By Jeff Matas
I suffer from seasonal low testosterone disorder. The cause of this disorder is not my age, nor a physical issue, it’s Hallmark Christmas Movies. My wife is obsessed with Hallmark Christmas Movies. She was giddy when Hallmark announced the start of their 2022 Christmas Movie Marathon the last week of October. Yes, you read that right…THE LAST WEEK IN OCTOBER! Every movie is basically the same. I’m not kidding. Here’s the storyline:
There is an attractive woman with a great career who is vaguely dissatisfied with her life. She lives in a big city but finds life there unfulfilling. As Christmas approaches, she travels to a small town. The reason for her visit might be to spend time with her quaint family, to rescue her family’s failing business (bakery, toy shop, bed-and-breakfast, etc.), or she had to complete an assignment for her high-powered job which required her to be there. During her visit, she meets an attractive handsome no-frills, down-to-earth guy that likes flannel shirts and can fix things. There will be a conflict between the small-town guy and the big city gal, typically it’s some miscommunication that could have been avoided if one of the two had some basic communication skills. But don’t worry, by the end of the movie they work it out. You always know the movie is over when the couple have their first kiss. Once he kisses the gal, it’s over and the credits roll. Oh yeah, one more thing. That chubby old man with the silver beard that gives sage advice to the gal early in the movie…he might be Santa Claus.
I can feel a loss of testosterone just writing that synopsis of Hallmark storylines. To combat this disorder, my doctor has prescribed “sports isolation therapy” which involves me being present for my wife when she is glued to the Hallmark Channel but to watch sports on my iPad while wearing noise-canceling headphones.
The Hallmark Channel is not alone in reminding us that Christmas is coming. In late October, I visited Lowes and Costco and saw Christmas trees, decorations and toys prominently displayed. You might think it’s early to start thinking about Christmas, but if you are leading a church, it’s not early at all. And Christmas is the best opportunity that you will have all year to reach people that don’t attend church. Why? It is the one time each year—really the only time—that mainstream culture pauses to recognize (however imperfectly) a pivotal story in the Bible. Christmas has more outreach potential for the church than any other holiday by far. The problem is that many churches don’t put much thought or energy in their Christmas plans. They will hold a Christmas Eve service or a candles-and-carols service for their members and they miss the best opportunity to connect with unchurched people in their community.
Here are some ideas to leverage this incredible opportunity for outreach:
Use social media
Nearly every church—regardless of size—uses Facebook. They use the platform to stream their services or to advertise events. But too few churches take advantage of Facebook advertising. Compared to mailing and newspaper ads (does anyone buy newspaper ads anymore?), Facebook can help you reach a targeted audience for pennies on the dollar. Your church will appear in the feed of the people you are trying to reach. Also, you can encourage your people to repost the church’s Facebook posts on their feed. Think about the impact that would have if everyone in your church that uses Facebook would repost the church’s sermons and events. Think about doing this for your Christmas events.
Do a photo booth at your church so that people can take Christmas family photos and post them to Instagram and Facebook. Put the church’s name in the shot. Make it fun and memorable. Promote the photobooth weeks before Christmas events and services.
Invest in (love) your community
Take an offering during your Christmas Eve service with all the proceeds going to a local ministry or charity. Use the funds to support a shelter, a food bank, or a special need in your community. Your partnership can also include the investment of your time. Invite people to serve at a local soup kitchen or to hand out food at a food pantry. Promote the local ministry and your partnership in your social media posts.
Give the gift of Jesus
Don’t let people leave your Christmas services without an invitation to accept the gift of Christmas—Jesus. Be loving but be bold. Seize the opportunity to articulate the good news of the gospel clearly, concisely, and compellingly. Don’t simply allow people to leave with warm memories of carols and candles. Present the gospel and give them a way to respond. You will be surprised how many people’s lives will be forever changed.
Communicate next steps
Even if you don’t change a thing, you will likely see a bump in your attendance at Christmas time. If you are intentional to cast a broad net of invitation at Christmas, you will have a lot of new faces showing up for your holiday services. What are the next steps for your guests? A great next step is to have a compelling sermon series targeted to guests to get them to return. Starting the Sunday after Christmas, begin a sermon series on family/marriage/parenting or a series on breaking destructive habits that hold us down. Make the series focus on a need in the lives of those you are trying to reach.
So much of leadership is taking the time to be intentional. For pastors and churches October, November and December are a blur of activity and challenge. October has fall break with families heading out of town and ends with Halloween. Thanksgiving in November is followed by the blur of four weeks until Christmas. Honestly, it’s all we can do it just keep the plates spinning: get through the annual business meeting and budgeting, find enough volunteers during fall break, get the children’s Christmas program on track, and get the Christmas Eve service planned. But if you can stop for a bit and be intentional about what you want to accomplish this Christmas season, even a few strategic changes in the right direction can make a big difference in reaching people who are unchurched in your community.