Four Thoughts on Christmas Services

It’s so hard to believe that it’s already December. Where did the year go? It seems like just a couple months ago we were celebrating Easter and the resurrection, and now we’re getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Before I share with you my thoughts on Christmas services, I want to encourage you to slow down during this season. Spend time with your family. Spend time with your church. And most importantly spend time with Jesus.

Now I would not consider myself a Christmas expert, but I happened to be born on December 22nd, and legend has it, that I was brought home from the hospital in a Christmas stocking just like Jesus was.

Just kidding!

I have to write just kidding because there’s a multitude of people online who have no sense of humor, would take me seriously, and then comment about my terrible theology. I can only hope that they receive coal in their stockings this year and every year hereafter.

But let’s not focus on them. Let’s focus on you. What are you doing this year for Christmas?

Potluck? Special singing? Children’s Christmas play?

The options are endless, and depending on who you ask, what you choose could make or break your church.

Some pastors are saying that Christmas has become a bigger outreach opportunity than Easter.

My children would agree. They get more excited about celebrating Jesus’ birth than His resurrection, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the amount of gifts they get on each occasion.

But, what should you do? I have some thoughts…

  1. Tell the Christmas Story. Not the one with the leg lamp, the one with the virgin birth of the Savior of the world. People never get tired of hearing that story. I understand you’ve preached it every year for the past ten years. Preach it again. Get creative with it. Tell it in a different way. Tell it from the sheep’s standpoint.
  2. Keep it Traditional. If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you know that I’m not a fan of tradition. Except when it comes to Christmas. I already encouraged you to stick to the Christmas story. I also want to encourage you to sing Christmas music like Silent Night, Angels We Have Heard on High, Little Drummer Boy. Don’t be afraid to play all the hits. This is the one time of year you can get away with it.
  3. Include the Kids. If you’re a smaller church in a small town, find a way to involve the kids in the service. Let them sing a song, read a scripture, dress up like a donkey. Whatever it takes to get their family to invite others to come see them. This is a great way to boost your attendance. Keep in mind, as your church grows larger, it’s going to become harder to do this. So, don’t start something you’re not able to stop. I’ve given you fair warning.
  4. What about the Day? Do what works best for your church. If your people expect and will show up to a Christmas Eve service, offer one. If they won’t, then don’t. Do it on a day they will attend. In the church I serve, we avoid having services on December 24th and 25th. Why? Because people are celebrating Christmas at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s on those days. So, we’ll have church services on the 23rd or the 22nd, or anytime other than Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But “Church Growth Expert” said we should maximize Christmas Eve. “Church Growth Expert” doesn’t know the culture of your community. You do. So do what works best for you.

What do you have planned for this Christmas? What day will you be having services on? Let us know by leaving a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

Family Matters

This week we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, which is a holiday that involves spending lots of time with family, eating enough turkey to put us into a mini coma, and watching the Detroit Lions lose at football. It doesn’t have the commercial appeal of Christmas or even Halloween. There’s no candy or gifts handed out. It’s just a time to pause and be thankful for what we have around us. Something we don’t do near enough of.

The most valuable thing we have around us is our family. It’s our most important ministry.

I think we would all agree, but for whatever reason it’s easy to get distracted and lose sight of this.

Far too many pastors have lost their families in the name of ministry.

Don’t make this mistake. Take the steps necessary to make sure your family never feels like they’re competing with the church.

I’m a young father, and I’m sure many of you have far more knowledge on this subject than me, but I’d love to share with you a few things I’ve tried to do to make sure I’m appreciating my family.

