Christmas services that bring visitors back for January

One of the most powerful things a church can do is subvert expectations. In fact, one could argue that Jesus subverted so many expectations people had about the coming messiah. With Christmas approaching I want to share how you can subvert expectations to engage the “twice a year attendees” that will be showing up for Christmas (or Christmas Eve) services.

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Now, I need to acknowledge two people that were influential in my thinking on Christmas and Easter services: my Mum, Sandy Johnson, and Sherry Miles who both challenged my thinking on holiday outreach and engagement when we were all working at Real Life Ministries back in the early 2000’s. Over the years they have proven themselves 100% correct in their approaches and I want to share their thoughts with you as well.

The problem with Christmas services

Now many churches, they decide to roll back to a completely traditional service with hymns and a different liturgy or order of service for Christmas even though their norm is more contemporary. The twice a year attendee shows up and says “oh, yep, this is exactly how I remember church and it still feels like a holdover of a bygone era.” That’s probably not true though if they showed up next week… but they won’t show up next week because they had their expectations confirmed and they just don’t know anything different. 🤷

The solution to engaging twice-a-year attendees

Subvert expectations by sticking more closely to what your church is all about on the average Sunday. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t whip out the cocoa and hot apple cider… those are awesome touches around the holidays… but instead of only playing Christmas hymns, only do one or two and let people experience your usual contemporary worship (if that’s what you usually have on every other Sunday… I have some pretty traditional churches I work with and get and respect that some of you do hymns and traditional liturgy year-round 😉).

You basically want to surprise those infrequent attenders with a taste of what they would experience if they started attending every Sunday.

The results of sticking closer to your regular service for holidays

For people only come for Christmas and/or Easter, when they experience a church service that wasn’t what they expected: worship that resonates, a message that’s exegetically solid while remaining applicable, strong kids ministry, and emphasis on “being the church” over “going to church” you will see at least some of them show up in January because they experienced something they didn’t expect. 😎

Isaac Johnson

Isaac has been in professional ministry since 2002, holds an M.Div. from Moody, and his goal is to equip churches to reach digital natives.

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