1. SERVICE CONTENT
During holiday services, if your approach and message don’t represent what your congregation and Unitarian Universalism is like the rest of the year, you’re making your congregation less compelling to your guests.
YES! Holiday services should be about the holidays, but do your service planning knowing that there will be many guests. What does your service communicate about Unitarian Universalism?
2. SERVICE LENGTH
For holiday services, think twice about going long. During the regular course of the year, our services tend to be an hour. We don’t want people leaving apologizing to their guests saying, “I’m sorry. It isn’t usually this long. Services the rest of the year are very different.”
Instead of going long, consider going short. I consume a lot of church growth and outreach books, articles, and other material. Again and again, I see recommendations for Christmas Eve to stick to the regular service length or be on the shorter side. Instead of going long, deliver a fantastic service in 45 to 60 minutes so people can celebrate, have a great experience with their guests, and leave to continue their celebrations.
I sometimes joke that the only time a service should be longer than an hour is when someone is being ordained, or someone has died. That’s a little cheeky and kind of harsh, but I say it in defense of the people who are regularly subjected to poorly crafted services that go too long.
The majority of the time I see or hear about UU services going long, it is by mistake, not by design. In most cases, I think the overtime has a negative impact on your message. Of course, there are exceptions! Just be intentional. And if it is designed to be longer than an hour, include the start and end times in your communication.
3. VISION CASTING + INVITATION
When guests come for holiday services, plan on offering them more than just the holiday message. Offer them a vision for what you can accomplish as a community. Think about the mission of your congregation, the impact it can have on their lives, your community, and invite them to participate.
I encourage you to make designing corresponding January worship services, public events, and other programming an integral part of your planning. Plan for December Holidays + January.
I DO NOT recommend pushing announcements during the holidays. But you can deliver a message that speaks to the state of our world, upholds the challenges we are facing (in the context of appropriate holiday message), how we are called to action, and explain that is WHY your congregation is committed to _____ and over the coming month you’ll have services and programming on ______.
You can do that in a way that supports and amplifies the message of the holidays and upholds the mission and vision of your congregation.
4. AFTER THE SERVICE FLYER
How do you communicate with guests attending holiday services? My favorite strategy is a print flyer. When people leave, hand out a well designed high-quality flyer that is an invitation to upcoming services, programs, special events. You can minimize talk of announcements during the service but have ushers, and other volunteers hand out a flyer as people leave.