  1. Limit the time I spend at work. I could easily work 60 hours a week. There’s always things that need to be done. I choose not to. I work around 45 hours a week. What doesn’t get done this week will be waiting on me next week. I’m gone one evening a week for student ministry and on rare occasions I’ll lead an evening small group. The rest of my nights are spent at home with my family. When my kids grow up, I’m sure I’ll work more, but for right now being at home is more important than anything I could be doing away from it.
  2. Be smart with money. I do my best to live on a budget and avoid going into debt. This means I live in a smaller house and don’t buy new cars. My 1999 Toyota 4Runner currently gets me to where I need to go. Saying no to a few wants here and there has allowed my wife to work part-time for most of our marriage and is now allowing her to be a stay at home mom. That means more to me than any purchase I could make.
  3. Prioritize my marriage. I’ve tried my best to have a monthly date night, although it hasn’t been as consistent as I’d like. Babysitters are sometimes hard to come by. The past four years we’ve taken a mini vacation by ourselves. We’ve been to Las Vegas, Cancun, and New York City. Each year we also make sure to be a part of at least one couples small group at our church.
  4. Create Special Moments. Thanksgiving for us can be hectic as we travel to spend time with different sides of the family throughout the weekend. So, I started a tradition of staying at a large resort hotel on Thanksgiving night with just my wife and girls. It’s a special moment for just us. We also try to take big vacations. We’ve been to Disney World three times in the past five years, and although my kids may not always remember it, my wife and I will.

In no way am I trying to say I’m a perfect husband or father. Please don’t think that. I don’t have it all figured out, and there are times my family would probably like to replace me. But I’d like to think I’ve made some wise decisions along the way, and hopefully some of them will help you as well.

If your family was rating you as a father or mother, what do you think they would say? Are there areas you need to work on? Let us know by leaving a comment below, and don’t forget while you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

The Three Most Important Pieces to the Kids’ Ministry Puzzle

If kids’ ministry is an afterthought at your church, you are never going to grow. It is the single most important ministry of a church right now, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Parents are no longer dragging their kids to church, but if you have a great kids’ ministry, the kids will start dragging their parents.

Let me say this to all my small town pastors out there who prefer to have kids in the adult service instead of having a kids’ ministry, you are making a huge mistake.

Yes, there may be a small benefit in kids seeing mom and dad worship, but it pales in comparison to having a kids’ ministry that is fun and exciting and teaches kids about Jesus on their level.

If this is you, I would beg you to reconsider. The future of your church depends on it.

For the rest of us, it’s not enough to just have a kids’ ministry. Your kids’ ministry needs to be great.

In order for that to happen, we need to focus on these three pieces of the puzzle.

  1. Volunteers. Don’t make the mistake of putting just anyone into kids’ ministry. I know it can be tempting, but unless they are excited and passionate about working with kids, they can do more harm than good. Kids’ ministry should get your best. Kids also thrive on consistency, so keeping them around the same volunteers is ideal. This means I prefer kids’ ministry volunteers serve at least every other week, if not every week. And it should go without saying by now that every kids’ volunteer should be background checked. We use a company called Clear Investigative Advantage, but there are several out there. Just do your research and make sure they’re legit.
  1. Curriculum. Flannel graphs and coloring pages don’t cut it anymore. We’re not just babysitting kids. We’re pointing them to Jesus. This means we need curriculum that keeps their attention and helps them learn. We use a combination of KidSpring and Elevate Kids. KidSpring is completely free. It uses a combination of videos and live acting. You just need to have volunteers who are willing to act out the scripts. Our kids love the KidSpring series, and we would use them exclusively if we had more actors. Elevate Kids is a video based curriculum that is also very good but can be expensive for smaller churches.
  1. Parents. You better care about what parents think of your kids’ ministry because more than likely it will determine if they ever come back to your church. They want to know their child is safe, so it’s a great idea to have a check-in system that only allows the parent to take them out of the room. It’s also important to have policies regarding allergies, sickness, etc. After the service a parent will likely ask their child these two questions about the experience. Did you have fun? What did you learn? If their child gives positive answers, chances are they’re coming back. If not, you probably won’t see them again.

Subpar or non-existent kids’ ministries are one of the top reasons small town churches don’t grow. You can fix this by making kids’ ministry a top priority.

What does the kids’ ministry look like in your church? Do you think it’s attracting families or pushing them away? I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below. While you’re here make sure to subscribe to the blog to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.