It's the most wonderful time of the year! At least, it's supposed to be, right?
The joy of Christmas, though, ends up getting overloaded with parties, shopping, school programs, and church programs, and it ends up being more hectic and frenzied than anything else. So, when it comes to planning your church's Christmas program, here are a few helpful things to keep in mind and hopefully smooth out your planning process.
If you're reading this now and are worried that you are too late unless it's December you can still pull off a great Christmas program.
1. Start early
At Trinity Church, we start planning for Christmas in January.
Of course, we are not figuring out all the details of our program at this point, but we start the discussion. One of the reasons for doing this is because Christmas is still fresh in our minds. Part of this meeting is to talk about what went well during our most recent program, and what needs to be thrown out.
January is also a time when Christmas resources still abound. Most planning websites are full of Christmas things still, and many churches have also posted videos of their Christmas programs online. I like to watch a few of those videos to get some ideas on things we can add to our next planned program.
While this article was originally published in September, if you're reading this now and are worried that you are too late unless it's December you can still pull off a great Christmas program. You just might want to consider starting earlier next year.
2. Start with a vision
What is the purpose of your church's Christmas program? Maybe it's an outreach to your community. Perhaps it's a creative outlet for your arts teams or part of a long-standing tradition.
In general, if you do not know why you are doing something, you should consider if you should be doing it at all.
The vision can also drive your creative elements. If your Christmas program's purpose is to provide warm fuzzies to your regular people, it might look more like a church service than if your goal is to reach the under-30 crowd in your community. We try to purpose our program as an outreach to our community, so we spend money on promoting it outside our church to bring people in.
For our 2016 production, an unchurched person came and while she loved the program, commented to her friend who invited her that the music was a "bit Jesus-y, but that's OK, I guess I was in a church."
When I look back at the song choices, I saw a lot of contemporary Christian Christmas songs, but few traditional Christmas songs that would otherwise be familiar to the unchurched crowd.
3. Start with a team
This probably goes without saying, but you cannot do alone what you can do with a team.
If you are in a larger church, you probably have multiple staff members devoted to various aspects of a Christmas program music, stage design, lighting, sound, etc. so it then comes down to working as a team to accomplish such a huge goal together.
It is too easy for everyone to end up saying "not my job," when instead we should all be working toward the same goal. If you are in a small church, then you need to find a team of volunteers (or "ministry partners," as we like to say) who will help you create and cast a vision, as well as accomplish all the details.
While you can do something great all on your own, you can do something even greater with a team. Trust me, I've done both!
Also, make sure the rest of your church staff is on board with your vision, especially the lead pastor. You need to make sure that you are not heading in a different direction than the rest of the church, no matter how noble your goals may be. In fact, your senior church leadership might be your most important team in this process, and hopefully, if they are a part of the process, they become your biggest cheerleaders for the program.
4. Start with mission
I hinted to this in the previous point, but not only should you have a consistent vision for why you are doing your Christmas program, but the program should also be consistent with the overall mission for your church.
For us, we have a mission of reaching out and loving the people in our county. We want everyone around us to know that we are a church that loves them, and putting on a Christmas program is part of that.
This year, people will be able to come to the church the day of the program and pick up a free live Christmas tree for their family. We will even help them strap it to their car. Come for a tree, stay for some hot chocolate and an evening of Christmas music with the family.
We hope that people feel loved and welcomed, when they show up this December.
Christmas is one of our best times throughout the year to make a real impact on the lives of those in our community.
Many people spend their time and money going to events that celebrate the season, family, and the birth of Christ. May our churches be filled with people longing for something deeper this Christmas, and may we not get so caught up in our productions, that we miss the glory of Christmas in our own lives.