REACHING “Chreasters” AND THE UNCHURCHED AT CHRISTMAS AND EASTER
Are you a planning worship for Easter or Christmas? Read The DOs and DON’Ts for Worship Leaders to keep in mind for the biggest celebrations of the year!
Learn how 2 Factors make these services different than any other. And why it should make a difference in how you plan!
WORSHIP vs. WORSHIP LEADING First, Let’s Clarify.
Worship by definition is expression of reverence and adoration of God. This will never change.
Worship Leading, however, is being able to guide a group of people – all with different experiences, desires, expectations, emotional states, learning styles, preferences – to corporately worship one God!
Leading people in worship involves much more than personally worshiping in front of people.
The songs I like, the mood I’m in, and what makes me feel connected to God does not equal the songs the congregation likes, the mood they are in, and what makes them feel connected to God.
I can personally worship God all week long. But when I walk on stage with my guitar it’s no longer about me and my worship.
I know, you want to say – “It’s about God.” And it is! But it’s also about leading OTHERS in THEIR worship of God.
Worship Leading involves being sensitive to what distracts other people from worship and understanding what turns their focus to God.
And as different as people are, so are the answers to those questions.
If only … the entire congregation loved Jamie Grace like I do, sang soprano, and felt completely happy sitting with God in silence!
Oh … and also came to worship in the same mood, after experiencing the same joys and tragedies.
Oh, yeah … and also learned in the same styles. With the same loves. And the same aversions.
Maybe, then, we would worship the same. That’s just not reality.
Easter and Christmas have 2 EXTRA considerations to throw into the mix of Worship Planning:
- Many of the not-so regular church goers come on Christmas and Easter (yes, the Chreasters).
- A higher number of unchurched family members and friends are also present.
So on Christmas and Easter my job as worship leader is still to lead people in worship. But the people are even more diverse than any other Sunday. Now, I need to consider …
- those unfamiliar with our church
- those who are visibly uncomfortable and on alert
- those who don’t know our songs
- those who aren’t connected in our community
So from a few decades of church ministry, some as worship leader and some simply as worshiper, here’s my list of DOs and DONTs for your Easter and Christmas worship planning.
WHAT TO DO
DO Include a Hymn and Some Tradition.
Even if your worship is contemporary, I say YES! I absolutely recommend including a very familiar and very singable hymn.
The key to success being: Familiar and Singable.
I love Amazing Grace for Easter. It is familiar. And singable. And obviously on point with the Easter message. Most unchurched, prechurched, and even anti-church people are familiar with this one. Great choice!
I tried Blessed Assurance once on Easter, thinking it was familiar. Not a great response. What is familiar to me may not be familiar to you.
We tried Christ the Lord is Risen Today, once. Fail! Although it is the PERFECT Easter message and it may be somewhat familiar, it is difficult to sing. The melody line is all over the place. And the range is too wide.
Not singable means not worshipful.
For Christmas, the familiar and singable Christian Christmas Carols are a must. What makes it singable? Easy to follow and in a range that is mostly between middle c and high c.
Tradition can be powerful.
Beyond hymns, is there an element at your holiday services that has been in place for decades?
Maybe on Easter The Pastor declares, “Christ is Risen!” The people reply: “Christ is risen INDEED! Or on Christmas Eve it might be candle lighting.
If you are hesitant to continue tradition because it seems rote or stale, consider a heart-felt introduction or explanation.
Awaken people and stir their hearts to renewed meaning of a traditional element.
For those who don’t come to church often, tradition is comforting and safe. And feeling safe leads to more responsive worship.
DO Include a Meet & Greet or Sharing of the Peace.
We’ve had lively discussion through the years on whether or not a Meet & Greet is visitor-sensitive. At our church, the Meet & Greet invites people to leave their seats and greet those around them.
At holiday time, I instruct everyone not to travel too far, or we have Back Row Bob sauntering up to talk to Front Row Fran on the farthest corner of the Worship Center. While this is a lovely display of community, it takes forever to draw people back into worship.
As for visitors, is that kind of Meet & Greet too scary? Too loud? Too assertive?
On a few holidays we did not offer a Meet & Greet in order to compare.
What I noticed is that guests like the Meet & Greet, especially during holidays.
- The ones who have friends and only attend a few times a year love to reconnect with people they recognize from past years.
- The mom with the kids visiting from out of town enjoys making introductions.
- Even the visitors with no connection seem to like the break from sitting and wondering what’s next. They get to stand up. And maybe ask their spouse, What do you think of this place?
At our church, we have a beautiful community that naturally greets newcomers during this time. So, for us, this element is a keeper.
If you choose to include a Meet & Greet, place it far enough into the worship order so that your latecomers have arrived.
It is very awkward and confusing to arrive during this time. And difficult to find a seat when people are milling about. So I always include it at least 10 minutes in.
DO Include a Special Music Piece.
Don’t hate me, but I’m not a big fan of special music. I think my rejection of it stems from being marked as a vocalist at a young age. I was often asked to sing on demand. It became a cringing point.
In church worship, I still struggle with the performance side of solos. I have never felt especially moved by special music. I suppose because I’m a singer. If there’s music, I want to sing too!
As mentioned earlier, what I want shouldn’t matter as much as what encourages OTHERS to worship. On Sunday mornings my focus is to lead.
This means minimizing what distracts THEM. And maximizing what draws THEM to God.
Last year, my friend Connie asked why our church rarely had special music. I shared my aversion. And the puzzled look on her face shocked me.
