By Autumn Wall and Diana Davis
The holidays are a wonderful time for believers to celebrate Jesus—as we know He is the reason for this season—and we should celebrate that well!
And what better way is there to honor Jesus than by inviting people to know Him for the first time?
Many churches spend tons of time and energy planning and putting on holiday events that reach their congregation and the CEO Christians (Christmas/Easter Only) in their area, but what is your church doing to reach the unchurched in your area?
Why not spend your resources and energy inviting new people into a new relationship with Jesus? Here are a few ideas for gospel-centered, engaging holiday events.
1. Pumpkin Encouragements
This is a fun project to touch your neighborhood or community. Purchase lots of small pumpkins from a local store or farm.
Make a list of people in your community and church neighborhood who need to be encouraged. This could include nearest neighbors to the church building, community leaders, police or firefighters, etc.
During your small group, take time to decorate pumpkins and write notes of thankfulness and encouragement. Send each group member out the door with a name and address, a handwritten note and a church invitation to deliver with their pumpkins that week.
2. College Dorm Reverse Trick-or-Treating
Get permission from your local university to go reverse trick-or-treating in their on-campus housing units. Dress up in fun costumes and purchase big containers of candy.
As you go from door to door, knock on the door, say “trick or treat!” and give candy to students living in the dorm. If the school will allow it, include an invitation card to your church’s Sunday worship or an age appropriate small group gathering or event that week.
This could also be done in your church’s neighborhood.
3. Un-Random Acts of Kindness
During Christmas holidays, people love going out of their way to encourage other people.
Plan a “Christmas of Kindness” this year. Provide a suggestion list of kind acts that families or individuals can do, along with a tip on how to do that kind gesture in Jesus’ name, not just in the name of kindness.
Provide church event invitation cards they can share, along with their kind acts. Create a large display in the church lobby, with notecards and markers for people to write kind things they did in Jesus’ name and watch the display fill up through the holiday season.
4. Family Craft Party that Shares the real Christmas Story
Have crafty people in your congregation? Plan a family Christmas craft party. Select age-appropriate holiday crafts—as simple or as elaborate as you like—and provide all needed supplies. Tell the Jesus story as you craft.
One church has an annual tradition of inviting families in the community to join church families to make a unique nativity scene. They’ve made nativities from wood blocks, rocks, felt, gumdrops, popsicle sticks and peanuts, toilet rolls, shells and more.
Begin planning next year’s nativity as soon as the party’s over.
5. Gifts for Foster Children
Your church can help make Christmas unforgettable for forgotten children. There are so many kids in foster care in every city across our nation. Why not give them a special Christmas gift they’ll never forget?
Work with your local government office to discover one or more local foster children, suggested gift items and how the gifts should be delivered.
Your church or small group might select one foster family, bringing new items from a provided list, such as specific toys, clothing, toiletries, stuffed animals, blankets, diapers, etc.
Or you may select a few foster children and provide one nice toy for each. Set out boxes for members to bring their assigned donations.
Write a short letter to the foster parents, telling them your church is praying for them, and inviting them to your worship service, Christmas service or next children’s event.
6. Assisted Living Facilities Stockings
Deliver Christmas gifts and Jesus’ love to elderly. Provide big stockings for families, small groups, or individuals in your church to fill with goodies for residents in a nearby assisted living facility or a facility where your church has ongoing ministry.
Assign a name to each stocking, allowing each group to deliver their gift individually, or meet on a specific day to deliver as a group. Include a signed, personal prayer note.
If children are involved, dress them as nativity characters to help deliver stockings. They could even sing a carol or tell the Christmas story.
7. Community Involvement
Be involved in your community. Does your church participate in major city events? Be involved with excellence, and in the name of Jesus.
Plan a stellar float for the local parade. Create the best booth at city event. Volunteer to provide lively carolers for the tree lighting. Attend key community events. Hand out “swag” and printed invitations to worship and to your evangelistic event.
Allow your town to see your church as a positive, involved part of the community. They will observe your joy and sincerity, and God will open opportunities to share about Jesus.
Something to consider: What Fall or Christmas event does your church do well already?
Do you have a fabulous ladies Christmas luncheon? A fall festival? A Thanksgiving art display? A Christmas musical or drama? A Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service?
Instead of doing it the same way as before, add a new evangelistic element and emphasis that you’ve never had before! Keep these three things in mind.
From day one of planning, determine how the event will clearly share God’s plan of salvation and offer an opportunity to accept Him as Lord and Savior.
Consider every part of the program to make it understandable to a non-Christian.
Non-Christians are more likely to attend if they’re invited individually. Inspire church members to thoughtfully bring an acquaintance who may not know Jesus or have a church home.
Give every person in your Sunday worship time 10 printed invitation cards to invite unchurched guests. Appoint an aggressive publicity team to advertise on social media, local newspaper and event websites.
Ask members to repost a Facebook invitation for their Facebook friends. Post flyers in coffee shops, groceries, and community boards and deliver invitations to homes in the immediate neighborhood.
When guests come, make them feel warmly included. Never allow the event to become a performance. Inclusion is critical. The goal is to invite guests into God’s family, telling them how to know Him.
Have church staff and small group leaders wear bright colored name tags to identify them as people who can answer questions or pray with someone. Stage friendly members at exits to converse with guests and invite them back. Provide a table of Bibles for guests who don’t have one.
For example, since a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service is a huge opportunity to impact the unchurched community, why not plan multiple services so busy families can attend. The service is brief, joyful, and the gospel story is shared clearly.
As your church thanks God for blessings and celebrates Jesus’ birth this season, never forget that it’s the most wonderful time of the year—for sharing Jesus.
DIANA DAVIS and AUTUMN WALL are co-authors of Across the Street and Around the World, a book of outreach ideas. Wall is an Indianapolis, Indiana, pastor’s wife, mom, worship leader and author. Davis is a retired minister’s wife, grandmother of seven, author of five books and lives in Pensacola Beach, Florida.