This week Carrie Hood, FX Director at Village Church in Hayesville, North Carolina, joins hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen to share her experience in launching a Jingle Jam to engage parents and kids in her community.
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FEATURED ON THIS EPISODE
Carrie’s involvement in children’s ministry began over 15 years ago with Kidstuf at Buckhead Church in Atlanta. Since then, she has acted in, directed, and produced a variety of children’s ministry productions. She also produced Orange’s 252 Movie for seven years and serves as a storyteller for First Look. Carrie is a professional actor in theatre, film, and television, and lives in Hayesville, North Carolina, with her husband, Ryan, and their two kids, Porter and Waverly. They attend Village Church, where Carrie helped launch the first Village FX in 2014 and currently serves as the FX Director.
LET’S GET IN TO THE EPISODE
Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk about the big ideas of kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. This week, Carrie Hood, FX Director at Village Church in Hayesville, North Carolina, joins hosts Mike, Gina, and Kellen to share her experience in launching a Jingle Jam to engage parents and kids in her community.
Mike, Kellen, and Gina are fresh and peppy, thanks to the coffee. Always the coffee.
Today, we’re getting down to the nitty gritty of partnering with parents. Past all the talk, what does it really mean? Putting kids into a Sunday morning service and adding a five-minute kid sermon? A kid event that parents have to endure?
Elementary talent shows, people. Five minutes for your kid… and then you must brave the rest. THERE IS NO ESCAPE. Unless you can handle the Eyes of Judgment.
Mike: What if there was an alternative? An environment designed for both parents and kids to have this experience together they would both enjoy? We call this a Family Experience, or FX.
With Christmas coming up, there is no better time to plan something for families
Gina: Families are looking for memorable experiences, things that they can do together. It’s a prime time to take advantage of that.
Mike: Even an unchurched parent who may not be intentional with their kids the rest of the year wants to create magical memories at Christmas. It’s why you go see Santa or go play in the snow or see the production in town.
Gina: They’re drawing on their magical memories as a child and want their kids to have that. Parents in your community that may not be part of your church are looking for that.
Kellen: Christmas is the apex of families looking for something to be engaging. A Family Experience like Jingle Jam is fun, it’s free, and it’s a great lead in for families to reinvest in churches the next month. “I saw something that was awesome, that was life giving, I want to go back and see what more they have.”
Mike: We’re talking about creating a Christmas party big enough for the whole family. We want you to throw a party that’s connected to a bigger strategy.
That’s why we’ve brought in our friend Carrie Hood from Village Church in Hayesville, North Carolina!
Mike reminds Carrie just how fun we are. And funny! Gina points out that if you have to say it, that’s a problem.
Carrie has a great story revolving around creating a Christmas party big enough for the whole family – what we call Jingle Jam. Mike wants to hear just how it got started.
1. What led you to launch the first Jingle Jam for your church and community?
Carrie: We’re in the mountains in a rural community. We were a year old at the time, a very small church, renting space. The room we wanted to use for Jingle Jam was the same room we used for services. We had done one FX and knew there was a Christmas experience. Our pastor wanted to try putting families in a room in a fun, shared experience—landing on the heart of Christmas
I believe when you engage everyone in the room, not just kids, not just the adults, that’s when people listen. And when they listen, they learn.
Before Jingle Jam, I don’t think we had an experience that engaged our whole family at Christmas. Jingle Jam is one of our favorite things of the whole year because it does that.
We started with limited resources and 100 people attending the church. We didn’t have all the plans, but we knew we were supposed to do it, so we figured it out as we went.
We decorated the corner of a room (because it had a door for exits and entrances). We used Christmas decorations from church members. We had a host and a comic host and families who would attend—so we just jumped in. We did it on a Wednesday night.
There was something about the script and the programming that fit with what we were looking for: laughing, celebrating, but also the heart of Christmas.
It engaged everyone it the room in a way that you felt like the spirit of Christmas left with your family.
Fast forward five years: We now have 750 people attending at a historic theater in the center of town. We do it over two days in three event times. Our goal is not to get bigger, but we don’t want a family to miss out.
Gina: You’re responding to the demand.
Carrie: In our community, a free event at Christmas is a big deal, especially if you have a lot of kids.
We want people to pull into the parking lot and start smiling.
Jingle Jam does such a great job of having fun and being relevant to kids, but also “landing the plane.” About ¾ of the way through Jingle Jam, it lands the plane so beautifully with the heart of Christmas.
It reaches our family and we hope it reaches families in our community.
Jingle Jam is now part of our church DNA. We do this for our community, but there is not one thing we do throughout the year that bonds and unites our church likes serving together at Jingle Jam.
2. Talk about your strategic shift the second year to move Jingle Jam off site and take it into the community.
Carrie: Jingle Jam is written in such a way that it’s not an insider church thing. It’s designed with the community in mind. The Christmas story is there and powerful, but it’s not specific to a church setting. We also didn’t have space to invite anyone else.
The community theatre seemed like a neutral place to have it. The theatre gave them a discount and the theatre got exposure, too.
Now they use an online reservation system. They sold out two years ago just by word of mouth.
Kellen: I live in a bigger city in California, so there are a lot of competing things. If you are at a smaller church or in a smaller community, Jingle Jam is a really easy win. But if you’re in a larger church or community, this is also a quality win. Even the title is an easy invite without pushing an agenda. It’s fun with a chance for life change.
Gina: There are people in your community who will come to a theatre who won’t come to a church.
