Communicating Christmas to the Congregation
The folks at Willow Creek realized their best bet for promoting Christmas was to get their congregation excited and mobilized. They realized once the congregation gets excited, they invite their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family.
So after Thanksgiving they started building sets and altering the room for Christmas. They staged things so they can build some momentum and energy leading up to the big Christmas reveal. While this helped them get everything done in time for Christmas, it also gave Pastor Bill an opportunity to promote the upcoming Christmas services.
You can see behind me things are starting to take shape for the Christmas services. We’re very excited about what we have planned. Start thinking now who you will invite to join you for Christmas. It will be a family-friendly service and very exciting.
They also made use of their email system to get folks excited. Every Wednesday in December they sent emails to their congregation. They included snippets like sneak peeks or details of the planning process. That gave people a sample of Christmas they could share with those they wanted to invite.
Another way they started to communicate the excitement of Christmas was through their section leaders.
One of the biggest complaints Willow Creek gets is that they’re too big. Sometimes folks can attend the church for six months and feel like they haven’t met a single person. That’s the down side to a big church. So they’ve begun a strategic initiative to help make the church feel smaller.
They’ve implemented a section leader program. They divided the church into seating sections and hired part time folks for each of those sections. There are about 200 seats in each section. They’ve essentially created micro-communities within the church building. And these section leaders are responsible for grabbing volunteers to fill their section. Those volunteers help them follow up with the folks in their section and make it feel like a much smaller church.
They host parties after the services and help in the big pushes for special events and Christmas. They’ve become some of their greatest ambassadors.
Since last year’s service was so centered around a huge creative piece – a feature film – they let the section leaders sample it. They held a special screening for their section leaders. They gave them a sample to help them get the folks in their section excited.
Another element of their communication with their congregation was helping them plan for Christmas. They let people know early on how to get tickets to the events. The tickets were free and you don’t have to have one to get into the service, but it helped those early planners guarantee themselves a seat. They gave those out in a limited, first come, first serve basis.
They started this ticketing system early on before they were in their larger auditorium. They specifically implemented it to help them spread people out since they didn’t have enough seats for the Christmas crowd.
But now they have plenty of overflow opportunities and attendance patterns to help them plan for the traffic they receive. They know which nights and what times they should offer services to get the maximum bang from their schedule.
Now they do ticketing for the advance planners. They always make sure they have enough general admission for every service to accommodate those that don’t get advance tickets. “If you aren’t sure which service you’d like to come to, just show up to the one you can attend. We feel comfortable saying we’ll have a seat for you.”
What You Need to Know This Christmas
You have influencers in your church. These are the folks people gravitate toward and look to for advice. These folks set the trend.
Look for ways you can give your influencers a “sample” of Christmas this year. Identify the folks people listen to, then include them in the planning process. Give them some ownership in the service. That’ll get them excited, and that excitement will spread to those they influence.