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In your church on Christmas Eve will be someone who shows up hoping for a deep and life-giving encounter with the Spirit of Christmas.
They’ve experienced the buying and giving frenzy. Their news feed has mixed up good news of great joy with fear and anguish. They’ve been offered sweet videos and movies offering a hope that seems far off from them. And they are longing for something more, something real, something that will last.
They might be a first-time guest. They might be your key lay leader. But most likely they are someone who already has a connection with the church but it is one that is frail and inconsistent.
All too often we dismiss these people en-mass. We even have a disparaging name we apply – C and E Christians.
Wise churches instead of disparaging them, prepare to welcome these seekers., to reach out to them, and to implement a plan to deepen their engagement with Jesus and the church.
First, these wise churches watch their language in the lead up to and during the Christmas Eve service. They script the welcome and the benediction so the words and actions communicate to each person that they are wanted here and that they have something precious and irreplaceable to offer. It is an easy script to write as we reflect together on the welcome given to the Christ-Child.
- Welcoming Words
We are so grateful you have chosen to worship in this place for Christmas Eve. We are very aware you could have been a thousand other places. Thank you for coming here.
- Guest at the Manger Words
Just as Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem and registered their presence there, we would be so grateful if you’d share your contact information with us. Our ushers are handing out “Guest at the Manger” cards. We’ll use this information to thank you, to become better acquainted, and to invite you to some upcoming experiences of love, joy, hope and faith.
- Closing Words
Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus had a very hard time finding a place to rest on their journey. We want you to know that this place, our church is a place for you to find rest, strength to face what is before you in this life, a purpose beyond just getting by, and friends to accompany you on your journey. Please come back for worship tomorrow and next week. We’d be so grateful to see you again.
Next, these churches bravely ask for contact information from everyone present on Christmas Eve. One way to emphasize the importance of this is by having the ushers pass out and later collect something like these “Guests at the Manger” connection cards. They’ve learned that just putting them in the bulletin or pointing them out in a pew pocket is much less effective.
Fruitful churches work hard to make clear to seekers they are wanted, so bring your Reaching New People team together soon after the services to look at and pray over the Guest cards.
In prayer, your Reaching New People Team is seeking to discern how you might invite seekers into “You are Wanted” relationships with the people whose names are on the cards. Member-guest activities oriented around the concerns of the New Year are great for this kind of invitation.
It is all about building relationships. You don’t have to develop massive new programs to cultivate stronger relationships. You just invite them to a place and time where you can look at each other face to face and listen to each other’s story. Everything else will follow spiritually from that beginning.
What would it be like for someone to come to your church on Christmas Eve hoping for a deep and life-giving encounter to come away with a new or renewed set of friends from the church? Wouldn’t that be a great gift to give and to receive? So let’s not leave it unopened!
New Year’s Relationship Building Activities
- A meal or coffee together
- Getting a Great Start to a New Year Small Group Study
- A Disciples Journal (Manskar)
- Creed (Hamilton)
- God Unbound (Heath)
- Fitness Support and Accountability Group
- Decluttering Group (Spiritual and Temporal)
- Walking Group
- Running Group
- Prayer Walking
- Life Worth Living Group