We know, we know. 

“What about Thanksgiving?!” 

How churches celebrate Christmas matters. And regardless of the size of your church, it’s important to start early if you want to create a meaningful experience for your members. Planning proactively is especially important if you’re a small church with limited resources and manpower. The 95 Network says about 95% of churches in the U.S. are under 500 attendees—that means most churches need to start planning Christmas early. 

Early planning is what we call a proactive approach, allowing you to be strategic, involve the right people, and save money in the process. As you begin your planning, we recommend two steps: strategize and simplify

how churches celebrate christmas

How Churches [Strategically] Celebrate Christmas: Begin with Your Mission in Mind

Long before discussions about sermon art and decorations begin, it’s important to step back and remember your mission. How churches celebrate Christmas should be an outflow of the mission they work toward 365 days a year.

Simon Sinek writes that it’s critical to “start with why.” He says “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

“Starting with why” in church planning basically empowers you to start with your audience. It starts with the people that you’re serving. Understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing frees you from the distraction of attendance numbers.

How churches celebrate Christmas often revolves around what’s happening in the  auditorium, but we challenge you to think about the season more holistically. A key thing to remember here is that the majority of someone’s Christmas season is not spent in your auditorium or taking selfies with their family in front of a photo booth in the foyer. For your Christmas theme to have real impact, you have to meet people where they are. 

Christmas is a busy time for people, and as they juggle various gatherings, their minds are not going to be on the Sunday morning experience. If you’re spending all your time and energy there, it will likely just be remembered as another event in a full holiday schedule. Instead, you want to establish the theme that guides your members through the entire Christmas season.

Create a unified theme that runs through every ministry during the season. Think outside of the box about how to get your church rallying around your Christmas theme seven days a week. It’s not just leading them from the platform, it’s nurturing their souls throughout the season by giving them the resources to disciple their children or pour into each other’s lives. 

Look for ways to empower the leaders in your church. Help your small group leaders, your volunteer leaders, and your ministry partners own the theme. The goal is that the Christmas experience on Sunday is lived out in small groups, children’s classrooms, or when your church is volunteering at a local mission.

how churches celebrate christmas

Here’s an example.

Maybe how your church celebrates Christmas—your Christmas theme—is to help people understand what it means to find joy.

Maybe you have three goals with this theme. Number one, you want to empower parents to teach their children about the concept of joy. Number two, you want people to feel joy in every experience and interaction they have with church. Number three, you want people to individually find their joy.

What you want to do next is to clearly define your plan so you can communicate it to staff, leaders, and attendees. Every person on your staff team will have an assignment to work toward implementing the plan. 

But it starts with your theme.

how churches celebrate christmas

How Churches [Simply] Celebrate Christmas: Real-Talk About Budget Numbers

Here’s the second thing we want you to know. Christmas does not have to be a huge, glamorous production. It can be an opportunity to offer simplicity, a respite in the chaos of the holidays.

Many church Christmas celebrations tend to become about creating excitement in an attempt to draw in attendees, especially unchurched people. But the simplicity of Christmas in the chaos of the outer world stands out so much more than a big production. Here’s the reality: You’re competing with companies and influencers and millions of dollars. 

You are never going to create something bigger or grander or more hype-worthy. And that’s fine. You don’t need to be Disneyland. Embrace who you are. Everyone feels like Christmas is fast-paced. It’s busy. It’s stressful. It’s oversaturated, and there is too much going on. Small churches have an advantage here because people are surrounded by busyness, chaos, and clutter at Christmas time, and you can offer an alternative. 

Once again, it goes back to remembering your audience—none of your church members are thinking “I wish my church could be a little bit more over the top because I don’t get enough over the top at Christmas.” What really sticks with people is when the world feels chaotic and their church is different. Simple and peaceful.

If you have a shoestring budget or a small team, think about Christmas differently. Think about how you can create a quiet and peaceful experience for people. You can help them see the peace that comes from Christ. Or you can show them that when the world feels hopeless and materialistic, Christ gives us hope. Or you can highlight how, in the frustration of waiting, Christ is who we were waiting for.

The world creates a great opportunity for the church to create a contrast at Christmastime and speak out about the difference between life with Christ and life without. You have an incredible opportunity as a small church because you are not bound by the need to produce. Lean into that. That’s a gift. People want to come in and experience rest, and you can create a space for it by how your church celebrates Christmas. 

This idea makes me think of my two favorite Christmas movies. Everybody knows the first one—White Christmas. It’s hard to beat the dance numbers, costumes, easy laughs from Danny Kaye, and crooning from Bing Crosby. It’s not Christmas until I’ve watched it with my family. But have you ever heard of The Christmas Card? It’s a sweet Hallmark movie starring Ed Asner with the perfect amount of cheese for the holidays. I love it so much. It’s not going to make you get up and dance, and it wouldn’t win any awards, but it will really tug on your heart strings. 

You don’t need to produce the next White Christmas to do something meaningful for your people. 

What they might really need is The Christmas Card.

how churches celebrate christmas

So, Ready to Start Planning? 

When you plan ahead for your church’s Christmas celebration and think strategically about this season, you can create truly unexpected experiences. That allows ministry to happen in an authentic way. People need you to point them to Christ, but then resource and disciple them, too. Christmas is a prime opportunity to do that. And it’s a prime opportunity for your people to invite unchurched people into that context with them. 

Need more ideas? Here’s how one central Indiana church surprised and delighted their congregation in a COVID Christmas. 

Ready to get started? We’re here to brainstorm with you! Contact us today and let us know how we can help you accomplish your Christmas mission.