Break the Slump: How To Leverage Your 2021 Christmas Services To Reach More People

Like many church leaders, you’ve probably been working twice as hard and seeing half the results you’d wanted. That’s a recipe for disappointment, not to mention fatigue.

When you’re discouraged as a leader, it can be easy to miss the opportunities right in front of you.

And right now, there’s an opportunity.

The opportunity? Christmas. It’s literally the biggest outreach opportunity you’ve had in two years, and if you’re not careful, you might miss it.

What if you could reach more people than you have in several years with an effective Christmas outreach? And what if that became a catalyst that could jump-start your church into a better 2022?

In this post, I’ll outline three strategies you can use to help reach more people at Christmas.

And for a limited time, you’ll also get a Christmas Outreach Toolkit  (complete with templates you can use) that we’ve added as a bonus for anyone who enrolls in The Art of Better Reaching course, which will give you the strategies you need to reach people in a post-Christian culture.

First, some context and some somewhat encouraging news when it comes to church attendance: it’s (finally) slowly rebounding.

Some Hope: 2021 Church Attendance Is (Slowly) Trending Back Up

According to LifeWay research, the average attendance at church for the majority of churches in 2021 is at 50-70% of what it was pre-pandemic. While that might sound discouraging, it’s an improvement over a year ago.

More encouragingly though, for 22% of churches, attendance is between 90-100% of pre-pandemic levels. And almost 10% are beyond their 2019 attendance.

While it still means that some people aren’t coming back, it also suggests that others are taking their place.

Christmas Still Syncs Up With Culture—And Offers Hope

The good news is that perhaps…just perhaps…this is your opportunity to actually see a surge in people you reach this Christmas.

Here’s why.

Other than the fact that the Gospel itself carries power (which is always true), Christmas is one of the rare moments left when the culture is more open to the message you’re preaching.

Radio stations play Christmas music and people who normally access Spotify for Drake and Dua Lipa start searching for Christmas playlists.

At a deeper level, with cynicism, fatigue, and burnout running at all-time highs, people are looking for hope—a message that is the opposite of the despair that has become the daily diet of almost everyone in the culture.

Add to that the fact that almost everyone is free to regather with family and friends and more mobile than they were a year ago, and there you have it: the biggest potential outreach of 2021.

So what should you do? In addition to what you already know about hosting great Christmas experiences, here are three strategies that can help make 2021 even more effective.

1. Buck the Skimpflation Trend: Be Generous. Be Personal.

2021 in many ways has been a harder year on people than 2020 was.

In addition to the pandemic, people feel frustrated by further polarization, inflation, and global supply chain issues.

Skimpflation is the new trend many businesses are embracing: offer higher prices and poorer services and products ever as a response to everything we’ve been through.

Go to a hotel, and housekeeping isn’t offered but only on request. Restaurants have cut out menus and now use QR codes. Businesses have shrunk package sizes and quantities while raising prices. Short-staffed service businesses have increased wait times and cut back service and hours.

Some of this is is a genuine response to the challenges around us, but some of it isn’t, and people are frustrated. While everyone blames COVID, we know menus don’t spread the disease, nor does having housekeeping service your room while you’re out.

This is a tremendous opportunity for churches to do what we should do best: be generous, and be personal.

People are longing to be treated with dignity, care, and personal attention. Put your best people on guest services. Look people in the eye. Smile.

Treat people like they matter, to you and to God. Because they do.

In a world that is increasingly indifferent, a generous, personal approach suddenly makes a huge difference.

2. Leverage Tradition and Quiet Moments

I led a ‘contemporary’ church for years, doing the latest music, etc.

One year I thought it would be a good idea to ‘modernize’ Christmas and avoid Christmas carols altogether. No one knew in advance other than the service programming people and me (whose idea it was). We ran multiple services and the room was packed out.

So…how’d it go?

Well….the service bombed.

As in complete failure. As in I was fortunate not to be run out of town.

The lesson? People want tradition on Christmas eve. And yes, even unchurched people want it.

O Holy Night and O Come All Ye Faithful are exactly what people are expecting and exactly what you should deliver. Sure, you can put a modern spin on old carols…but there’s something deeply powerful about Silent Night and candles that nothing with a 2021 copyright date can quite match.

Don’t get me wrong—moving forward we updated some of the songs and played them with a great band. But they were definitely recognizable. And I preached on one or more of the classic Old Testament and New Testament Christmas texts.

Christmas is really the only holiday left where the Christian story and mainstream culture still sync up (at least sync up a bit).

People know what the story is and want to hear it again.  Your job is to show them why it matters.

Another great approach this Christmas is to put some quiet moments in your service. Our culture has become so loud and unreflective that a few minutes to breathe, to reflect, to stand in awe, might be the only quiet people will have this Christmas.

The culture is increasingly looking for an alternative to itself, not an echo of itself.

Your Christmas service can provide that.

3. Don’t Ignore Online…It’s Your Front Door to 2022

As the drive to get everybody back in the room continues (perhaps not the wisest strategy…but it persists), it will be easy to ignore your online presence or shut it down hoping more people will show up in person.

That’s short-sighted for more than a few reasons.

First, as has become clear even in the final months of 2021, not everyone is comfortable going into a public service. Shutting down or skimping on your online options excludes them. For sure, some people won’t come back. But others will when the pandemic finally reaches endemic status.

But the reasoning goes way beyond that.

Do the math on your online service.

Let’s say your building holds 200 people and you live in a community of 20,000 people, even a packed room with standing-room-only means you’ve reached 1% of your community. Add a second standing-room-only service and you’ve reached 2% of your city. Which means 98% are unreached.

