Ho ho ho, Merry Labor Day!
If we’re honest, we are doing the Lord disservice by simply relegating the story of His birth to “The Christmas season.”
Ho ho ho… isn't that associated with...?
And isn’t this the month of...?
Didn’t the kids just go back to school?
Have we launched our fall ministries yet?
And already we're talking about planning for ... Christmas?
Yes. For heaven’s sake.
Because if we don’t, who will?
Frankly, if we’re honest, we are doing the Lord disservice by simply relegating the story of His birth to “The Christmas season.” In our culture, the birth of Jesus is a secondary thought of Christmas.
If believers do not regularly remind people of Christmas (and Easter) facts, we are not fulfilling our commission to make disciples and be His witnesses. After all, why should people wait for Christmas to hear why Christ's birth is important?
All the more to make your Christmas presentation plans “for the Christmas season” now.
Moreover, watch how soon “Christmas sales” will start popping up after Labor Day. If commercial businesses and TV programs are diluting the story of Christ through music, holiday displays or predictable, emotional films, why shouldn’t God’s people, who have already accepted the Christmas message, be as diligent about countering and correcting the Gospel?
Why shouldn't Christian leaders begin promoting our best "product?"
We don't like to think in these terms, but Christmas programming is competitive. Not only is there competition for the dollar, churches compete for the unsaved … and with each other, for saved souls.
The purpose of a Christmas production should be to clearly express the gospel in a culture that misuses that word. We must then clearly seek people who need to know Christ.
So, whether for a series of services such as Advent, or a special event, now is the time to intensify, or to begin, the details of your Christmas presentation.
Here are some ideas:
1. Pray for God’s Direction and Strength
Dissect the Christmas scriptures for new meaning. Ask for help where needed.
Among the reasons worship event planners procrastinate is because of the pressure they place upon themselves, by trying to do too much. There are also issues of being inundated with possible product, and frustrations with unpredictable personnel.
As Jesus said, “And when you pray…” Not if. So, as you brainstorm what to do and need to do, convert your “To-Do” lists (personnel, material goods, numbers of people) into a prayer list.
Keep it visible: to track progress to tell later of Christmas miracles.
More importantly, you will continually keep Christ at the center, for your audience and yourselves. Compile Jesus’ words about prayer and reliance on Him. Let your guiding light be his continuing Christmas presence.
2. Define Rationale for Presenting a Christmas Production
Don’t try competing with the big budget megachurch, or sleekness of a professional production.
Do you know why you have Christmas programming? Is the programming to strengthen your church family of Christ-followers, or the outside community? For tradition? To parade the children in bathrobes for parental photo ops? Because other churches do?
The above questions must be addressed, otherwise church programs -- including Advent Services of Worship -- are just seasonal clichés.
3. Be Clear What “The Gospel” Is
The purpose of a Christmas production should be to clearly express the importance of, “Fear not. I bring you good news. For today in the city of David is born a savior."
In our multinational culture, “gospel” is among the words whose definition is misunderstood, especially among Generation Z, the children of widely sought millennials.
What does “saved” mean to young generations, and recent residents of the United States (immigrants), whose dominant concept of Christmas, is shopping.
The purpose of Church Christmas productions is to keep Christ in perspective. Even for long-time Christ-followers.
4. Take Stock of Personnel and Resources
Worship event planners and music leaders become frustrated with the Christmas season before it begins, because of too many promotional choices. Too few people. Too many people. Lack of commitment.
What's your frustration? Take stock now, then brainstorm alternatives.
5, Don’t Be Afraid to not Have a Christmas Program
After taking stock and deciding you don’t have time, talents or treasure, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed, or absolved you from sharing The Gospel. It’s a bold step that could lead to more productivity for God’s kingdom.
6. Partner with Other Churches
Do you network with other pastors nearby? Chances are, your church is not alone with frustrations, limited resources, personnel.
How could God's kingdom be served, and his servants' burden eased, by a little crosstown church cooperation? Consider collaborating with another church in a similar situation and creating an inter-denominational outreach; say, a joint production or caroling in targeted community locations, such as libraries, senior living facilities, VFW halls.
Use these presentations as opportunities to introduce people to your regular service of worship.
7. Coordinate Community Calendars
Have a staffer take inventory of other churches’ and schools’ Christmas programs. Mark them on your calendar. This is especially helpful, if you are still trying to pick a date for an event. It’s helpful with minimizing rehearsal conflicts. (It would also be helpful, if planning for next year.)
Do the same with your local elementary and high schools, community colleges, library and park district. Make this a Student Ministry assignment. This can also help you plan rehearsals, by understanding other commitments.
Moreover, few things are as discouraging as having a solid program planned, only to then discover a) someone else is doing it; b) it’s happening the same night as yours.
8. Stoke Attendance: Start Congregational Fire
Do a survey of your congregation, asking what parts of the Christmas story that they want to know better. Especially ask visitors or nonchurch people. What do you find hard to believe?
Ask the questions now and let the people anticipate them being answered. Use your website and social pages. It's a way to engage the congregation in worship planning, by giving them a voice.
9. Stoke Interest: Invite Artists
If you’re too small or lacking personnel, invite school music leaders to your program, offer your space for rehearsal, ask their drama clubs or theater departments for technical help with lights or sound. Some students could get hours toward community service or honor societies for extra service.
Also, invite community residents to help form a special choir for the season. This attracts believers and nonbelievers, rekindling music participation for believers, whose church doesn’t have a choir; introducing the Christ of Christmas to those who only think of Christmas culturally.
10. Get Out the Word: Advertise for Free
Christmas competition also includes marketing.
Radio and newspapers that offer free listings prefer 30 days ahead of the first date you want the program publicized. If your program is Dec. 18, you want ads to appear on Nov. 18, the copy may need to be sent on Oct. 18, which means your publicity team needs to begin designs now.
Do the same kind of planning with the services of worship, especially regarding using your website and social media. Make a social calendar with the types of posts you want to share.
Give a little each day. Remind your congregation to follow and share.
11. Be Creative and Evangelical with Music
Consider mixing nonseasonal songs of worship with traditional Christmas selections. By nonseasonal, I mean Easter songs of resurrection, or weekly songs of praise that may tell the Christmas story. Post a playlist on your website.
Ask your congregation for playlist ideas. And ask them why they’d like certain songs.
12. Expand Story of Christmas From Historical to Prophetic
A challenge with Christmas programs is familiarity. The purpose of Christmas programs should be transformation.
In wake of headlines of the day, people are seeking comfort and joy.
While it's good to recount the Christ child, we must extol Christ the redeemer. Don't overlook Revelation in your creative conversations, including among children. Tell of The Christmas-Yet-To-Come: Jesus’ Return.
13. Incorporate Your Post-Christmas Plan
Whether you do a program, series of sermons, or go out into the community, be certain you have support material ready, to let people know how to get in touch with you, and what you’ll be presenting after Christmas.
Jesus’ birth was an event, but His story did not end in the manger.
Start now preparing how to keep telling people about His life. You can never start too soon. Besides, to his mother, Christmas was labor day.