Christmas Eve service
Christmas Eve service (Lightstock)

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A Christmas Eve service can be one of your church’s most meaningful moments and one of its largest outreach events of the year. Use these two secrets for planning a meaningful community-wide event to honor Jesus’ birth.

Secret No. 1: Early Prep

  • Carefully plan a top-quality program of worship. Forty-five minutes or an hour is ideal. Establish a minute-by-minute timetable for program participants so every second counts. Make it relaxed yet power-packed.
  • Prepare fabulous music, and include some traditional carols. The pastor’s sermon is strategic but may be different than usual. And pass-it-on candle lighting never goes out of style.
  • As early as possible, ask for a commitment from your choice vocal and instrumental musicians, your media team and reliable leaders for greeters and fellowship reception.
  • Pre-plan unique exterior lighting to attract guests that night—a high, giant star, searchlight or laser lights.
  • Purchase needed supplies early, such as individual candles and paper guards or jingle bells for kids.
  • Offer at least two service times to enable more families to make it a tradition.
  • Prepare guest cards and handouts ahead. A “Celebrate Jesus All Year” handout can invite guests to return, listing worship times, small groups, the church's website, your upcoming sermon series and events.
  • Your publicity team can strategize how to invite the entire town, using e-invitations, the newspaper, a Facebook event, an outside banner invitation or printed invitations. Members can intentionally invite friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers.
  • Deliver ribboned invitations to each home and business near the church building.
  • Involve many volunteers—early greeters for every single door and parking lot, minglers to visit with guests, candle lighters, a single adults team to prepare a hot cocoa reception with a spectacular array of toppings and birthday cake for Jesus.
  • Assign a follow-up team to email each guest by Saturday, the 28th, to invite them to Sunday worship.

Secret No. 2: Make It Extraordinary

Try one of these unique touches:

  • A side-stage live nativity provides a striking visual during the sermon or music. Variation: Use living statues, with characters’ clothing and exposed skin painted to resemble stone. (Google “living statue” for techniques.) As the Christmas story is told, each one dramatically changes positions.
  • An acoustic guitarist worshipfully plays carols by candlelight in the entry foyer.
  • A unique setting could be used, such as a service on the church lawn, surrounding a live nativity scene, or a multistop drive-through or walk-through Christmas Eve service across the church parking lot.
  • Creative lighting provides ambiance, such as dim lights, candles and up-lights on a cross and a manger.
  • Add an unusual instrumentalist, such as a harpist, cellist or whistler.
  • As children enter, give each a shepherd costume (simple fabric with holes and sash) to wear. During one song, invite kids to the front to kneel reverently by a manger.

Yes, a Christmas Eve service is a big commitment for lay church leaders and ministry staff, but it’s an opportunity that can’t be replicated any other day of the year. Begin a new tradition this year. To eve or not to eve? There is no question.

Diana Davis ( is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board’s vice president for the Midwest region, Steve Davis.

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