Every time Christmas falls on a Sunday, it seems there is an increase in the conversation about when to hold church services. For some reason, we question our normal operating procedure when the annual “big day” falls squarely on our weekly “big day.”
Don’t read that and think I’m about to attack the dialogue that occurs among church staffs every 5-6 years. Not at all! In fact, I think it is a conversation you should have. After all, the normal logistical issues of the holidays are exponentially heightened when Christmas lands directly on a Sunday. And knowing how to adjust to have maximum impact is what any good team does. Still, I have found that asking questions or making suggestions about the corporate services on Christmas Day can breed a lot of various opinions.
Additionally, I have discovered, strictly through personal and very informal surveys, that this seems to be a more concentrated issue for churches that 1) have multiple services, 2) hold Christmas Eve service(s), and 3) aren’t located in the southeast. [It seems that more churches in that region don’t hold Christmas Eve services than do.]
It is to that issue that I relay the following story, not to suggest that what we did works every time or that this type of idea “suffices” for corporate worship. I share it to simply say that what you think may be a day of negative adjustments could be a day of positive additions if you will think and talk through the possibilities.
This was powerfully brought home to me back in 2005, the last time Christmas was on a Sunday. We were just one year old as a church, and were discussing when to have services that weekend. Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Only one day? We were probably only running around 125 in attendance, but our community was very supportive of Christmas Eve services. So we knew we had a strong potential.
Yet, with many traveling, we wondered how we would staff multiple services, not just on one night, but on the next day. Plus, since we were renting space, there were other logistical issues that needed addressed. It was in the course of that discussion that, almost out of the blue, someone said, “Why don’t we just have a Christmas Eve service, then have all our Lighthouses (i.e., our small groups) hold their own service on Christmas Day by taking a gift to someone who has to work on that day?” I could tell there was a play on words there, but something about that idea took root in our group.
Suddenly, the room was abuzz with even more ways to hold a service, ways to minister to people and in places where traditionally they missed church. The people at convenience stores, the staff at the theaters, the hotel clerks and cleaners – these were all people who would be working on that day and could use the gift of someone and something serving them. Smiles and nods continued, and before long we had worked out a plan.
Let me cut to the chase and simply say that on December 24, 2005, our church held a beautiful, traditional Christmas Eve service. But on the next day, December 25, 2005 – Christmas Day – we held 36 “services.” That’s right – 36 places were adopted by our small groups, and each one got a visit, a gift, and a visible expression of the love of God. No, not in our rented facility or on our current site, but in 36 different places around our city where many of God’s people were working. Yep, people who don’t normally get to be in a church service on Sunday were served by the people of God in the power of the Spirit and in the name of the Son. It was quite a Christmas “service” that meant a lot for our city and our church.
We’re well past 125 in attendance now, and though we’re holding a corporate worship service this year on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I hope we’re never too far past serving in Gods name on the day of the year that bears his name best – Christmas!
To all my fellow pastors who have adjusted and tweaked their schedule this Sunday, enjoy your Christmas “service,” whenever and wherever it is. Merry CHRISTmas!