As you know, everyone you want to reach is online. Your online presence as a church isn’t a backdoor for churched people as much as it is a front door for the unchurched.

Finally, you have no idea who’s watching and what’s at stake.

I take that back. Actually, you do kind of know…because almost everyone who has shown up in person in your church over the last few years has told you they found you online first.

Ignoring your online presence as a church won’t close the back door on your church at Christmas. It will simply close the front door.

And again…see point two and be generous and personal in your online presence. People will know whether you’re glad they’re there or not.

And the people you reach online in the last few days of 2021 will be the people most likely to join you in person in the new year.

It is more than possible to see dozens or hundreds of fresh faith stories begun on Christmas Eve that will continue into 2022.

People are longing for good news and open to church at Christmas in ways they just aren’t in February or October.

So prayerfully embrace the opportunity to reach more people this Christmas.

What Are You Doing This Christmas?

What are you doing to reach your community this Christmas? I’d love for you to share your ideas and strategies with other leaders in the comments below.

Break the Slump: How To Leverage Your 2021 Christmas Services To Reach More People

16 Comments

  1. ANITA DELPH on December 3, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    I want to say thank you to Dr Larry for the good thing he has done for me though I am not sure if this is the best forum to show my joy and happiness for what he has done for me but I can’t hide my happiness and my Joy so I have to share it with the world.
    My marriage crashed about two years ago and I tried all I could within my powers to restore it but to no avail. I saw different posts and testimonies about the good things Dr Larry has been doing so I decided to give it a try. Though he is always a busy man, when he responded back to my email, he gave me 48 hours for my marriage to be restored and just like he said my marriage was restored, since then I am happy and I am living happily in my marriage. I am so grateful to Dr Larry you can always contact him here: assurancesolutionhome@gmail. com …

  2. ukranian wife on November 24, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    He might have sex with you, hang out with you, laugh and joke with you, and otherwise enjoy your company… but in the back of his mind, he will remind himself to never truly take you seriously and to keep looking for the next, better woman. Show loyalty to him, and this will drastically increase your odds of being considered marriage material to him.

  3. Roger Harris on November 17, 2021 at 11:56 pm

    Just wonder if we have already signed up to the Art of Better Reaching, how do we get the Christmas Outreach Toolkit?

  4. Frank Collins Jr on November 17, 2021 at 10:09 pm

    How do I purchase the Christmas Outreach Toolkit?

  5. Ebony on November 15, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    Is it possible to purchase the Christmas Outreach Toolkit on its own?

    • Stephanie on November 15, 2021 at 3:09 pm

      I would love to know this too.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on November 16, 2021 at 11:20 am

        Hey Ebony and Stephanie! Thanks for asking. It’s only available this week with the Art of Better Reaching. We have a thirty day no questions asked money back guarantee if you want to see if the whole package is right for you!

  6. Tony McVickers on November 15, 2021 at 10:23 am

    I really appreciate your articles and insight! I think that we have experienced one of the greatest opportunities in church history. Multitudes have lost hope in things that could never bring real hope in the first place. The Church is the only peddler of true hope out here. People are starving for HOPE! The fields are so ripe, Christmas, Thanksgiving and ever other opportunity that we take or create is proving to be incredibly fruitful. Please don’t miss the opportunity to supply the commodity that almost everyone is seeking. Hope in Jesus. Thanks again Carey.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 15, 2021 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks Tony!

  7. Matt on November 15, 2021 at 10:05 am

    We are doing one of our Christmas Eve services, the one that is usually the most attended by families, as a Christmas Pajama Party! We have done some advertising and we advertised hard at our community Fall Fest and there was lots of excitement. Kids, parents, grandparents, the band, the staff – all in out Christmas pajamas…the whole service geared towards kids/families – funny Christmas videos, Christmas story in a silly kid-friendly way, modernized (slightly) versions of Christmas Carols with the band (keys, guitar, bass, drums, voices), the message in a kid-friendly format, and closing with Silent Night (glow sticks and candles). Family photo booth in the lobby (photos are sent via text/email immediately when taken), hot coca bar in lobby, and a gift for all the kids to take home (candy cane, ornament, cookies, etc.).

    We are excited for how this will go! We have people online talking already about coordinating their pajamas!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 15, 2021 at 12:03 pm

      Love the thinking and design behind this plan Matt. Way to go.

  8. Matt on November 15, 2021 at 6:15 am

    I would love to hear input on this question: We are doing one service on December 23rd. We are doing 2 services on December 24th. All three services will the same. Which of those would live stream?

    • Kristen Raves on November 15, 2021 at 8:44 am

      All of them!

      • Carey Nieuwhof on November 15, 2021 at 9:48 am

        Ha ha yes Kristen.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 15, 2021 at 9:48 am

      Hey Matt…great question. If you’ll hang with this idea for a second, I think it depends on mindset. If you think abundance (we want to reach more people), it makes sense to stream them all. If you’re more ‘let’s crowd the room” you may choose to do one or two, but I think you limit the number you reach. That’s my take.

    • Matt on November 15, 2021 at 10:07 am

      Depending on where you are Livestreaming each new service will “push” the previous out of the, or at least further down, on the page…meaning the most recent service timewise is what people will see first when they come to your page.

      We have chosen to make a pre-recorded service that will be Livestreamed throughout the day, but isn’t exactly like the in person one (sermon on a fireside chat setup, more close-up/intimate recording of the band and music, etc.) – formatted better for online than just a few cameras in the large room.

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