Kids can be some of our toughest critics. Are you ready to welcome them to your church this Christmas?
Our churches have such an opportunity during the Christmas season and especially during Christmas Eve services to welcome new faces – whether they’re dragged their by family, feel obligated to come out a sense of tradition, got an invitation from a friend to your church or are drawn to the Christmas story.
In particular, this creates such an opportunity to show your church’s heart for younger generations. Most peoples’ stereotype of church is that it is full of old people. Christmas Eve services give you an opportunity to go above and beyond to show you welcome and are ready for all generations.
These are ideas you can do whether you have 2 kids or 100 kids coming to your Christmas Eve service(s). In fact, even if you have zero kids coming doing these things sends the message to your congregation and to you community that your heart is bent towards reaching younger generations.
What are some things you can do to make sure younger generations, kids in particular, feel truly welcomed at your church on Christmas Eve?
1. Kids Pack – Have little packages for kids at the door with a few crayons, colouring pages or other things to help them engage in the Christmas story from their seat. Kids and parents alike will appreciate this.
2. Create an Atmosphere of Celebration – What could you do that would send the message from the moment they arrive that this is a celebration? Could you give out hot chocolate and cookies as people arrive? Could you have a Christmas themed photo booth for people to take pictures with their phones? Could you have a welcome card that explains where the nursery is, where washrooms are, what to expect during the service? Do something that treats people as your special guests on this special night.
3. Age on Stage – The age on stage shows who you value – aim to have different ages and people from different backgrounds and ethnicities on the stage during the service. Include a variety of people in the worship, doing readings, in any videos shown etc. Consider using different languages from the stage, to represent your community.
4. Welcome Directly – Make sure greeters acknowledge and greet the kids directly, not just the adults. From the stage thank people and kids for making it happen, and getting to this Christmas celebration. Thank the kids specifically for coming – “Kids, I want to say a special thank you to you for being here tonight. It is so special you kids are here to celebrate Jesus with us.”
5. Announcements are for the Guests – It can be tempting to think this is the time to tell everyone all the stuff you do the rest of the year and go into great detail about your kids program and more. Don’t do it – it’ll feel cheap and they won’t remember it anyway. The best advertisement, what they will remember, is how you treated them and their kids while they were there. Think of the three to four things you’d really want to know if it was your first time at a new event, and leave your announcements to that: where the washrooms are, they’ll be singing and you’re invited to sing with us, your kids are welcome to squirm, where they can find the nursery and how long the service will be. Use this time to ease parents worries. Don’t make any jokes about CEOs (Christmas & Easter Only), COs or newbies. Do invite them back specifically to join you at Sunday’s in January. It’s the equivalent of when you have someone in your home saying, “We really enjoyed your company. Let’s make a plan to do this again.”
6. Involve and Talk Specifically to Kids and Youth – I’ve already mentioned having them on stage. But involve the kids/youth in the audience too. Ask them questions during the sermon/service to engage them “Kids, how many sleeps until Christmas?”, “Any of the kids know whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas?” (Be ready for some people to say Santa Claus), “How many College/University students just got through exams or high school students are getting ready for January exams?” or a specific question that relates to a sermon hook. Acknowledge the presence of the younger generations and that you understand a little bit of the space they are in. If you do candle lighting, where each person holds a candle, let the kids have one too. Trust parents to monitor them. Sing at least a couple songs (Christmas carols) kids and everyone, even those that don’t come to church regularly, are likely to know.
7. Seating – consider having ushers seat families with young kids near the front so kids can see what is happening easier. At the entrance, have a pile of pillows or booster seats (you might be able to borrow some from a local theatre) for kids.
8. Keep it Short – with all ages and stages there and a busy, exciting night for all it does not help anyone or leave a good impression to drag out the service, especially the sermon.
9. Link your Christmas Offering to a Cause – Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, will be impressed if it is clear you’re using the money to make a difference in the community. If it is not going to a cause, don’t lie about it, but if the offering is going to a cause make it clear. Let people see you are serious about loving your community.
10. Preach the Gospel – Preach the gospel in a way that is understandable for all ages. It is Good News for all ages and we need to hear it. God has come to us! God through this Christ child is reconciling us to God and to each other. This is great news for all people! Do not make any assumptions that people know the true message of Christmas – connect with people where they are and invite them to consider the message of Christmas. Preach as if it is the first time someone has heard about Jesus and they don’t know the amazing news of Christmas. Work to make your message connect with non-Christians of all ages. Make sure your message is understandable to someone who knows nothing about the church and Christianity. What a beautiful opportunity to show and tell the Good News!
What other suggestions do you have?
May Christmas be a wonderful time of connection with your neighbours and neighbourhoods. Use it well!