Is Your Congregation Ready to Welcome Christmas Guests?

Christmas is a time for celebration and community, and it's also when most churches see an increase in attendance and have their highest number of first-time visitors. Is your church ready to welcome Christmas guests, so they’ll return for a second visit?

Make it easy for guests to find your church.
Make sure your church's website and social media pages are up to date with your Christmas service times and locations. You can also create a special landing page for Christmas guests, where they can find information about your church, your services, and what to expect.

Consider posting additional signs directing guests to your parking lot and primary entrance. They’re not familiar with your space, so make it easy for them. Station greeters in the parking lot and at the doors to welcome guests and help them find their way around.

Promote your Christmas services on social media and in your local community. This will help to reach people who may not be regular church attendees.

Create a welcoming environment.
Make sure your space is ready to welcome people. You want it in top shape for this important outreach opportunity.

Do a check around your property. Take care of any landscaping or maintenance issues. November and early December are a great time for doing touch-up painting and ensuring your lighting is in good working order.

This should go without saying, but make sure your church is clean and well-decorated. Having Christmas décor both inside and outside your building creates a festive atmosphere. At my home church, we decorate for Advent, and then add special decorations for Christmas Eve, such as luminaries leading to the main doors outside, and poinsettias around the altar.

Offer refreshments – coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and cookies or doughnuts if possible.

Be prepared for a variety of guests.
For Christmas services, your church is likely to welcome a variety of guests, including:

  • Regular church attenders
  • People who attend church only on Christmas Eve
  • People who are new to your area
  • People who are looking for a spiritual experience
  • People who are going through tough circumstances

Remind your congregation prior to Christmas services that you are expecting guests, and that they play a significant role in making new people feel welcome. Encourage them to demonstrate radical hospitality by smiling, greeting people, and making room for all. They can begin by leaving the closest parking spots open for guests, and sitting towards the front and in the center of the rows, so that guests have easy access to seats on the aisles or in the rear.

When planning your Christmas services, keep all these types of guests in mind. Choose hymns and carols that are familiar to everyone, and make sure your sermon is relevant to both church members and newcomers. Make sure the sermon connects with both their heads and their hearts. Engaging their hearts – their emotions – inspires people to act. Check out our previous post on creating exceptional worship services.

Be inclusive.
Have a special welcome for first-time visitors from the platform. Make sure your church is a place where all people feel safe and respected. Be mindful of the words you use. Avoid insider language. Make sure your church is accessible to people with disabilities. We offer priority (early) seating for our guests with disabilities so they can take their time to find a seat.

Invite guests to come back.
You can invite guests to return by:

  • Handing out postcards with information about your church's regular services and programs.
  • Inviting guests to sign up for your email list and follow your church on social media.
  • Literally inviting them to return. For example, you could say something like, "We're so glad you came to our Christmas service. We hope you'll join us again soon for our regular Sunday service."
  • Developing a process for collecting (or at least requesting) your guests’ contact information. Offer a gift bag with a small gift, information about your church, a welcome note from the pastor or another church leader if they provide their info.
  • Following up with guests after worship. Send a text, email, or handwritten card thanking them for coming and repeating your invitation to come again. Refer to our previous blog post on effective follow up.

Don’t wait until the week before Christmas to start preparing. Start now, so you can identify what needs to be done and take action. Invite others into the planning process who can also take some of the responsibility.

What’s one thing your church needs to do to prepare now to welcome Christmas guests?

Yvonne Gentile is our Guest Experience & ShareChurch Lead Director, a former retail industry executive, and co-author of four books. She and her husband Frank have been part of Resurrection since 1996. Together they enjoy movies, road trips, and spending time with family.