Your Christmas Eve church hospitality can make a big difference in a visitor’s decision to come back.
Your Christmas Eve Outreach is a wonderful opportunity to invite first time church visitors!
Your members can invite their friends as well as strangers they meet out in public.
Visitors come through your doors.
Some will be out of towners who are visiting with family.
Others will be coming for the first time since last Christmas Eve.
Others still will be coming for the very first time.
How I experienced Christmas Eve Church Hospitality
I visited a church Christmas Eve 2010 and think my experience could make a great lesson in church hospitality for many churches.
I visited a suburban church on a corner of an busy intersection.
The building was presentable, the parking lot manicured, and getting from the parking lot to the sanctuary was easy. The facility was clean and even its interior white walls were clean. The parking lot was well lit at night, making it easy to enter the building at 7.30 on a cold winter night.
However, to get this far, the church put up many obstacles to a good welcome.
For me to go back after this experience would be even another challenge.
1. No Special Service Times on the Church Website
The first thing I checked was their church website.
Once I found their church website, (which didn’t appear on the first page of google for my search terms due to poor optimization), I looked at the home page for the special service times.
There was no information on a Christmas Eve service.
I called the phone number and got a voice mail that didn’t indicate a Christmas eve service.
I kept digging, only because I heard through the grapevine that there was a Christmas Eve service there.
I found the pastor’s email and sent him an email asking if there was a service. The email address was pastor@[name of church].org, but I didn’t get an answer until 3 days after the Christmas eve service from the church secretary. The email didn’t even go to the pastor that day.
I kept digging, and eventually found a PDF of the church calendar that had a little note on the 24th of december that Christmas eve service would be 7.30pm.
I FOUND IT!
Solution: Use the home page of your website to feature times of special services. Make it easy for church visitors to get answers on line.
Solution: If you have the pastor’s email on there, I suggest it goes to a person who can answer it quickly, as in less than the 4 days it took for this church to answer my inquiry.
2. No one said hello.
We had arrived about 10 minutes before service. Our friends who recommended this church encouraged us to arrive early just in case it would be full.
However, there were only 40-50 people in a sanctuary that likely seats 120.
Even though we were early, no one took the initiative to say hello.
No church greeters, nor members, nor the pastor who was wandering about welcoming people he knew.
During the service itself, the liturgist didn’t acknowledge the presence of out of town guests, visitors, or even the members.
I noticed we were not the only 1st time church visitors – there was another clueless family in front of us.
Solution: Don’t write off your church hospitality for a Christmas eve service. You are likely to receive visitors that night, some of whom might be seeking the Lord for the first time.
Make all efforts to welcome both members and guests.
3. Impossible Hymns.
The Christmas Eve service was a Christmas carol and communion service.
We sang traditional hymns that were easy to sing with easy tunes, old favorites as people might call them.
Many of those carols have worked their way into culture that the tunes are easy to follow. Lyrics were printed in the bulletin and projected on the wall to assist those who needed to follow lyrics.
However, 2 or 3 of the hymns were obscure in their lyrics and cumbersome in melody. Since they were so unfamiliar, even to the choir, the singing of those hymns was a musical disaster.
- People started and finished in different places.
- Some syllables were held for 3 beats instead of 4, and some of those were in really weird places.
- One song was missing projected lyrics so only the pastor was singing.
- We had to stop and go look for hymnbooks, but by then, the lyrics were found and projected.
We and most of the congregation gave up after the first verse.
These hymns may be beautiful for performance pieces for organ and full range choir, but as congregational songs, they were a mess.
Solution: This isn’t the place to introduce new hymns, particularly if your 8 person choir doesn’t know it to carry the lead. Choose musically simple songs that have worked their way into the culture and are easy to sing.
4. No one said hello
When the service was over, we put our candle holders in the plastic receptacle as we filed out of the sanctuary. No one engaged us in conversation. Nor did we start one.
I don’t know where the pastor went when the service was over. In a church that small, I expected the pastor to be standing by the back door greeting folks leaving the sanctuary.
Solution: This moment is the best time to demonstrate the friendliness of your congregation. Take the initiative and greet the first time visitors during the 10 most important minutes.
Christmas Eve is a great time for Hospitality
The church did have some things going for it. A nice building, a great location, and clean bathrooms.
However, the friendliness of the congregation fell way short. If this was a megachurch with 10,000 people on Sunday, I’d expect no one to really notice us. But when we were in a crowd of under 100 people, our presence was obvious.
It makes it very hard for me to make a recommendation of this church to anyone else.
If you having a New Year’s Eve service, think about some of these same principles
The same would apply for Easter, Fall launches, and other special services you might have.