SUMMARY: Christmas is an ideal time to draw people into your church by hosting Advent activities, reaching out into the community, and making your church more inviting. Don't miss the opportunities the season presents. The time to begin planning how you will boost your congregation's activites and ministries during the Christmas season is now.
Be more visible.
Create an information sheet explaining briefly each program your church hosts to serve the community beyond traditional services. Include how a local business could make a difference. Try a monthly community meal for anyone—both people who have plenty to eat and those who find it tough to make ends meet. A $100 donation could pay for 300 dinners. A $1,000 donation could buy a used commercial oven that would enable church members to serve many more in an evening.
Design an attractive outreach flier that includes contact information (phone, e-mail and mailing address) about how to donate, Mention how the business contribution will be recognized—a note in the church bulletin, an ad in the local newspaper or perhaps copies of a note to the donor’s clients and vendors, explaining how it helped and how others can get involved. Reach out to as many local businesses and organizations as possible.
A big church in Texas makes personal shirts listing all its church services. It distributes them to congregation members to wear while they are holiday shopping. To maximize the impact, the church chooses a couple of specific days during the season and encourages everyone to wear the T-shirts on those days.
Get your church choir some extra practice. Plan a caroling night and go door to door in a neighborhood spreading cheer and dropping off a flier to inform the “audience” about your church. If you prefer not to walk outdoors, check with representatives of a shopping mall or store to see if you can share some holiday cheer.
Recognize secular activities.
Buying Christmas presents, baking and enjoying Christmas treats, and being entertained by musical programs are all activities that most people take pleasure in at Christmas. Find ways to embrace the secular aspects of the season by integrating them into church activities.
Host a gift-wrapping evening.
Congregation and other community members can bring gifts they have purchased and interact with each other while they wrap the presents. Each participant can bring wrapping, ribbons and bows to share, and the church can provide refreshments. Extra hands can help people deliver gifts from cars to the church and back.
Baking many kinds of cookies can be overwhelming. Yet, everyone has a favorite and expects it at Christmas. Set up a cookie exchange among your congregation and invite the community too. Each person brings six dozen (or whatever number you prefer) to the church hall. Then the bakers go “cookie shopping” for as many as they brought. Perhaps a Sunday school class or the youth group could decorate some paper plates with images of the season to add a festive spirit to the exchange. When participants prepare the plates to take them home, feel free to offer some printed information about other church ministries or activities.
Sponsor a holiday card contest.
Ask your congregation to design a holiday card. Pick winners from several age categories. Include a “made by WINNER’s NAME” from “YOUR” United Methodist Church (include your Web site too) on the back. Work with a local printer to produce the card. Sell the cards to congregation members at cost or include a small markup to be donated to a ministry outreach (mention that on the card too.)
Just like finding the perfect gift, if you think creatively, you will find perfect ways for your congregation to make your church a central part of the community's celebration of Christmas.