Eve services, but we are seeing clear trends in how churches approach them. Every time we write or podcast something about these services, we get a lot of comments and questions. In that context, here is an update on nine clear trends we are seeing:
1. It is growing in importance. Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. Church leaders get it. They are putting more prayer, preparation, and strategic thinking into the services.
2. There are three popular times for the service. Whether a church has one or multiple Christmas Eve services, three times are more popular than others: later afternoon (typically for families with young children and for older adults); early evening (the more traditional time); and late evening (for empty nesters and families with teenage or grown children).
3. The services are traditional. They include traditional hymns and carols. They may include some time for the lighting of the final advent candle.
4. The services are brief. The typical length is 30 to 45 minutes.
5. The pastor’s message is brief. The typical length is 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Most churches include candlelight services. They are now expected by Christians and non-Christians alike.
7. More unchurched are attending these services. As I noted in the first item, one of the reasons for the growing importance of Christmas Eve services is the increasing number of non-Christians who attend. Anecdotally, they seem to be more receptive each year.
8. Churches are building in processes for follow-up. That means they have processes in place to get contact information, and processes to provide some type of non-aggressive follow-up such as a text message, an email or, most effectively, a handwritten letter.
9. All ministry staff are expected to be there. Because this day is the single most important day to reach unbelievers, more churches require an “all-hands-on-deck” presence.
Some of these trends have been around a while. Some are only recently growing in importance. Please share with us what your church plans to do for Christmas Eve.