As we enter into Advent, I doubt you want to hear about the need to plan for January now!  Afterall, there is so much to do over these next weeks – Cantata practices, children’s Christmas program rehearsals, the annual women’s cookie exchange, gift collection for at-risk families in the community, and final touches on Christmas Eve service(s).  How could we possibly be thinking about January?

We all know that Christmas and Easter are the times when the church is most likely to have guests in worship services.  This is especially true for Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve services.  Knowing this common trend, it is important to prepare.  There are two aspects to this preparation.  The first is making sure the guest has a good experience.  Check out the previous blog on “Warm and Friendly Encounters” for tips to ensure your guest has a great first impression of their experience.  The second aspect of this preparation is to consider what will be offered to the guest beyond the worship experience.  What will encourage a guest to take another step within the faith community?

Too often, we are so concentrated on Christmas itself that we are not thinking beyond December 24th or 25th as though those dates were the finish line.  For guests, we have to remember that this is perhaps their starting line.  If we offer a guest nothing beyond the worship experience, we may likely miss an opportunity to provide the guest a next faithful step s/he may be searching for even if they don’t recognize it.  Something led that guest to the Christmas Eve service.  It is up to us as the church to provide the next steps for that guest who is searching. 

When we consider what to offer a guest, we may need to think beyond what ministries already exist. Take a hard look at current ministry offerings.  Are they truly guest friendly?  Guest friendly does not only mean that the people involved are friendly (of course they are).  Guest friendly means it is an easy first step for guests where participants involved are new faith or at least new to the church and have shared affinities.  New people connect best with other new people.  The next step may be something that doesn’t currently exist or something that you’ve ever offered before.  What would connect best with a guest today?

Consider a sermon series that is seeker friendly.  Address real life issues that are struggles for the people in your community.  Current research indicates that many are struggling with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.  People are re-examining life, its purpose, its meaning, and how to have impact.  And finally, relationships are always a great guest-friendly topic including parenting children or teens, struggling marriages, parenting our parents, and parenting adults.

Plan now for January so you will be able to share these exciting plans with your Christmas guests.   Otherwise, you will likely miss the opportunity to provide next steps and connection into the life of your church for your guests.  Trust me, it is well worth the investment!