Before we think through how to capitalize on this unique opportunity, let’s recall three key things we know to be true about Christmas Eve:
1. A Lot’s At Stake: 25% Of All Potential Visitors This Year Will Visit Christmas Eve Services
We can’t lose sight of the fact that if we want the churches we serve to grow by 100 converts over the next year, we’ll need to see 1,000 new people come through our doors. In the prototypical outreach-focused church, only 10% of new visitors return and grow to full participation every year. This means, if ten people visit, only one will come to Christ and stick.
I’ve found that when churches grow by 100 people, 25% of those visitors come via Christmas Eve, 25% come on Easter, and the remaining 50% will be spread out over 12 months. Listen, we all know that church life and growth cannot be reduced to simple math, but these numbers are consistent across the board. Simply put, if you want to reach unchurched non-Christians and see the church you serve flourish, then what happens on Christmas Eve matters a lot.
2. Service Times Are More Important Than Seating Capacity
When I begin coaching a Senior Pastor one of the first things I do is start encouraging them to add at least one more Christmas Eve service the following year. Inevitably they will respond with the same six words: “But we already have enough room.”
That’s when I tell them that for the people they’re trying to reach, the absolute last thing on their mind is the question, “Will there be enough room at this particular service?”
The question non-Christians are asking is, “Will this service fit into my family’s Christmas Eve plans?” If it won’t, it doesn’t matter if you have 500,000,000 seats available, they’re not coming.
This leads me to my next point.
3. The Best Christmas Eve Service Times For Non-Christians Are Anything Between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m.
In other words, anything after lunch and before dinner on Christmas Eve.
Why? Because non-Christians are doing errands in the morning (or don’t cut out from work until lunchtime) and have dinner/family plans after 6 p.m..
Want to guess the #1 Christmas Eve service time for churches under 1,000 nationwide?
Want to guess why?
I think there are two reasons.
First, most churches have stopped taking risks to reach non-Christians a long time ago.
Second, most churches are composed almost entirely of people that have been at the church for more than six years (hence their passion to reach people far from God has likely waned). They’ve become enculturated by a church tradition which states, “We go to church on Christmas Eve. That’s what we do.”
Non-Christians don’t buy into your “tradition” no matter how hard or creatively you ask them to join you. You could advertise that Jesus himself is going to show up at your 7:00 p.m. service and people will still choose to go to grandma’s for the annual Christmas Eve dinner. That’s what they do.
After 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve churched people go to church and unchurched people spend time with their families.
Just look at our numbers from our Christmas Eve services last year. We held 7 identical services and had a total of 4,579 people join us. The numbers looked like this…
Christmas Eve – December 24th
1:00 p.m. – 574
2:30 p.m. – 949
4:00 p.m. – 1088
5:30 p.m. – 606
7:00 p.m. – 488
Our 7:00 p.m. service was the lowest attended service.
I think it’s because our people love inviting their non-Christian friends to Christmas Eve services. This is one of the biggest days we see God catapult a life towards transformation, so our people go all out. But people came to the earlier services because that’s when their unchurched friends were willing to come with them.