Typically, the lead up to Christmas is a season of joy, hope, and typically, stress, for church leaders and staff as they embark on Christmas event planning. In light of COVID-19, we might all be looking forward to the fact that this year is almost over.

In the meantime, let’s look towards Christmas as a reminder that God isn’t bound by a year or any chaotic situation on Earth. He broke through eternity and came into humanity to save it. Regardless of what the rest of this year brings, we have much to celebrate and ponder at Christmas.

Planning Christmas events and services takes coordination, communication, vision, and attention to detail. In 2020, we’ll add Plan B and Plan C contingencies for COVID-19 and any other surprises this year holds.

Here are a few tips on how to plan for Christmas in a typical year plus a few extra considerations based on COVID-19:

#1 – Figure Out Staffing

Some church staff may want to travel to see family over the Christmas holiday. To avoid a last-minute scramble, start the vacation planning process now.

Set a deadline for staff to submit vacation requests through the year-end. Ask them to include a plan that indicates who will cover their responsibilities in their absence.

COVID-19 Consideration: If a staff member travels out-of-state, the authorities in your state might require them to self-quarantine for a set period upon their return. Make sure their vacation plans account for that situation if applicable.

#2 – Identify the Vision

Consider what your leadership team wants to do regarding Christmas events and services. Include a discussion of what you want to accomplish this Christmas season and the overarching “why” behind all activities.

COVID-19 Considerations:

  • How many people can we have in the building at a time?
  • How many volunteers will we need to clean between services?
  • Do we want to record a Christmas service and have it available on-demand online?
  • What can we do to help those who are at higher risk for COVID-19 feel connected at Christmas?

#3 – Create a Detailed Plan

Once you have a high-level idea of what services and events you’ll host for Christmas, the next step is to document the detailed tasks required to make those happen. Creating a detailed project plan with the tasks, deadlines, and assignments required to make these events a success isn’t a small effort. However, it’s easier to see that you need to reprioritize tasks when you create a plan versus while you’re already in the mix of completing tasks.

For each event or service, gather a planning team to identify the specific tasks required to make those moments successful.

COVID-19 Considerations: Develop a backup plan in case your area experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases leading up to Christmas. That plan might mean doing Christmas services online only, doing a drive-in service, or adding more service times to accommodate everyone (but with fewer people per service).

#4 – Coordinate Volunteers

Determine how many volunteers, in what roles, you’ll need for each Christmas event or service. Also, provide training to new volunteers.  This training might be a bullet-point list or a meeting to review the details. Use your judgment as to what level of training is best, but never expect a new volunteer to know what to do automatically.

COVID-19 Considerations: Try to get more volunteers to sign up for each service than you need. Here’s why: If someone gets sick or learns he was exposed to COVID-19, you’ll be out at least one volunteer (possibly more if that person was around other volunteers recently).

#5 – Keep Your Heart at Peace

While you’re probably focused on how to make a Christmas event come alive for your congregation and community, don’t forget to pause and reflect on the season as well. If your to-do list starts to rival Santa’s list, take a moment to think. A few deep breaths and a prayer for wisdom are a great way to start. Then review your list and triage. Recognize now that everything will not work out exactly as planned. (Isn’t that a lesson we’ve learned from 2020?!) Roll with the punches and consider the big picture. In some format and fashion, preach the good news of Christmas and the Gospel. Remind people that God took extraordinary measures to reach humanity. That’s the main focus. If the stage décor doesn’t cooperate or you have to go to all online services, it will still be okay.

COVID-19 Considerations: Review the church website. For first-time visitors and members alike: How difficult is it to find the Christmas service schedule? What COVID-19 mitigations will the church have in-place? Can I watch the Christmas event or service online on-demand?

Christmas planning can be a huge endeavor. However, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’ll take the time now to plan ahead, you can serve your community and provide incredible times of ministry — all without wearing out your team.

When in doubt, remember: The whole point of hosting Christmas services is to tell the story of Jesus’ birth and why He came to earth. We’re trying to lead people to our Savior, the greatest gift we could ever give.

Check out these resources related to COVID-19 Planning:

Congregational Care During Covid-19

Fall Event Planning Amidst COVID-19

Hybrid Worship During Covid-19 and Beyond

4 Components to Reopening Church After COVID-19

COVID-19 Church Playbook