Christmas Eve services along with the weekends before and after are often some of the most highly-attended church events. While some churches have just one special candlelight Christmas Eve service, others have multiple services held on one day or even multiple services over the course of a week or more.

Churches often welcome visitors to these services and see an increase in attendance. Guests may be friends and family of current members, and often these ‘extras’ only attend church a few times a year on these special occasions. These guests might also be looking for a new church home. ‘Tis the season to make a good first impression.

These special services offer a once-a-year opportunity to share the love of Christ. It’s also the time to focus outward as your church serves those looking for comfort, fellowship, and compassion during what is typically a tough season for many people. While many people love Christmas, there are others who find it difficult for a myriad of different reasons.

Churches can seize the time to serve the larger community around them and reach well beyond their usual crowd. With this in mind, we wanted to share five ways churches can leverage holiday church services for growth:

#1-Preach the Gospel

Before special events, before social media, before anything else you do or say, plan for your number one goal to be to clearly present the Gospel message at each of your church services. This might sound like a ‘no-brainer’ but you would be surprised at how many churches miss this completely. It’s so easy for staff and pastors to plan the decorations, plan the lighting, plan special music, plan the candle lighting, plan a special bulletin, AND FORGET TO CLEARLY COMMUNICATE through the sermon why people NEED A SAVIOR. Churches are not in the business of staging events, they are in the business of saving souls and drawing people, through the Holy Spirit, to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This is the “reason for the season,” to pull out the old adage.

#2-Offer Special Events

Planning ahead and offering special community-focused outreach events is a wonderful way to bring people to your church who don’t normally attend. While it can be a big task to undertake, many churches who offer Christmas carols by the fire with hot cocoa, or a Bethlehem village experience each year naturally draw families to their church. Offering one big holiday outreach event – whether fall, Christmas, or Easter – is a great strategy to build rapport within your community. These events can be successful in drawing people to your church for Christmas Eve and other church services. Easy, non-preachy, low-threshold community events can be a simple way to draw people in. If they attend a church service, they will be more apt to listen because they’ve been served lovingly in a non-confrontational way.

#3-Prepare Your Platform

Preparing your church’s digital platform is one of the most important steps your church can take at the beginning of each holiday season. Posting service schedules to social media accounts, websites, newsletters, and bulletins can help people to know what services are available to attend. Make it easy for people to connect and share holiday service information with potential guests. Show visitors and members that your church is prepared and values clear and up-to-date communication.

Holiday social media campaigns are often the most viewed campaigns of the year. Weekly posts and messages get members excited about this special season. Include fun and heartfelt greeting, images, videos, and music. Posting service schedules at least one month in advance can become the launch pad for your holiday social media campaign.

#4-Team Up to Welcome

Church welcome teams are vital links between your church and visitors. Consider pulling together extra volunteers to welcome the influx of holiday guests. For special events, you’ll want welcome volunteers to guide people into the parking lot, direct people where to walk, smile and hand out candy canes, etc. 

It is also good to remember that holidays can be lonely or difficult times for some people. Churches often offer refuge for weary souls, especially on holidays. Imagine creating a warm and inviting space for guests to worship. This could encourage them to return. Offering special first-time guest giveaways with a Christmas theme is another way to share the love of Christ. 

#5-Follow Through

So many preparations are made before the holidays, but what happens when the services are over? Is there something churches can do to connect and follow up with holiday guests?

Filling out visitor cards or filling out an online or mobile visitor form are several ways to give people options to connect. Train your congregation to look outward toward guests and teach them how to engage with visitors. This can create positive connections and make follow-up easy. As a church staff, build a follow-up process with each visitor – by email, by phone call, by a hand-written thank you card. Make sure to establish a routine and assign reliable volunteers to the task. 

Holiday church services are a prime time for growth and peak attendance. Just as you’d prepare to welcome guests into your home during the holidays, churches can prepare to welcome newcomers into the family of God. 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12