4 “Musts” for a Successful Christmas Service

I really love the Christmas season. The colors, lights, the songs, the traditions, the memories, the crazy schedule and even Santa Claus! All joking aside, there is perhaps no other time when people’s hearts are soft toward the good news of comfort and joy like they are at Christmas. It raises the stakes a bit for those of us in vocational ministry and makes our planning for the Christmas service crucial.


Fair warning, these are my opinions. Here are four things I think are essential to a successful service.

  1. The people must be welcomed. Plan for guests! No one should attend a Christmas service without a smile-filled, “Merry Christmas!” from others. Formal greeters are great, but not necessary. Get people looking and loving people who are walking in to the church. (If you’re holding multiple services or expecting a crowd, some parking attendants would be welcome too!) As an added bonus, be sure to have something on the calendar that you can invite guests back for—hand them a flyer or invitation as they exit.
  2. The décor must be Christmas. Make it feel and look like Christmas! It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but don’t miss this simple way to communicate value. Using your time, energy, and finances this way shows your guests that you’ve anticipated their visit and taken the time to prepare for them. People of all ages will respond to this kind of attention to detail. Be creative about extending the decorations into shared spaces like lobbies and hallways, create a photo area with fun props and a backdrop or a hot cocoa buffet.
  3. The songs must be Carols. I love contemporary Christian music and worship. However, Christmas carols are the exception. People still recognize and relate to the traditional tunes so be careful with modern arrangements and keep the carols familiar. Candles are often a favorite tradition during the singing of carols too. Don’t miss this chance to build something families look forward to year after year.
  4. The message must be the Gospel. The Christmas story, yes, but don’t forget about the Good News. They are different. Make salvation as clear and available as possible. Remember to make time to pray in your busy schedule. Only God can change hearts. And remember, this may not be the time for a three-point thirty-minute lesson; keep it on the shorter side as families juggle the demands of their busy schedule and their antsy kids!


Okay, I have to say it, I feel conflicted about so many churches cancelling Sunday Services on Christmas Day. Yes, I get the family thing and not being legalistic.  However, IF this is Christ’s birthday celebration and IF Sunday is the Lord’s Day, doesn’t it make sense to be together in a Worship Service, especially on December 25?  BTW, when I was growing up we had a 10:00 AM Christmas Service every December 25. Just saying! I’d love to hear your feedback on this!

Also, what would you add for a successful Christmas Service?


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve Olson says:

    I agree about feeling conflicted. We are still going to have church…for crying out loud it’s Christmas what a great time to be in worship. Great list I though of several others but as I thought about them each one would fit under the ones you already have. Merry Christmas.


    1. suptrandy says:

      Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!


  2. Carl Duhrkoop says:

    As always, I appreciated your comments about Christmas services. I especially appreciated this thought, “As an added bonus, be sure to have something on the calendar that you can invite guests back for—hand them a flyer or invitation as they exit.” That should be true for every special service or outreach. We should always “follow up” with another invitation to another service or activity the will attract guests to the church and to our Savior.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Daniel Russell says:

    My wife and were just sitting and discussing the details of the upcoming Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. I appreciate your eminently practical comments. I’m thinking of a list of activities that we will invite folks to.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Matt Eckhardt says:

    I agree with Randy and Steve about feeling conflicted regarding service on Christmas morning. If I can take just a moment to share the decision we come to after several months of prayer and discussion with our church leadership.
    The big question for us was, “If Christmas is such a special occasion and celebration why would we treat it as business as usual?” At its foundation, Christmas is the celebration of the love of God breaking into our world and searching us out, rather than God requiring us to find Him. How does worshiping in the same way with primarily the same group of people we do on a weekly basis do this justice? Why are we not seeking to model and practice the very thing we are celebrating? Why are we not leveraging the one Christian holiday that the majority of our country still recognizes and celebrates by sharing the love of Christ with people in the world who would not look for it in a church on Sunday, or any other day for that matter? I understand the importance of worship and would never discredit its value or the need to have it, but I also don’t believe that merely having a worship service on a Christmas Sunday is the only way to celebrate Christ’s birth. This isn’t to disparage or judge those who are having worship service on Sunday morning, believe me this was a hard decision.
    But, this year we are holding our Christmas Eve candle light service at 11pm, like we always do, celebrating and ushering in Christmas together in worship, but we are not having a Christmas morning service. Instead we are encouraging our people to take the love of Christ into our community to reach people who can’t be in a church service on Sunday. We are calling it “Christmas in the City” and will be taking gifts to those who have to work that day and can’t be with family (i.e. firefighters, hospital workers, etc.). We want to shock our community with the love of Christ on a day when they don’t expect to see the church. After all, isn’t Christmas about finding the love of God when and where you least expect it? Again, I know that there are many different ways to come at this issue and I respect those who see it differently. Not trying to pick any fights here. I just thought I should share what our church is doing and how we came to our conclusion. The important thing always is that, in everything, Christ be glorified.


  5. Brian Hotrum says:

    I love it when Christmas is on a Sunday. It just seems right to celebrate this holiday as the church just like we do with Easter every year. The American culture has made Christmas a time for family, but as Christians it’s all about Jesus.


  6. Thank you for this Randy, and I agree, canceling church on Christmas, or choosing not to go to church on Christmas, seems to me a byproduct of our secular culture’s encroachment on the church. However, I do like what Matt is planning for Christmas. We must be the church, not just go to church! Perhaps the beauty is in the balance.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JIm says:

    Really enjoyed the posts here. We pray and talked and our Leadership Council determined to not hold services on Sunday and make it a time for Families. We are holding to Christmas Eve services on the 24th. We are planning on distributing something to help families celebrate in their homes by families on that day.
    A part of our thinking was that not many non believers will come to church on a Christmas morning for services even invited. They usually come the Sunday before Christmas.
    I love Matt’s ideas. It is intentional and thoughtful.
    As the actual day get closer I must admit that it feels a bit weird to say we are not having services on Christmas. It will be interesting to see how this works out.
    The following Sunday, New Year’s Day, we are having church with a Celebration Theme but we are just doing one service instead of two. (We usually see a big drop in attendance the Sunday after Christmas.) This year will definitely be interesting.
    Glad in some ways that we won’t face this again until 2022, then not until 2033, then 2039, and then 2044 . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  8. suptrandy says:

    Good follow up article that disagrees with me about Christmas Day Services: http://www.churchandculture.org/Blog.asp?ID=11007


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