On a big day for American churches – the Sunday before Christmas – I decided to be on the lookout. How would Christmas Sunday fare for visitors – especially college students and others in the Millennial generation? What other reflections might arise regarding how churches “do Christmas”?
The churches I visited yesterday:
- First United Methodist Church, Dallas
- First Baptist Church, Dallas – the DayOne contemporary service (Southern Baptist)
- Highland Park Presbyterian Church, Dallas – the 1105 contemporary service (PC(USA))
- Watermark Community Church, Dallas (nondenominational Bible church)
- Trinity Hillcrest Church, Dallas – the After Dark contemporary service (conservative Episcopal church)
(How’s that for a mix of denominations?)
Of course, all my observations are anecdotal and some of my conclusions are explicitly guesses. But this was still some good food for thought for me.
Christmas carols. Millennials especially like the “rootedness” of the old, and carols (like many hymns) certainly fit the bill. But I wonder how many Americans sang “Gloria in excelsis Deo” today without knowing what it meant? It doesn’t seem like it’s hard to put its translation on the Powerpoint slide, or to give a brief explanation of the theology behind some other Christmas song we’ve been singing all our lives. Why don’t we do that more often?
Authentage. Of course, vintage Christianity extends beyond carols. So does the authenticity that makes “vintage” worthy. I got to see some wonderful authentage yesterday: the ancient tactility of baptism, opening up actual hymnals, liturgical / scriptural readings, several references to the church calendar (it was the Fourth Sunday of Advent, you know), the Apostle’s Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and Linus’s reading of Luke 2 (my favorite moment of the day, and yes, Charlie Brown is always authentage). We might be surprised at the way mysteries and depth and “roots” can both attract and impact Millennials, if we’ll wield them well.
Visitor instructions. As I located the churches I would visit, I was surprised this “season for church visitors” wasn’t reflected much on their web sites. To me, it seems Christmas is the time to put hearty-and-helpful welcomes front-and-center.
I think we’ll see more and more and more people starting their church experience at our web sites. They’ll also expect to find the information they need, and quickly. So here are a couple of reasons I figure we should make an extra effort before Christmas (or Easter) Sunday:
A) This is a Sunday prime for first time visitors. So on these key days, why not make a big “WE’D LOVE TO HAVE YOU WORSHIP WITH US” graphic right there on the home page? Link to all the information that could possibly serve those individuals.
Thought: What if the Christmas and Easter seasons became ministries’ traditional moments to review their visitor aids (FAQ, maps, parking instructions, what to expect, etc.) – just like homeowners check their smoke detector batteries when Daylight Saving Time changes? I bet if we did, we would end up serving our visitors better and better with each successive “tweak.”
B) Christmas Sunday can also be a particularly tricky Sunday for visitors, with everybody and their mom (literally) coming to our churches. That means instructions are all the more important – including items like easy guest parking, an encouragement to get there a little early, and any seasonal sched changes. Those unfamiliar with our church (or any church) particularly need “tips” like these, and all the more on that crazy Sunday.
Okay, that’s it for today. More in the next post, including some specific college ministry things I saw (or didn’t see).