It’s the most welcoming time of the year
As you deck the church halls, also sign up for the Christmas Eve marketing campaign that is free for all Oklahoma’s United Methodist Churches.
It’s the most opportune time of the year to invite new people to try church, studies show.
Go to http://christmaseveworship.com/oklahoma/app/ to post your church’s holiday activities.
Deadline to sign up is Dec. 10.
"In our secularized society, there is still a thread of understanding that perceives Christmas as holy time," wrote Mack Strange, a Tennessee pastor, in the Leading Ideas e-newsletter.
"On Christmas Eve, it’s as if the world stops, looks at the church, and says, ‘We don’t pay much attention to you through the year but, tonight, we’ll listen. What do you have to say?’"*
Titled "Home for Christmas," the campaign made its Conference debut in 2012. It includes a website referral process, TV ads, and social media strategies.
Leaders are Jim Hollifield, pastor at Wagoner-First, and Chris Buskirk, pastor at Abiding Harvest, Broken Arrow.
Cost is underwritten by the evangelism committee, part of the Discipleship Ministry Team.
"Most of our churches are already opening their doors on Christmas Eve," said Rev. Buskirk. "Why not do all we can to make this a targeted time to invite, welcome, and win the continuing interest of guest worshippers?"
Shawnee-Wesley reached out through "Home for Christmas" last year. Pastor Ben Williams said close to 300 people attended Christmas Eve events. Previously, turnout had been 80 or 90.
"We were aiming for visitors, people not familiar with our church," Rev. Williams said. "Having a success like that raises self-esteem as a congregation. We’re hopeful about our church and our ministries when good things like that happen."
He said key was implementing ideas in the "Home for Christmas" manual. "Debra Christian, the individual that coordinated, really put her heart into it."
Potential guests received personalized letters. A creative worship service featured drama, fellowship time followed, then a brief Communion ritual. Shawnee-Wesley will participate this season, too.
In Lawton, First UMC gained name recognition through "Home for Christmas" in 2012, according to Pastor Al Potts. For about $1,000, that church customized a TV spot for its community and purchased additional local TV advertising, he said.
"People may not respond the first time they see the commercial, but when a person begins to think about issues of faith, we want the name First United Methodist Church to come to mind," said Rev. Potts.
Rev. Hollifield was pastor at Newkirk UMC in 2012. On Christmas Eve, the church concurrently offered fellowship and come-and-go Communion, in separate spaces.
"People especially ages 30 and down really embraced it. They came in and just visited," he said. "We did see some coming back."
For the 2013 campaign, the sign-up process has been simplified. Information will go directly to The Crouch Group, a Dallas advertising agency.
n By Dec. 10, register online at http://christmaseveworship.com/oklahoma/app/. Fill in the form and click submit; your information soon will be posted on the website www.ChristmasEveWorship.com by The Crouch Group.
You may post all your church’s holiday events; the campaign is not limited to Christmas Eve.
- Two different TV ad spots will air multiple times on Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Lawton stations during the days before Christmas Eve.
- The ads will direct viewers to www.ChristmasEveWorship.com to find all posted services available near their locations.
- People will attend services of their choice, where churches will welcome them with a winsome service and give them relevant opportunities to return.
Purchase the "Home for Christmas" manual, $20, at the United Methodist Ministry Center. (Contact Megan DeCastro, 405-530-2199, firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Contact The Crouch Group directly, 1-888-211-0273, if your church is interested in additional resources. Among those: custom postcards, yard signs, and radio spots; insider pricing on localized radio or TV ads; and free consultation on using social media tools.
(*Oct. 9, 2013. Quotation reprinted by permission from Lewis Center for Church Leadership, Wesley Theological Seminary)