Let me begin this post by saying I absolutely love Christmas. It’s my favorite season by far (and, given my affinity for baseball season, that’s saying a lot!). I love the decorations in our house, around the city, and throughout the church building. Personally, I love a giant Christmas tree in the sanctuary. I really love all the Christmas music we sing in this season.
But there’s a unique challenge that churches in the middle of revitalization or replanting can experience around the Christmas season. If your church was once much larger than it currently is, you probably have folks who remember the “good ol’ days” when the church would have a huge children’s musical (complete with shepherds in bathrobes and angels in bedsheets, no doubt), a spectacular Christmas cantata (with or without live animals) and hundreds in attendance at multiple Christmas Eve services.
Maybe this year you’re looking around and simply praying that Christmas Eve or Christmas Day isn’t the lowest-attended service of the year. So, when you hear folks long for the “glory days” of the past, it might sometimes be hard to remain positive in the middle of what can be the busiest month of the year for pastors and church leaders.
If that’s your church, let me encourage you to do some ghostbusting of your own this Christmas. Here are three tips to fight off the ghost of Christmases past.
1. Honor the past without idolizing it
There were most likely some really good things that happened during Christmas when the church was much larger. You can honor that legacy without making all those programs and activities a kind of idol or “goal” to which you should return. Not only has your church changed, but it’s likely that the community around the church has changed as well. What worked 30 years ago won’t necessarily work now, even if you had the capacity to pull off all the same activities.
2. Seek to reach the community as it exists now
Often, folks in our church will remember the way the community used to respond to events. They can easily become frustrated when the folks in the community no longer respond the way they once did. The problem here is that the folks who are in your community are most likely not the same ones who were there 20, 30 or 40 years ago. One way we can honor the legacy of the past is by continuing to reach the community in which your church is located. That’s what folks wanted when the church was planted, so look for new ways to engage your neighborhood with the gospel this Christmas season.
This may require thinking outside the box a bit, but it could well be that providing some Christmas gifts to a few neighborhood families will make more of an impact in 2022 than a children’s musical. Don’t be held captive to “the way we’ve always done things.”
3. Point people to Jesus
This may seem like a no-brainer. I mean, that’s why we do everything we do in a local church, right? Well, it should be, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness and craziness of the season that we can forget to actually do this. If you host a candlelight service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, don’t just read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and assume folks will make the connection to the gospel. Share the gospel clearly during your Christmas services.
As you drop gifts or food baskets off to families in your community, be sure to tell them the reason you’re doing that is because Jesus loves them and so does your church. Maybe include a simple gospel presentation tract and a way for them to contact your church for more information. Then, a week or so into the new year, follow up with them and see if they have any questions or if your church can continue to serve them in any way.
Christmas time presents many opportunities to reach out to your community. Don’t be held captive to ghost of Christmases past in your church. Look for new ways and new opportunities to share the gospel this Christmas season.
If the Replant Team can help you brainstorm, please don’t hesitate to contact us at [email protected]!
Published December 19, 2023