2. BRAND THE EVENT AROUND THE COMMUNITY, NOT YOUR CHURCH
One of the best decisions we’ve made in the last few years is to take our church’s name off the main branding for our Christmas services.
We simply use the names of the cities we’re in. So for Barrie, Ontario, we’re Christmas in Barrie. In Orillia, it’s Christmas Eve in Orillia, etc. Sure, we let people know it’s hosted by a church, but people are looking for a place to celebrate and we want them to know we can host them and their family at an event designed for the city.
We’re expanding our Christmas outreach this year into four cities that are within an hour of each other (which makes specific theming more difficult), so we’re using Christmas Eve in the City as a larger brand.
You can see the way we designed it here. (Note: This is last year’s site. The 2018 site goes live in early November…but you can get the idea anyway.)
3. BUILD A SPECIAL WEBSITE
If someone has to click through 15 pages of your website to find your Christmas services, they’ll probably give up. And even if you put it on the home page of your website, it’s still a church website.
We started building custom sites a few years ago for our Christmas services and have been thrilled with the results. Here’s last year’s version.
Again, people have Christmas on their mind, and when the site looks like Christmas and there are free tickets available (see below), it’s easier for people to say “I’m in.”
Sites like this don’t have to be expensive. Get a teenager in your church to design one. Or, for a thousand dollars or so, you can have a basic site put together.
Find an easy to remember URL (like ChristmasEveInTheCity.com or ChristmasInYourTown.com) that makes your site more findable, local and shareable.
4. EXPERIMENT WITH MULTIPLE SERVICE TIMES
Not everyone can make it to your ‘one’ service. This year we’re doing eight to 10 services over two days (the 23rd and 24th) in four cities.
Yes, those are long work days for staff and volunteers, but you can reap a harvest all year long from that investment.
We always offer more than one service time, because the reality is that different families have different needs. Young families seem to prefer earlier services so they can get their kids to bed early or have dinner together. Retail workers need a later service. In past years, we’ve pushed our service times earlier and earlier (starting as early as 11 a.m.) at our broadcast site.
The reason? Providing multiple service times gives multiple families lots of opportunities to attend and to invite their friends.
5. STRETCH YOURSELF AND EXPERIMENT
To be honest, pulling off Christmas services in four cities has stretched our team. But it’s a good way to test out new venues, new places and new communities in which you might one day have locations.
And it’s a great system test to see if you’re ready for more.
But as every church leader knows, to open a new campus or church in a new community takes time, money, risk and experimentation.
A few Christmases ago, we started experimenting with pop-up sites. In the same way you’ve seen the rise of pop-up restaurants or pop-up stores, you’ve seen more pop-up churches that open in a new location for a night or a month or a season.
You can rent old churches, theaters, restaurants, banquet halls or whatever to bring your church into a new community. It gives you a chance to test the waters for expansion and to bring the hope of Christ into a new place without making a massive initial investment.
We’re adding a new permanent location as a result of our experimentation and will be adding more in the future. It’s also helped massively grow our online reach to cities and communities in which we didn’t have a presence before.
Christmas is a great time to be innovative because unchurched people are rarely more interested in church than at Christmas.
6. GIVE YOUR CONGREGATION INVITATION TOOLS
Did you know that 82 percent of people would come to church if a trusted friend invited them?
Yet in a typical year, only 2 percent of Christians invite a friend to church. Heartbreaking.
Create some full-color cards with details on it which people can hand to their friends.
We’ve tied candy canes to Instagram-like cards to make them easier to hand out to friends. For years now, we’ve also done business-size cards and some full-size posters. The posters pop up all over our cities in places like Starbucks, hockey arenas, community centers and more.
It’s easier to invite a friend to something like Christmas than to a regular Sunday morning.