Quick, a show of hands …
When you took down your Christmas decorations, did you label them as you put them away, so you could easily find them for next Christmas?
If you want a quality, collaborative, professional Christmas program, with as little stress as possible, you should have begun already.
When after-Christmas sales began, did you begin purchasing decorations on discount along with other items, thinking ahead to being prepared for next Christmas?
If your hand was up on either of those questions, congrats … You have discovered the answer to the proverbial question, “When should I start planning the church Christmas program?”
And by “today,” I mean, like, this month of January.
Actually, let’s roll that back. If you want a quality, collaborative, professional Christmas program, with as little stress as possible, you should have begun already. That’s the secret behind one of the nation’s most successful holiday season programs, “The Polar Express,” a multicity live production, based on the popular book and movie.
During the 2018 season, the fourth year of the show subtitled, “Broadway On A Train,” the show celebrated its 1,000th performance, and performed in front of nearly 200,000 people.
That new Christmas tradition has already begun preparations for their fifth season.
“The honest answer is that planning for 2019 starts essentially with the first technical rehearsal of the 2018 show,” explained Mike May, director of production for Rail Events Productions, a group which employs 350 performers and other creative personnel across the four cities for that production.
But We’re Not Professionals
This information may feel overwhelming at first glance. Perhaps irrelevant.
Your church program obviously doesn’t have a Broadway show budget, as you find yourself hardly able to get three people to be Wise Men for a scripture reading. You struggle trying to find a balanced set of traditional and newer songs for a Christmas Eve service, much less stage a production number serving hot chocolate in the aisle of a moving train.
On the other hand, consider the possibilities of applying a production model of a professional show as “The Polar Express," to biblical principles and your church’s vision.
Consider the possibilities of telling the story of Christ in Christ-mas to a percentage of a harvest field of 200,000 with whatever Christmas program you select, no matter how simple the production.
Think about the possibilities of an attitude of structure and professionalism on your team of volunteers, not just for an annual outreach, but for weekly services of worship.
How might such a model and commitment to excellence make your community listen to your message, and, like the woman at the well - and so many others who encounter Jesus - tell their friends and bring them to meet Him?
The Polar Model
“The Polar Express” model provides practical ideas in production procedures, planning, team-building and staff communication for your Christmas or Easter program, that can be immediately implemented into your weekly corporate worship.
The model is summarized in three steps: Purpose, Planning, Procedures.
Adding to that, are the ministry concepts of Perspective and Prayer, to where these five Ps create a principle I call “The Theater of Worship.”
There are four Scriptural anchors for the Theater of Worship to be effective:
The first is to expand your concept of worship and the purpose of your Christmas program. To do so, keep these Biblical principles in mind:
- “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” – Proverbs 16:3
- “The time will come when true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23
- “Go and make disciples … teaching them everything I have taught you.” – Matthew 28:19-20
- “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:1
“The time will come when true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:23
To keep an idea in the forefront of minds throughout the year, it is essential to have clearly stated goals. An interim pastor with whom I once served, frequently asked a ministry leader proposing a program: “Toward what purpose?”
That’s the question you should start asking now.
Why are you doing a Christmas or Easter production? Tradition? Entertainment? Education?
“The Polar Express,” as is any professional production, is a money-making venture. At the same time, the overarching vision of the show was expressed to the performers and production teams by the director Scott Calcagano, at the first rehearsal: to create a magical, transforming experience for the audiences.
What audiences are you attempting to transform?
Is it to connect with the “CEOs,” or Christmas and Easter Onlys, who may not come to church and hear the gospel at another time?
If so, then what?
Is the church Christmas production an end, or the means?
How do you know? What do you want to learn from the people who visited?
Point to Ponder: Know Your Audience
A key element of purpose is determining whom you wish to reach with your program.
It’s almost a Christian cliché to say, “We want to reach the lost.”
Who are those lost, though, in your area?
As a Christ-follower working nightly on “The Polar Express,” I looked into the faces, and spoke with many audience members whom Christians would consider lost. That is, people who do not equate Christ with Christmas.
My job was not to evangelize to them, for “The Polar Express” is not an evangelical show, as yours may be. However, I was able to recognize the symbols in the script and faces of those seeking “the spirit of Christmas.”
They are people new to the country, people who have never heard the birth of Christ according to the Gospel of Luke, people who have heard the story who reject it, all sorts of “lost” people who nevertheless put their hope and belief in the symbols of Christmas, more than the Gift of Christmas.
These cultural perceptions of Christmas are a reason for churches to present a Christmas program.
Have you identified, can you recognize those hopeful?
Action Step: Brainstorm now about organizations or groups in your community who may enjoy a specialized Christmas performance. You can invite them to one of your holiday shows or worship service; or perhaps you can organize a smaller ensemble to visit nursing homes, veterans or other off-site residences. Discuss it now.
Who are special audiences in your area?