As a leader, I can get stuck. I want to go into the community, but at my church, I’ve got everything I need in my auditorium. If I go somewhere else, like a high school gym, I have to rent. But I’m hearing that Jingle Jam doesn’t need a lot of technical stuff.
Carrie: You can do Jingle Jam with very little. It’s flexible. You can go as small or big as you want.
You gain and you lose something the bigger you go. There’s a sweetness in those early years when you don’t have as many technical components.
With the theatre, it’s become a community thing. Not everyone even knows Jingle Jam is hosted by the church. It’s not a ploy to get you in the church. The goal is to have families there. Our win is that they go home talking about it. It’s great if the next step is that they come to our church. But just getting families to begin a conversation about faith at Christmas time, that is our win.
They had a newly-divorced family win when the entire family came to Jingle Jam—the mom and boyfriend, the dad and kids. It was a safe place to come and engage.
A mom having a rough year took her kids when they didn’t want to go, and they couldn’t stop talking about it after. She said, “I needed that time with my family at this time of year.”
As soon as we pass Thanksgiving, we’re burdened with, “how can I bring Jesus into the season this year in a way my kids respond?” Jingle Jam seems to do that.
Gina: It’s touching on the tension parents feel at the holidays. We’re being tugged in so many directions. What else in the community can bring a family together like that? You’ve created an environment where families laugh together and enjoy the experience together.
Carries: We have foster kids come and grandparents raising kids.
3. What are the key elements you need to make Jingle Jam awesome?
Carrie. This isn’t another event. It’s something special.
WHEN do you have Jingle Jam that makes it not a burden?
9 a.m. on a Saturday? That’s a NO.
It’s different for every community. How to make it the best opportunity for families of all kinds?
WHERE do you hold your Jingle Jam?
We had to ask: where CAN we? It’s not about perfection, it’s about excellence. It’s the best place you can do it given what you have. Ours was literally the corner of a room to start.
Use your TIMELINE!
Orange provides a great timeline and a complete list of people you need whether you have 20 greeters or 2. Whether you go big or small, it tells you where to be 8-12 weeks out, 6 weeks, 2 weeks, and so on. We still use it.
That timeline and list of teams is so important. It exists, and I don’t have to create it.
Gina: You said when you first started, people just brought their own Christmas decorations, and it looked like Grandma’s attic. But it created hype. Everyone got to see their own decorations up there. “They’re using our decorations!”
Get that Leg Lamp up there!
We put out an all call to the church. It was super fun and unifying.
Kellen: That’s marketing. It sets up buzz.
Carrie: When I talk to people about Jingle Jam, I say: Don’t think: “we can’t do that.” Think: “HOW could we do that?”
We can’t make it snow. But we can do something else to end on a big note. If the script suggests something, figure out the point or purpose and then brainstorm a different way to achieve that.
Gina: Limited resources are the best foundation for creativity.
Mike: I’ve talked to so many church leaders who do it for the first time and say, “well, we only have this space/budget…” Great. You have everything you need. Go!
I love seeing their posts. “Oh my word… God surprised us. We had one expectation… but ended up with so much more.”
Families are looking for something meaningful to do together at Christmas time
Gina: Jingle Jam holds so much promise to lead to something else. A parent says: “this is a place to come that I’m a better parent. I have better conversation and better connection with my kid.”
At a minimum, Jingle Jam leads to greater trust with families in your community, because they look at your church a different way. They may come to your church and get connected.
4. How do you communicate to people what Jingle Jam is?
Carrie: Make it your own. If you can’t do it exactly like the script, what could you do to get it started? Once people see Jingle Jam, they get it. First time it’s harder to explain. Create your elevator pitch. It’s not a pageant, a play, or a worship experience. It’s not just for kids.
You can create a fun video promo on an iPhone with some banter between your hosts in the tone of what Jingle Jam is.
Mike: It’s a Christmas party big enough for the whole family. I think about Disney. It’s like the parades. There’s watching, there’s interaction with the music and characters. It engages all the sense.
Carrie: Jingle Jam is a 45-minute experience, but the fun starts in the lobby with pictures and hot chocolate. When you leave, there are gift bags for the kids.
Jingle Jam is different. We don’t need just another event. We make a charge to families and give them something to do. We give them the ornament that Orange provides and tell them to pick one night between now and Christmas to sit at your tree. Talk about one thing around the theme that you can do for someone in your community. Then read the Christmas story and hang the ornament. Kids, hold your parents accountable!
As a parent, I can do that. You gave me a plan.
Gina: It’s not complicated. We want low rungs on that ladder so it’s easy to take that next step. Something that leads to dialogue that’s memorable.
Carrie: If you can’t buy ornaments, have them make an ornament or just do the story together.
5. How can I get my hands on this year’s Jingle Jam script?!
SO GLAD YOU ASKED.
The event, script, director’s notes, everything—is available FREE at jinglejamfx.com!
You get a Jingle Jam! And YOU get a Jingle Jam… and YOU get a Jingle Jam!
We do offer an optional video/media package for purchase, but you don’t need it in order to do Jingle Jam.
If you aren’t listening to the audio—go find the end now for Kellen’s really awesome jingley-Christmas-podcast-outro ditty!
How are you planning to engage families in your community this Christmas? Consider Jingle Jam as a unique option. Take a few minutes right now to check out the FREE script and production package. Then jump on the Jingle Jam Facebook Group for ideas and encouragement!
Executive Director of Children’s Strategy at Orange
NextGen Pastor at Crosspoint Church - Nashville, TN
NextGen Pastor at Our City Church - Corona, CA