10 Mistakes Churches Make at Christmastime


By Jonathan Howe

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. Some would even say it’s the most wonderful time of the year. While it still has its wonderment, Christmastime has a tendency to be stressful as well—especially in the church. Unfortunately stress can lead churches to plan poorly and make unnecessary mistakes. Here are ten such mistakes to avoid in your church this Christmas:

  1. Missing the focus. This may seem basic, but please keep the birth of Christ as the focus in your church this year. Everywhere people turn at Christmas, they see Santa, presents, and all the other material trappings of the holiday. The church should be one place where people can be reminded of the true reason to celebrate—the coming of the Christ.
  2. Decorations outpace invitations. We talk a lot about outward focus vs. inward focus on the blog and podcast. This is the Christmas version of that tension. While nothing is inherently wrong with decorations, when members are more focused on what the church looks like than whom they’re bringing with them, there’s a problem. Remind your people that it’s more important to focus on who’s in the pews than what’s on the walls.
  3. Scrooge serves on the greeter team. Jim Collins’ popular “seat on the bus” paradigm fits well with volunteer teams. Make sure you not only have enough people volunteering for Christmas services (because you’ll likely have larger crowds), but also make sure you have the right people in the right places. No one wants to meet Scrooge as they walk into your church building.
  4. Scheduling too many events. December is a whirlwind of a month. School and work Christmas parties, church parties, church events, local Christmas parades, travel, and much more make for a jam packed month. With everything your members have going on, it might be better to simplify the church’s Christmas schedule and host a few special events than to have several events for different age groups that stretch families and resources thin.
  5. Not appreciating volunteers. I have been in several churches that hosted Christmas parties to show appreciation to volunteers. The easiest way to keep volunteers is to let them know they are appreciated, and Christmas makes that easy. A small token of appreciation goes a long way with those who keep your ministry going week to week.
  6. Not equipping families. I appreciate churches that make available advent devotionals for families. This is a great way for families in your church to start (or continue) family devotional times. There are several free online resources available as well as books like The Expected One that offer parents a simple way to point kids to the coming Christ.
  7. Ignoring community needs. Want to make an impact on your community? Meet the needs of those in the community at Christmas. There are countless ways this can be done. It simply takes asking different groups in the community what is needed.
  8. Showcasing the church instead of Christ. Christmas productions can easily become more about the church hosting them than the Christ they should be displaying in them. We know several pastors who have scaled back on Christmas events and productions because the productions became the ends instead of the means. You need to know when enough is enough—and that’s not an easy call to make, but it’s a necessary one.
  9. Failing to follow up. You’ll have guests at Christmas. If you don’t, well that’s another problem. What’s important is how you follow up with those new to your church. If you fail to follow up with guests, you’ll probably not see them next year—or ever again. Don’t miss out on prime opportunities to share the gospel with new attendees by failing to follow up with guests.
  10. Using bad theology. Sentimentality often breeds bad theology. We see it at funerals all the time, and Christmas is no different. Christmas is the most sentimental of holidays and often leads to inadvertent theological aberrations. Be vigilant to guard your theology from the pop culture sentimentality often associated with Christmas.

Has your church made one of these mistakes? Have you corrected some of them that you’ve made in the past? What would you add?

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources as well as the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

Posted on November 29, 2017

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  • Glenn Sharp says on

    I think your comment about sentimentality vs. spirituality is valid and at the same time I think you could unpack that a little more with an anecdote or two. Having capitalized on using the sentimentality that comes with Christmas to attract and engage families to come, I don’t recall ever allowing that to be all they walked away with, nor would most churches I am aware of. I am assuming you have experienced the former or you wouldn’t have mentioned it?

    Also, since you work for Lifeway, do you feel the holiday music sets and musicals they offer filter thru this principle you are encouraging your readers to consider?

  • Don’t make it either/or when it comes to newspapers vs social media. Do both. Many folks I know, including but not limited to the elderly, do not do social media. Many in public service avoid facebook like the plague. And many of my poorer neighbors do not have access to it.

    Local fast food often provide a daily paper or two for the use of the diners. It is a common way for many of our older and poorer folks to catch up on news and community events.

    And don’t forget the radio! Folks do still listen to it as well.

    That is, unless you really only want the 18-45 year old upwardly mobile to attend.

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