5 Christmas Planning Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

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Are you planning to maximize your ministry potential this holiday season?

Christmas Eve is a great opportunity to reach those outside the church that often goes unused.

I’m usually arguing with several pastors during this time of the year. Seems like every year I have to convince a senior pastor that Christmas Eve is a powerful and great opportunity for outreach.

Catholic churches have known this for centuries. Evangelicals are just now waking up to it.

Here are the top five mistakes churches can make when planning their Christmas services.

1. Give the staff Christmas Eve off.

That’s a critical mistake a lot of churches make.

Christmas Eve is a great opportunity to reach out to people who want to connect with God and their families and who are looking for an opportunity to do so. Done well, your Christmas Eve service could be one of the best-attended services of the entire year.

If you are in ministry, working on Christmas should be expected.

2. Have only one Christmas Eve service.

Different time options give people a reason to say yes to an invitation to come to your service.

Don’t Miss

Even if you only have two services, say one at 3 p.m. and another at 5 p.m., they give people a chance to come to church and then hit the road to visit relatives and friends without forcing people to choose between a church service and dinner at Grandma’s.

By the way, Grandma wins every time.

3. Go “Cutting-Edge” creative.

Well, if you know me, you realize I’m drawn to high-energy, creative environments.

But when it comes to Christmas, I’m looking for traditional, warm, chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire type of service. And most of everybody else is looking for the same thing as well.

A lot of people I talk with around Christmas time are displaced from most of their families and are looking to make traditions of their own.

Christmas Eve, for those of us, is a very sentimental time, and we want to feel like George and Mary Bailey and not like Homer and Marge Simpson.

Maurilio Amorim Maurillo Amorim is the CEO of The A Group, a media, technology and branding firm in Brentwood, TN established in 2001.

More from Maurilio Amorim or visit Maurilio at http://www.maurilioamorim.com

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  • Sandy

    With Jesus Christ having been born during The Feast of Tabernacles which is in September/October – why – o why – bother with all this ‘religious stuff’ in December?  

    • http://www.newcreationca.org Juan De La Fuente

      This time of the year is a great time to reach people. We don’t look at any day of the year as religious, but the world does. So we need to be there for them in their time of need regardless of the day. Ask anyone who doesn’t go to church or aren’t “churched”, what month and date was Jesus born ?, they will answer Dec 25th. We need to remember that our message is about Jesus and what we can do to further his kingdom. Not to get religious ourselves. Great job Maurilio

  • Glenys Nellist

    Excellent suggestions Maurilio! I love them because they all make perfect sense & are easy but effective ideas to adopt.

  • PrescottJayErwin

    “In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas” (in necessaries unity; in doubtfuls liberty, in all charity/love).

    I, too, strongly dislike MUCH — almost everything — about “Christmas,” but to take that and be dogmatic about other equally questionable and unnecessary things is misguided. There are logical biblical arguments made by sincere conservative scholars for Spring, Fall, and even Winter dates. In light of the uncertainties, it is advisable rather to be humble and confess our ignorance on the matter. What’s important is that Jesus was, indeed, born — and even moreso that: Christ lived a life like ours, being tempted/tested in all things as we are, yet without sin; Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that Christ was buried and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures; that Christ appeared to many; that Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father in majesty, there to intercede on our behalf; and that He will come again in the glory of His Father with His angels to receive us to Himself.

    Christ has died;
    Christ has risen;
    Christ will come again.

    Let’s take advantage of this time to preach the Gospel and emphasize the promised second advent of Christ.

  • John

    Galations 5: 1- It was for freedom that Christ set us free ; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

  • Rev. Nutan Suray

    You are so right Maurillo. Very early on in my ministry I made the mistake of being creative on Christmas day. Well….it did not go down very well.

  • Scott Dossett

    As one who followed God and dragged my family to a place far from their extended family, I have to object to a too idealistic stand on #1. My wife and children had two chances each year to see their extended family and one of them was Christmas. Now, some people will feel justified in launching into a lecture on foreign missionaries and Abraham and all manner of high-sounding nonsense in the name of “whoever loves father and mother… more than me,” but the bottom line is this: ministers are people too. And the church obviously doesn’t have to close its doors because one or two members of the staff are gone. If we are leading well and developing leaders, we might even – gasp! – have opportunities to let lay leaders fill those roles.

    • Guest

      I completely agree Scott. Of course some staff is necessary on Christmas eve, but I have experienced situations where all staff (even the part-time admin. assistant) were required to work from sun up until after the last midnight candle lighting service ended. They were exhausted, disengaged, and ready to get the you-know-what away from there . . . and it showed. If you have multiple services, stagger staff work hours so that needs are met but no one has to work 18 hours straight to get it done.

      • JeremyK.

        I agree with the staggered work hours. Having alternating spots for staff will help them not burn out; however, staff need to be present. It’s important to have key members of any team (or staff) present at major events. People need faces to recognize :-) Maybe the service could be an opportunity for your distant family to come to you instead.

        • Scott Dossett

          Rather, we should have more “recognizable faces” among the lay leadership. Of course, you don’t have to send the whole staff packing, not everyone has the same family situation.

