Christmas in July: Six Veteran Communicators Share Their Tips

Christmas in July: Six Veteran Communicators Share Their Tips

July 8, 2019 by

Christmas seems far away, but it’s never too early to start planning. Christmas in July is a good time to start talking. Connect with your pastor and leadership team. Start formulating a plan. Think about how your church can do better at Christmas this year.

What Do You Wish Churches Would Do Better at Christmas?

We asked six veteran church communicators what they wish churches (or their church) would do better at Christmas.

What Are the Needs?

Jodi Tonarelli, director of weekend experience at The Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, Wis.:

I wish we as churches would do a better job of considering what the people of our cities need versus what theme/design/song/set idea we like best any given year. I think we limit God’s ability to move when we don’t start with a time of prayer, asking him what he wants to do in our communities and how we can best cast that vision for people. I’ve been guilty of this!

It’s started to click for me more recently as we look to take on these larger themes in our area and address them in a God-honoring way. It’s amazing to see him bless your efforts when you put his wishes first. How silly of me to think he wouldn’t bless an idea he gave us with a great design or programming to back it up anyway, so I just ask, can we please invite him more into the process as we plan?

Avoid the Bait-and-Switch

Matt Ehresman, creative media director at First MB Church in Wichita, Kan.:

I have a kind of unique hot take on Christmas, Easter, and other “big Sundays.” We should go above and beyond and give our best to Sundays where we anticipate a lot of guests, but I think we often over-do it. Your guests will feel a sense of bait-and-switch if you have haze and extra lighting and free muffins and parking lot attendants for Christmas, and then all of that is gone the following week when they come back to a “normal week.” Don’t give these folks a false first impression of who you really are. Yes, we should aim a little higher, plan a little further in advance, and give our absolute best on these big days, but it’s also important to be the real you every week.

(Full disclosure: My church isn’t very good at this, but I try to push and remind the decision makers about this as often as I can.)

Where’s the Silent Night?

Beth Beaty, communication specialist for Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, Minn.:

Less.

I wish churches could disengage from the over-the-top-madness of cultural Christmas. We talk about silent nights and heavenly peace, but we pack our calendars with parties and chorales and concerts and craft shows and bake sales and Sunday school programs and community meals and any number of other special events. For the most part they are fun, but they do add to the rush of the season. At Christmas the church amps up the expectations and pace for members as well as staff at exactly the time everyone is already overwhelmed.

It’s probably not realistic to expect churches to skip the children’s program or the decades-old holiday tea, but I’d love to see us carve out a space for people to be quiet and take a breath and experience the holiness of the season.

At the very least: no Santas on church property or in church communication.

Plan Early

Linda Hale, senior director of communications at Christ Church in Oak Brook and Downers Grove, Ill.:

Planning is really essential and will always yield the best results. If you are planning your Christmas services in November, you may have to step back and rethink your entire strategy because the reality is planning is a good thing—it means you have thought things through, that you are piecing together all the weeks and months leading up to that day, that you have had time to get the most juice out of the squeeze. For example, with planning you can add study guides you might not have had time for, or promote a social media campaign around your special Advent sermon series that builds excitement and engagement.

Planning doesn’t mean you are neglecting the Holy Spirit. This is often a concern people have with planning things out so early, that they will not be honoring the movement of the Holy Spirit in the moment. The thing is, the Holy Spirit is not going to let something as simple as planning stop it from moving through people. You can have a very well-planned Advent/Christmas season months ahead of time where you are working with and through intentional inspiration on your messages and thoughts (make July  your goal) Then when the season approaches you have the bandwidth to bring in any additional flourishes that have moved you, because the heavy lifting has already been done.

Post-Christmas

Jeanette Yates, communications director for Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and co-host of the Two Church Girls and a Microphone Podcast:

Think about “after” Christmas engagement, not just about Christmas services.

Follow Up

Lucinda Ross, central team leader of communications at Life.Church:

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I’d love for our church to continue to push forward in finding new ways to keep people engaged after Christmas services end. We spend so much time and energy bringing people in during this time—and with good reason! But pairing that with innovative ways to gain information so we can encourage them to come back throughout the year is something we’d love to continue improving on.

The first hurdle is gaining information about those visiting Life.Church for the first time, so it’s been key to highlight the ways they can engage like checking their kids into LifeKids, downloading and taking action within the Life.Church app, or filling out the Communication/Prayer Card. We’re also thinking about new ways to inspire people to share that information in the moment. We’re asking ourselves, “How do we make it feel essential to the experience?”

From there, in combination with a timely email response, our teams at each location do an incredible job of following up with those who visit our church in a personal way by reaching out with a phone call, text, or handwritten note. But our team is also thinking about how we can support them with a communication plan and relevant data to continue engaging people beyond those first few weeks. In looking into the first quarter of the new year, we’re considering strengthening our communication with a combination of digital content and personal touches.

One day, I’d love for us track engagement in a way that bridges Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter for new attenders to help build habits and, ultimately, a new trajectory for their lives.

More:

We’re doing Christmas in July this month at Courageous Storytellers. Start your Christmas planning with an early Christmas present to yourself.  Join today.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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