Practicing our Hospitality Skills at the Family Christmas Service

One of the very clearest times of hospitality we are called to practice is at the Christmas services. 

Almost all churches have visitors at these services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day... visitors who only go to church on this day each year. Perhaps because they are visiting family members who attend. Perhaps out of some emotional call to be in a church at this time.  Perhaps because they are intrigued by the spiritual life and Christmas seems the easiest entry point.

Whatever the reasons, they will be there... adults older and younger, and children and youth.  Many of these children will not be familiar with a church service.  They don't necessarily have the listening and sitting quietly skills that your regularly-attending kids usually have. For the younger children, this might even be a bit frightening to be among so many strange adults in tight little pews.

Strategize to make visitors (and very occasional members) feel welcome.  Ask someone not from your congregation to take a look at these areas with fresh eyes and see how you are doing. 

Bulletins - Don't skip any steps in the bulletin but mention all the parts of the service.  Make sure that page and hymnal numbers are correct, and that ANY part you want people to participate in is listed.  Even if it isn't your normal practice, consider putting all of the service into the bulletin so that visitors aren't juggling too many books. 
Signage - Make sure that entrances, exits, restrooms, and childcare areas are clearly marked! 
Church information - Is it clear what you want visitors to pick up? Do you have extra church newsletters or other information packets available for visitors?  Are your visitor cards or books easily accessible and understandable? 
Something for children - There will probably be visiting children who don't normally attend church.  Is there information for parents that explains what is going on?  Are there coloring pages, or a child's bulletin available?  Are ushers prepared to be the most gracious of hosts at this wonderful service? 
Verbal cues - even when everything is printed, it doesn't hurt to direct attention to the next part, such as "please turn in your blue hymnals to #...".  And what kinds of clues do you give about communion?  Are there any instructions on how to come forward for the Eucharist, or do you expect visitors to figure it out by watching others? 

If you're looking for more resources:

Join in the conversation with Building Faith for a webinar with Greg Millikin and Diane Young on welcoming visitors at the holidays on Wednesday, December 12th at 12:00 noon (3:00 pm Eastern). They will go over the difference between being welcoming and being inviting—and how church leaders can coach their faith communities to being open and understanding as visitors enter through our doors. 

Register here for the Zoom webinar or watch it on Facebook Live at the VTS Lifelong Learning Facebook page.

Visit Building Faith following the webinar for a video recording, presentation slides, and links to resources discussed during the webinar!

This article will help you cover the basics of good practices in welcoming visitors: 10 Signs of a welcoming church.
Or this article on 7 ways to Welcome visitors on Christmas Eve!
Here is the information you don’t usually see in church growth books, because it just may be your restroom!  

Above all, as we welcome newcomers into our churches, let us remember how Mary and Joseph searched for a hospitable place.  Let us be the ones to now open the door to Christ in the faces of all the strangers we meet.