Christmas, Church, and the Coronavirus
Today marks 67 days until Christmas. Let that sink in for a moment. We still find ourselves amid a pandemic, social distancing, and smaller in-person gathering.
This past Friday, our local radio show called Connections with Evan Dawson featured three medical officials offering their expertise for the holiday season. These interviews highlight the significant complications for families navigating their plans.
Connections: Planning for the holidays during a pandemic
The holiday season is fast approaching, but gatherings could look different this year due to the coronavirus. Monroe…
As church leaders, I believe it’s critical for us to listen to these conversations. Christmas will look very different this year. Churches have an opportunity to minister to families who will not have an ideal holiday season.
The Coronavirus has challenged churches to rethink their digital and at-home content. Many churches have navigated the government protocols, including mask-wearing and limiting the number of in-person attendance. Yet, most churches have hovered around 10–30% of people returning in-person instead of 70–90% online.
We can safely assume that Christmas will amplify these practices, meaning 70–90% of people will engage church from home. Just for numbers’ sake, most of our efforts and plan would benefit from investing in the online experience instead of in-person. If you place 80–90% of your effort into in-person, you have forgotten about the 70–90% at home online.
Last week, the Unstuck podcast featured an interview, including Tony Morgan, Amy Anderson, and Sean Bublitz, about churches’ opportunity to connect with families during this holiday season. This one quote sums up the podcast:
The opportunity we have this year is to equip our attendees to bring church to their family instead of bringing their family to church.
The Unstuck Podcast
Re-Imagining Christmas - Episode 164 | The Unstuck Church Podcast
We're all getting a little wiser, and we're all more experienced now. But six months later... it's a little hard to…
I would highly encourage you to listen to this brief podcast conversation to help your Christmas family. Based on this podcast episode, I’d love to share a few additional thoughts for church leaders to consider as we plan for a Christmas online and in-home.
I hear church leaders discuss the online experience as a duplication of the in-person experience. Let’s play this scenario out. Families amid all the chaos will try to sit down for a set time to watch the service. Kids running around. Parents still trying to make the meal and setting the table. Trying to replicate the live service provides another barrier for people to engage in the service.
Contrast that with offering an on-demand option. A family can choose the time when to watch the service. Churches can email the link for the service for families to have easy access. On-demand creates an opportunity for the whole family to engage the service.
We confuse family-friendly with kid-friendly. Family-friendly acknowledges that kids will be in the room instead of kid-friendly, which means the critical audience is children. A family-friendly Christmas service focuses on vital aspects of engagement from home. Here are a few ideas to consider about having multiple generations in the room:
- A length no longer than 30–45 minutes
- Representing multiple generations in the service
- Providing activities like coloring for kids so parents can focus on the message
- Providing engaging opportunities like asking questions to each other
The central part of planning considers all generations in the room.
People love carols because they know the words. The Unstuck Podcast spent a considerable amount of time discussing that topic. Church leaders can bring the tradition of Christmas home to families. Sometimes we get bored with Christmas, but let’s get excited about the incarnation of Jesus and reminding everyone of the hope He brings.
Engaging at Home
The three last points highlight this one. Remember, the online service you send will feel different at home as opposed to in-person. This changes the songs you sing, the messages you preach, and the other aspects of service. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started:
- Registration for in-person and online should be together. Count the people joining you online.
- Provide email instructions and resources for the service in-home 1–3 days before it happens.
- Add elements like videos of families at home in the service.
- Ask families to take pictures and tag the church on social media.
- Ask questions in the service that people can respond to in-person or online.
- Provide next steps at the end of the service.
As church leaders, we have an opportunity to offer hope in this season. Rather than feeling the disappointment of traditions past, we can empower families to have a meaningful Christmas engaging the gospel’s story.
What are your considerations for Christmas for churches this year? Share your thoughts in the comment below.
Originally published at https://peterenglert.com.