Nine Updated Trends about Christmas Eve Services

Christmas Eve is less than a month away. Most churches have some type of Christmas Eve services, but we are seeing clear trends in how churches approach them. Every time we write or podcast something about these services, we get a lot of comments and questions. In that context, here is an update on nine clear trends we are seeing:

  1. It is growing in importance. Non-Christians are more likely to come to worship services on Christmas Eve than any other day of the year, including Easter. Church leaders get it. They are putting more prayer, preparation, and strategic thinking into the services.
  2. There are three popular times for the service. Whether a church has one or multiple Christmas Eve services, three times are more popular than others: later afternoon (typically for families with young children and for older adults); early evening (the more traditional time); and late evening (for empty nesters and families with teenage or grown children).
  3. The services are traditional. They include traditional hymns and carols. They may include some time for the lighting of the final advent candle.
  4. The services are brief. The typical length is 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. The pastor’s message is brief. The typical length is 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Most churches include candlelight services. They are now expected by Christians and non-Christians alike.
  7. More unchurched are attending these services. As I noted in the first item, one of the reasons for the growing importance of Christmas Eve services is the increasing number of non-Christians who attend. Anecdotally, they seem to be more receptive each year.
  8. Churches are building in processes for follow-up. That means they have processes in place to get contact information, and processes to provide some type of non-aggressive follow-up such as a text message, an email or, most effectively, a handwritten letter.
  9. All ministry staff are expected to be there. Because this day is the single most important day to reach unbelievers, more churches require an “all-hands-on-deck” presence.

Some of these trends have been around a while. Some are only recently growing in importance. Please share with us what your church plans to do for Christmas Eve.

Posted on November 26, 2018

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Our Christmas Eve Service is our best attended service of the year. In our little country church many return “home” for the service as a tradition before their family gatherings. My message is usually 20-30 minutes because it is always a “teaching”. This year we will be looking at the prophecies of “Why Bethlehem”. Many have said they are looking forward to it. And of course, there is always the candlelight closing. It’s a special time. As for follow up, we put a card in the bulletin so they can stay informed of events. Always seems to work well.

  • Tracy Winsor says on

    We have 2 Christmas Eve services that are packed. We have added a third..held the week before Christmas (normally Thursday). Since we are in a high tourist area, this gives those people who work or travel an opportunity to celebrate Christmas Eve, with carols, candle-lighting, etc. – identical to our December 24th services. It has been well received and is just starting to grow.

  • James Runnels says on

    We have found people call around looking for Christmas Eve services to attend. We have had 2 services for years. The 5PM has advertised Child Care and the 6:30 does not. We see lots of people who never attend at the Christmas Eve service and lots of out of town family guest. It’s never over 30 minutes, candles, carols, the Lord’s Supper, and something special. We advertise on social media and get a great response.

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