For years I “struggled” with the joyous season of Christmas. My challenge: from Thanksgiving until January 2 we seemed as “carnal as dirt.” Christmas sales, banquets, parties, stuff! There seemed to be a notable decline in spiritual focus. I’m confessing here . . .it was probably just me; maybe I was the one who became carnal.
After fifteen years of pastoring, and fretting through each Christmas I decided to embrace reality. If nothing else, the fact that it took fifteen years for me to learn and adjust shows my stubbornness. My adjustment was to try to relax and make something positive of the season. Creating repeated events that become part of the culture and tradition of the church is beneficial.
The following items are not all my own. I’ll direct you to the people who carried them out.
1. “Christmas at Truth” was an annual event. Of course if your church’s name is “The Sanctuary” or whatever, the event would be “Christmas at the Sanctuary.” Christmas music, decor, an evangelistic Christmas message, perhaps a sermon on a character of Christmas (an ebook is in n development. In a few days look for the book of sermons: “Characters of Christmas” at Truth-Publications.com). ):
Christmas is a time to preach hope; reach to the lonely and to make point of touching those who experienced sorrow during the year. Jesus is the hope bringer. “Christmas at Truth” was the Sunday we received our Christmas for Christ (CFC) offering and commitments that would be used to help church planters. If you are not familiar with CFC this year’s CFC videos can be seen at http://namupci.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=39&Itemid=167
. If you are not part of a United Pentecostal Church (63% of our UPCI churches give an offering to CFC, as your church does so please route your offering through your church) but would like to invest in helping plant churches, you can contribute by texting “Give to CFC” to 817.890.5984 and following the instructions that come to you. You can give any amount.
2. Unwrapping Jesus’ gifts – In Moss Bluff, Louisiana (Pastor Tim Mahoney) the longstanding tradition is for each family to bring a wrapped gift with their Christmas gift for Jesus. These wrapped gifts are collected on the platform – creating quite a stack. As part of the service the children are invited to the platform to open the packages. Of course kids love tearing into the wrapping. The paper flies and it is a good time. Lots of pictures are taken. This is a great tradition. I can see this catching on!
3. Family/Pastor Time – Pastors Brent and Bill Coletharp have a night where each family comes forward bringing a gift for Jesus. The pastor(s) meet the family in the aisle, speaks with, prays for and expresses appreciation specific to that family. Elder Coletharp says it’s the one time when he gets to speak with and pray for each family as a group. I’ve seen the tears and laughter of the people. Impacting and memorable!
4. Christmas Cards for Christ – These are envelopes numbered from $1 to $100. Each individual takes an envelope from the altar. The selection is based on their financial ability. Envelopes from $1 to $20 are reserved for children and teens. This offering totals $5,150! Present the envelopes during a mission focused night in late November/early December; then on a Sunday shortly before Christmas accept people’s gifts. This works! If you’d like to do Christmas Cards for Christ your district North American Missions director will have them; or contact Shawna Hobson at North American Missions – firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Pastor Jason Cox (Chicago) makes Christmas has each family come to the front with their offering, and a piece of a puzzle that covers North America. He also has them light a candle representing an unchurched city. It denotes the fact that church planters “light the world.” I’ve experienced the impact of this.
6. Children’s Emphasis – More people visit church at Christmas than Easter. Add to the guest count by having some component of Children’s program. Kids programs are always a trip. My objective for these events is not a host of new converts but establishing new connections.
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Now back to the message. Work the room during such events. GET OFF THE PLATFORM and go meet people! As important as the tradition – follow-up, follow-up, follow-up! By the way, the follow-up cannot wait till after January 1.
I know many of you have traditions that have served the church well. Please pass these on via a comment below.