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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 (www.keeponshining.com) 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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