There is a real desire in all of us as parents to create meaningful traditions for our children at Christmas. Most of us look at the church for this help by attending a Christmas Eve service together as a family or going caroling to different homes of people from church to brighten their spirits!
Something that occurred to me back when I was a children’s ministry leader and a mother of three small children is that there never seems to be a place where we can bring little children and not break into a full blown sweat trying to keep our kids sitting still, staying quiet, or keeping candy cane slobber off their pretty new Christmas clothes. This is not to mention the juggling act that is required by parents who are trying their best not to let their four-year-old set the entire church on fire as their son holds up his candle at the candle light service as if he were Captain America ready to take on the world—as you sing “Silent Night” with a baby on on your hip.
We create programs for people to attend and we try to make it as multigenerational as we can. But the truth is, if you have kids, you are looking for a place that you can enjoy an experience or celebration together that reminds you of what this season is all about! Families are looking for you! They are searching for things to do together! They are googling for “Family Christmas Eve Services” . . . and my question is: What are you offering?
If you are an orange church, then how are you proving it?
In the last three years, our family has been part of our Christmas Eve Services at our own church. Our church offers three services. My husband does lights, my children are part of the reading during the service, and I am at the Welcome Desk. We spend the entire day of Christmas Eve at church. While most families are home watching movies, wearing their Christmas pajamas, sipping hot chocolate, we were sitting in our church for hours, not together.
This convicted my heart. What were we doing? How is this helping me, as a mom, connect with my children?
The truth is: Sometimes the church can be so much FOR the family that we become ANTI-family. In other words, sometimes we get blinded by all the programs we offer families at our church that we forget that when families are at church, they aren’t together! Moms and Dads are volunteering or attending something, and kids are thrown into a program of some kind. We aren’t partnering with parents we are just keeping them busy.
If you are a church that offers a Christmas Eve service, let me challenge you!
- This is an opportunity that you get once or twice a year to open your doors and have families be willing to attend church for the first time in months, maybe years. How do you welcome them? How do they find out what you are all about as a church? What is the first impression you make?
- 2.What is it really like to attend your Christmas program as a kid? Is it boring? Do you sing songs that they know? Do you give toddlers a candle lit with fire to hold? Is if formal?
- What time is your service? Some churches have Christmas Eve services at 7pm—which is fine . . . if you aren’t a kid! Think back to when you were a child on Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. what were you dreaming about? PRESENTS!! Excitement! Could you sit still during four verses of “Silent Night”? Is this a place where a kid feels like they belong? Will they want to come back?
- What is it like for parents of small children to bring them to your service? Are people turning around and looking at you every time your child can’t help himself and sings “Jingle Bells” out loud? Can they relax? Do they feel welcome to let their children be children?
- What are you spending your money on? Are you throwing massive amounts of money on stage decor and lighting or thinking about what you could use that money on to send home with families?
- What are you asking of the families that attend your church to do during the services that might keep them away from home that night? How are you valuing them as a family?
Okay, so what am I really trying to say? What I am saying, is that I was a children’s pastor and attended another Church’s Christmas Eve service because it was a better fit for my family.
If you want families to feel welcome in your church then prove it. Offer a Family Christmas Eve Service earlier in the day. Sing songs that kids know. Let them talk and laugh and be excited to celebrate Jesus’ birthday! Tell them the story in a way they understand! Make it interactive—but don’t use candles, maybe use glow sticks? Give parents encouragement and challenge them to go home and start traditions. Send them home with a bag of hot chocolate and a puzzle or something they can do together. Cast vision for why families are so important . . . and keep it short. There is no reason that you can’t simply just try this . . . this year! What if you made a service where kids are invited to be kids? What would happen? Go see!