I thought everyone felt like me!
I was wrong. She explained that for her, it is unique time of worship. Both she and her husband love special music. And not for the performance aspect.
For them, the beauty of listening to skilled musicians leads them deeper into worship.
My own preferences of special music avoidance had actually been just that. My own preference.
Since then we have included several special music pieces in worship, and I love hearing the responses. People talk about how meaningful. How moving. The gifts of God in human delivery.
DO Keep the Message Traditional.
As Worship Leader, this may not be your decision. But occasionally a staff of a small church weighs in on messages.
People want to hear about Jesus’ Birth on Christmas and they want to hear about Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter.
Occasionally in our hubris to be current to today’s culture, we try new things and new twists, sometimes to our detriment.
A relevant application, personal stories, and God-led revelations are vital. But if those are not wrapped around the central, simple message of Jesus’ Birth and Jesus’ Resurrection, worshipers sadly leave feeling like they missed one of the biggest Christian Celebrations of the year.
DO Invite Them Back with Intention.
Don’t miss a huge opportunity to invite everyone back!
In your excitement for Easter and Christmas, don’t forget that the day is just one day in the larger, continual life of the church.
These are the 2 most attended services of the year. Possibly the ONLY opportunity you will have with some of your visitors. To let them know about your new Small Groups. Or your upcoming VBS.
Every person has needs. And your church may be a bigger piece of their spiritual puzzle than you realize!
DO Change Your Announcement Time to Invitation Time.
Pick the friendliest, most positive INVITER to give announcements in the worship service. Not a boring “read your bulletin” time. But a “Don’t Miss This!” invitation.
Our church starts advertising Vacation Bible School on Easter Sunday.
I think that’s brilliant!
Complete with a huge display in the hallway – this year a life size tree with hanging monkeys! Gotta make sure those grandkids showing up for the Easter Egg Hunt will want to come back for VBS!
If you don’t have an upcoming event or program to invite people to attend, I highly recommend you create one and put it on the calendar!
AND NOW … WHAT NOT TO DO
DON’T Sing Brand New Songs.
New songs on Easter are a total bomb! I know because I’ve tried it.
I can be terribly excited about a new release on Christian radio singing about the resurrection. We practice tons. We are ready!
I don’t know why it shocks me when worshipers don’t join in my excitement on Easter Sunday. They just don’t know the song yet.
They might like it, but they can’t sing it. And they don’t worship fully, because they are distracted. Visitors are lost when an entire congregation doesn’t know the song they are asked to sing.
If you want to introduce a great new song as a special piece or an offering, fabulous! Sing it with your team.
Put the words on the screen, but don’t expect anyone to sing. If they love it and you do it again next Sunday, they will be all warmed up and ready to learn it.
DON’T Do Too Many Newer Songs Introduced even in the Last Year.
I know your faithful worshipers know and love them! But holiday visitors and occasional attendees will not know any songs you introduced in the last year.
And there is a high number of people who show up only on Christmas and Easter.
Comfort and familiarity help people to relax. To feel like they are home. It puts them in a place more ready to worship. So make sure you have some older favorite songs in the line up.
I know that Worship is about God. 100%.
But remember Worship Leading is about guiding others to worship God.
Unfamiliar causes confusion and often rejection. So minimizing distraction and including some songs they know is a great demonstration of sensitivity in worship leading.
Especially on Easter and Christmas!
DON’T Single Out Visitors to Introduce Them.
I’m assuming I don’t have to say much here, although apparently many churches still do this. Church experts have studied this and concluded:
- Do NOT call out visitors.
- Do NOT have them stand.
- Do NOT ask them to raise their hand.
This is one reasons guests don’t return. And become resistant to visiting other churches in the future.
Guests and Visitors want to blend in. Not be called out.
Of course, you should absolutely welcome visitors in the general sense.
If possible, introduce yourself to them personally before or after the worship service. Have Greeters at the doors.
Just don’t call them out or put them on the spot in public. Be gentle.
Introverts as well as extroverts are in your midst. The objective is to gently welcome. Not scare away.
DON’T Go Too Long and DON’T Go Too Short.
With guests in mind, I suggest keeping the service length to about an hour, including the message.
A One Hour Service seems to be the sweet spot for holidays.
Long enough for regular worshipers to feel like they “got church” and short enough for the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable to hang in there.
THE BEAUTY OF CHREASTERS
For some Christians, the mention of the word Chreasters brings up judgment.
What kind of people only come to church on Christmas and Easter? Why aren’t they more faithful? This is not a right attitude.
God dearly loves people who come to church only on Easter and Christmas. He pursues them. He died for them.
If I have the privilege of serving by leading them in worship, I will do it to the best of my ability.
That’s what makes holiday Worship Services a special opportunity.
Because these two days, which exist to honor the foundational message of the Christian faith, have a unique effect of bringing guests into the church.
We are the NINETY-NINE. They are the ONE Jesus pursues.
There’s a story in the Bible of a shepherd who leaves the 99 to search for the ONE missing sheep. There’s another story about ONE lost coin.
And then there’s the parable about two brothers in the Bible. We are the son who remains present and consistent. Always receiving from the Father.
But those who come on Christmas and Easter … well, they are the reason for the party!
So, in spite of our human self-centered desires, remember that Jesus made it about them. Let’s do the same.
Are there any other DOs and DONTs you would add? Has your experience been different than mine? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.