Let’s face if, we have a hard time getting people to show up 10 minutes early to shake hands and greet people. Yet we hope they will engage in a meaningful way with us online. Christmas is a busy time of year for those of us working at churches, and for everyone in our community.
With that in mind, here are 10 easy ways to get people engaging on social media this Christmas/Advent season:
1. Caption Contest
The main idea here is to highlight a specific moment in the Christmas story. There have been a lot of historic paintings or other artwork/photography done on the subject. All you need to do is find an image, add a word/thought bubble and provide a bit of context. Set the scene and let people leave their best caption.
- Mary’s initial response or first thought after being told she’s pregnant.
- Joseph’s first words after Mary telling him she’s with child.
- If Joseph asked the angel one question to prove their angelic-ness, what would it be?
2. Re-Enact a Scene
This one is great for families. You encourage people to stage a scene from the story at home. If you put a bit of thought into it ahead of time you might even be able to get many families to do different parts of the same story. Those images can be online and/or during the slides on Sunday. The idea here is to have fun, and let kids be kids.
- Pretending to be pregnant (because kids stuffing pillows in their shirts is always funny).
- Being turned away from the inn.
- The magi arriving with presents.
- Fleeing to Egypt.
3. Photo Booth & Selfie Station
Take a bit of time to collect some Christmas related props for a photo booth in the foyer. After the service you can encourage people to go back to the booth, grab some props and take a fun photo to share online. Ideally you would have someone encouraging people to get their photo taken. This person could take pictures for others on their phones for them to share, and possibly on a camera for the church. That way you have people sharing their pics with their friends, and can also put an album online of every one’s photos.
Prop Ideas: White beards, Santa hats, shepherd hats and staff/cane, magi robes/wraps, plastic animal masks (from the stable), fake/real gold, frankincense, name tag for ‘Frank,’ bundle of incense (to go with name tag), myrrh, ‘No Vacancy’ sign, halos, etc.
4. If You Were _____
If you were the inn keeper and Mary/Joseph came to your full house, where would you put them up? If you were the magi, what gift would you bring? The goal here is to get people to engage with the Christmas story. Encourage people to go take a picture to illustrate their idea (the garage where you’d let Mary and Joseph stay, the Xbox you’d bring as a gift, etc.). The hope is that we can get people to connect with a story they have heard a hundred times in a new way.
- Inn keeper – Where would you put Mary and Joseph?
- Magi – What precious gift would you bring Jesus? (Great to ask kids)
- Shepherd – How would you respond to angels showing up in the middle of the night?
5. Your Best Unexpected Present
It’s easy to forget that no one expected what Jesus was to become—a Savior that willfully died for us. He was an unexpected Savior in so many ways, being what we needed in ways that surpassed our desires. Some people understood who Jesus was, but they had no idea what that would ultimately mean. The idea here is to encourage people to think back on their most unexpected Christmas present and share it in words or a picture.
6. Make a Manger Contest
A manger is basically a feeding trough for animals. What would make a good manger today? Laundry basket? Dresser drawer? Pose a challenge for people in your church community to make their version of a manger from odds and ends they can find around home. Ideally they shouldn’t take more then a few minutes putting something together. Bonus points if they have a doll/stuffed animal/actual baby in their picture for scale.
Have people share these pictures online (either on your Facebook page or use a hashtag on Twitter) so you can collect them. You can they give a prize the next Sunday for the most creative manger. My personal recommendation is for the prize to be a bunch of hay or a bag full of myrrh.
7. Share Your Census Journey
Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem for the census. While this is no longer a thing (thank goodness), you can help people imagine what that would be like. Have everyone use Google Maps to find the walking directions from your church or their house to the town they grew up in. Have them share the name of their hometown and how many hours that journey would be.
This can get challenging for folks born across an ocean—Google’s walking directions don’t include swimming. But you can get close by getting walking directions to a major coastal city on both ends with flight directions in between. For example: Walking directions from Ohio to New York City, then a flight to Lisbon, Portugal, then walking directions to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (FYI, it’s almost 1,700 hours, plus a 7-hour flight, and includes a ferry—that’s at least a 70-day journey.)
8. Breaking the News
If you didn’t know, the Bible is a bit of a shorthand version of what happened. Not every conversation got documented. So let’s have some fun imagining how they broke the news to other people in the story. This is like the caption contest idea, but focused on starting a difficult conversation. Plus the brainstorming here might help people with upcoming awkward family conversations that might happen over the holidays.
News to Break:
- Mary telling Joseph about being prego.
- Joseph telling his parents about Mary.
- Shepherd telling his friends an angel showed up.
- Magi proposing a long road trip based on a star.
We’ve seen how fun Throwback Thursday can be, so how about Throwback Christmas? Start a post online where you ask people to post old Christmas photos, pictures of their favorite gift or note a favorite Christmas memory. Hopefully it fills up with nostalgia, good memories and awkward childhood photos. It’ll work best if you get the ball rolling with some of the staff sharing their own throwbacks.
10. Your Pet as a Christmas Character
People love pets. If someone has pets it is guaranteed they will have pet photos on their phone. The idea here is pretty simple, you get people to post a picture of their pet and place them in the Christmas story as a character. It gets more fun when people get creative with different characters in the Christmas story. Not everyone’s cockatoo can be Joseph. I imagine my cat as the innkeeper, and my dog as the bellhop at the inn. Maybe your hamster is powering the ‘No Vacancy’ sign.
- This list is adapted from a talk I gave at the local meetup in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Social Media Shepherds. You can also use/see the full slide deck.
- Check out God Rest Ye Stressed Communicators: Planning Christmas for Your Church for more Christmas help.
- For more Christmas insights, check out 25 last-minute Christmas ideas and our whole page of Christmas ideas, examples and strategies.