Christmas! It’s one of the best times of the year—especially for church outreach. And this year, that outreach may be even more important than ever.
Many churches are shrinking. Carey Nieuwhof reports that “anecdotally, most churches find themselves hovering between 30–60% of their pre-pandemic [levels].”1 So we don’t just need to reach out to our communities . . . we also need to reach out to those who used to attend but now neither show up for in-person or live streamed services.
Here are seven ways you can run effective outreach for digital and in-person events this Christmas season, whether you have a small budget, a large budget, or something in between.
1. Evaluate your church’s Christmas programs & events
Traditional Christmas programs and plays may not be the best fit right now—or they may need to be supplemented with other types of Christmas events.
For instance, more people than usual could be live streaming your Christmas services and looking for online connection during this time of year. Will they find what they need?
Consider these ideas:
- Live streaming Christmas lessons for children
- Prerecording a children’s Christmas pageant or a Christmas program (like a cantata or readers’ theater) and hosting a watch party. With this method, parts can be recorded separately and then merged together.
- Hosting a virtual Christmas caroling event through a platform like Zoom
- Presenting daily Advent devotionals on your church’s website and/or social media
2. Create a dedicated website page for your Christmas services
When you create a Christmas services and events page on your church website, you’re making it easy for people to see everything they can get involved in throughout the season. You’re giving them one handy place to go for all the information they’re looking for. Your regular members will find this helpful, and so will first-time visitors.
On your church’s Christmas landing page, include an option for people to RSVP for both your live stream and in-person services. This will help you collect guests’ information for follow-up, and it encourages people to come to the service because they’ve committed to being there.
3. Give a gift to those who RSVP
Encourage people to RSVP by offering them a gift that opens the door to engagement and digital discipleship.
The gift can be physical.
If you have the budget, mail out a Christmas box. You can include candles for the candlelight service, a devotional book or DVD from your church, a Christmas Bible reading plan, activity sheets for the kids, and fun extras like sweet treats or a church-branded mug.
The gift can be digital.
There’s something special about receiving a physical gift in the mail, but with a digital gift you can save money and make it available immediately. Here are a few ideas:
- Deliver a devotional written by your pastor and designed to look inviting.
- Include links to video devotionals recorded by your pastor in a cozy Christmas setting.
- Invite people to join you on a digital Christmas Bible reading plan.
- Attach a daily Christmas Bible reading plan people can print or download.
- Include kids’ activity sheets parents can print out.
4. Get outreach help
Ask your members to help you spread the word about your Christmas services—and give them tools to do it.
- Create Christmas service invitations for your church to share on social media.
- Print Christmas service invitations for your members to hand out.
- Make Christmas service yard signs available.
- On your digital and printed materials, include the event date, time, church address, and a link to your Christmas landing page. (If you don’t have a Christmas landing page, include the link to where your Christmas live stream will appear.)
5. Consider advertising on social media
Since so many people use social media, placing ads for your Christmas service can help you reach more of your community. If you haven’t done that before, take a look at this article walking you through Facebook ads for your church or instructions from Facebook.
In addition to typical advertising that invites people to your service, you could also try a more relationship-building method—place an ad asking people how you can pray for them this Christmas season.
Designate people to monitor your Facebook inbox, if you haven’t already. Then, direct the prayer-request ad responses to Facebook Messenger so that people can share their prayer requests with you. Follow up with respondents to let them know you’re praying for them. This helps people know that you care about them, and that care can prompt them to seek out your online or in-person services. And, of course, even if it doesn’t, you’ve still shown the love of Christ.
6. Send a cheerful reminder
On December 22 or 23, send a text or email reminder to those who’ve RSVPed letting them know you’re looking forward to celebrating Christ’s birth with them soon.
Tip: You can get free cloud-based media and file storage from Faithlife—just sign up for a free church group.
7. Connect during your Christmas service
Taking a few small steps can go a long way toward making people feel like a part of the service.
In both your physical and live streamed services, invite everyone to fill out a card so that guests don’t feel awkwardly singled out. Tell your members you’d love to hear from them and make sure their information is updated. Tell your visitors not to worry, you won’t be spamming them—you just want to say hello and thank them for coming.
Ask a couple of volunteers to engage in your live stream chat as themselves rather than the church account (e.g., as Stephanie Smith instead of as Grace Church) so that visitors will see that participation and feel more comfortable joining in. For instance, you might ask these volunteers to answer the questions your pastor asks or comment occasionally throughout the service.
On your live stream, comment from the church account (e.g., as Grace Church instead of as Stephanie Smith) to acknowledge that the Christmas season is difficult for many, and invite people to send in prayer requests.
You could also add something like this: “Making decisions about the new year? Facing new challenges? Let us know how we can be praying about those too.” Of course, follow up later to let those people know you’ve been praying.
Another option is to invite live stream viewers to a special virtual prayer room on Zoom or Google Meet, etc., so they can interact with others and pray together. Here, too, follow up to let people know you’ve been praying.
What type of Christmas services or events is your church holding this year? Let us know in the comments below.
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