More people worshipped on Christmas Eve in more churches, according to a summary of "Home for Christmas," sponsored by the Discipleship Ministry Team’s evangelism committee.
A total of 180 churches participated, an increase of 15 from the campaign’s first year, 2012.
By mid-January, 75 of those churches had reported their outcomes to The Crouch Group.
Their reports show overall net attendance on Christmas Eve grew by 1,016 worshippers, said Chris Buskirk. He serves on the evangelism committee and pastors Abiding Harvest UMC, Broken Arrow.
He also noted from the reports:
First-time worshippers totaled 1,842 people at 17 churches that had reported no Christmas Eve attendance in 2012;
44 churches said attendance rose;
13 reported a decrease; and
One church cancelled due to weather.
The highest Christmas Eve numbers were reported by OKC-St. Andrew’s, with 1,289 worshippers, and Edmond-New Covenant, with 1,209.
Yet "Home for Christmas" was not only effective for urban congregations.
Lindsay UMC greeted 250 people, an increase of 140 from 2012. The church hosted the only Christmas Eve service in the town. A Sunday School class led the promotional campaign.
Westville-First UMC declared the effort "very successful, since our average Sunday attendance is around 20." The service drew 71 people. Posters and newspaper ads helped promote it.
At Morris-First, which had 30 worshippers the previous year, the 2013 service drew 85 people. "The most effective part for us was the special invitations," Pastor Judy Conner commented. "We also sent out invitations with our backpack program and our Angel Tree program."
Lamont UMC welcomed more than 100 people. "The members reported surprise and pleasure. There were several new faces in our congregation that night."
Eden Chapel UMC’s event included a cantata, Communion, and "Family Prayer With the Pastor" at the conclusion of the service. Attendance grew from 48 to 76.
In Elk City, the 5:30 p.m. service drew about 50 more people. Total was 394 in two services.
At Sunny Lane UMC, Del City, youth members embraced the opportunity to lead the 11 p.m. service. Attendance grew by 56 people, reaching 319 in two services.
In reporting lower attendance, one church noted its service time was changed. Another church expanded local publicity this year but saw little change in attendance.
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— Holly McCray
HOLIDAY HERALDS — College students from Boston Avenue UMC sing glad tidings on Dec. 23 to retirees in Tulsa. Young-adult members and pastors from the church led Christmas services that day at three Tulsa retirement communities, including United Methodist-related Oklahoma Methodist Manor. From left, singers are Luke Panciera, Larkin McCann, Allison Hardin, Betsy Hayes, Ali Wonderly, and Kelsey Luks. Clergy were David Wiggs, Bill Tankersley, and Bill Crowell. Also performing at the Manor during Advent were Boston Avenue’s intergenerational Christmas tableau group and middle-school youth carolers. Church members adopted 12 Manor residents as Christmas gift recipients.