          Even a rotating Christmas leave plan would be acceptable for situations where most staff are far from home. But staggered work hours will not help someone whose family is 6-10 hours away. I understand sacrifice, but I find it offensive that the church – which spends much of its time preaching about marriage, relationship and family – would deny its staff the ability to meet the needs of their own family. The impracticality of inviting one’s entire extended family to join them over long distances removes it as an option for most people who live at a distance.

          Certainly the church needs to be visible at Christmas, but not just in its building and events – and not just it’s staff.

  • Nancy Gillett

    You are treating your staff like robots and you are just an ordinary businessman(turned Pharisee) Jesus loved to go into homes and visit with people. You should be highy admonished for not really understanding Jesus’ words to families…..
    The family unit was of the utmost concern to Jesus, not the Church performance on Christmas Eve. Jesus loved it outside, on the mountains, on the hillside, too.
    He was never confined to a church or synagogue! What is your relationship with Jesus?

    • warren

      Nancy- I’m sure there is no need to question anyone’s relationship to Jesus because they do a Christmas Eve Service. I would love to do one outdoors on the hillside, but it was 19 degrees here in Colorado last night. So let us not judge on deeds but on the heart. Ps It’s not about the Church performance but about reaching others for Christ.

  • PastorRev1

    I’m ok with Christmas Eve but what happens with our staff is we work so hard over Christmas Eve (especially if Christmas is over a weekend) that we barely spend anytime with our families! Most of our staff resents Christmas Eve for that reason. I know the point is to not give time off but I think there should be a rotation and let some staff have off every 3 years or something so we can travel and see our family.

  • Peter Mahoney

    Is another “If you build it, they will come” opportunity really what is needed? As a pastor, I’m all for taking advantage of ministry/mission opportunities and leveraging special emphasis days and even holidays. I want people to come to Jesus!!! I also believe the church has built a culture centered around “big” gatherings, believing that “Come join us!” is the only means to do outreach. The very word “outreach” would seem to imply something different.

    How about this… Give the ministry staff… the entire faith family Christmas Eve OFF and implore them to open their homes to people beyond their blood families. Invite people who are unchurched and dechurched to celebrate Christmas Eve with Christ-Followers who would otherwise be “in church”. Effective ministry can and should be happening in our homes as well as on the church campus and maybe Christmas is a good time to NOT be on the church campus.

  • Jeff Stoll

    Àt First Baptist Church Jacksonville we put into practice most of what Maurilio suggest. We have found that the Christmas Eve service is one of our media teams favorite services of December. This service is the most attended of all our evening special programs. Our team doesn’t feel burned out by working or volunteering at this service since it’s optional. We make this service optional and always have more than enough individuals to fill each position needed. It’s not about working the Christmas Eve service it’s about how you treat your staff/employees/volunteers the rest of the year. Those that work the Christmas Eve service usually take off the next Sunday. Balance your teams schedules out so they don’t experience burn-out or bitterness.

    Jeff Stoll
    Executive Pastor of Communications
    First Baptist Church Jacksonville

  • Matthew

    Look at all these whining posts by all these “christians” worried about whether or not to hold services on the eve of a pagan Babylonian day, implemented six hundred years before Jesus birth..This day was dedicated to the sun god and the strenthening sun after the winter solstice, and is NOT a Biblical day, and is NO where to be found in the Bible..Jesus was not even born on Dec 25th…..so read Jeremiah 10 and your Bibles and look at what God thinks of adding and subtracting to His word…and Jesus said “you keep the traditions of man and not the Commandments of God”,…then I will say to you in that day “depart from me, I never knew you, you who practice lawlessness” Mark 7, Matthew 15 and Matthew 7…time to wake up if you call yourselves a Christian and start acting like one!

    • Guest

      And it’s time for YOU to learn how to rant in a manner that is more respectful of differing opinions. Angrily assaulting people with scripture does nothing to shine the light of Christ in this dark world. Shame on you.

  • keepitreal

    It’s always interesting to read the comments made about these articles on here. Supposedly we are all Christians (those who read and respond here). However, some of us seem to find extra boldness, hiding behind a computer screen, to let our flesh unleash with ugly comments. Come on, would you ever speak like that to anyone face to face? (You know I am talking to you.)

    • Matthew

      The truth hurts you? Jesus said “know the truth and it will make you free” why don’t you try it, instead of attacking someone who is trying to help you..that is typical of arrogant “christians” who think they have all the answers, but are content to follow the false prophet/antichrist…good luck with that..

  • Gerry Garmino,

    Am sorry for being naive but nowhere in the Bible could we read about Christmas celebration. I do believe that Christ was born on earth through the Virgin Mary but no one was required to celebrate the same. As what happened, people have now commercialized this celebration by receiving and giving gifts in return and the true meaning of finding joy especially to the shepherds because a child is born, now found joy by giving and receiving gifts. I wanted to say more on this but I know many will get offended. Santa Clause which is always connected to Christmas is fake (sorry) and even Vatican leaders admitted this saint never existed but only a creation of the mind. As a result of many of us during a very long period of time were fooled and made to believe that without Santa, Christmas is bleak.

  • JAMES CHISULO CHANDA

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THESE POWERFUL WORDS, NOW I HAVE KNOWN THE REAL STUFF AND WHAT I HAVE TO DO ON CHRISTMAS DAY