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3 creative marketing ideas for Christmas Eve and $400 to get started

 

By Jeremy Steele

Many people who don’t regularly attend church will be looking for a place to worship God and connect on Christmas Eve.

As with Easter, your church has the opportunity to roll out the welcome mat to connect and offer the grace and love of Christ to a greater number of new people.

The problem is that every church in town also offers seasonal services. How do you stand out? How do you get the word out beyond your walls?

We have three great ideas for any budget to help you get started (and, for Advent 2018, some money too!).

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  1. Tap into the love for coffee*
    Rev. Joy W. Dister-Dominguez had been praying with her congregation at Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, about ways to partner with the local business community.

    When it was announced a new coffee shop was moving to town, all it took was a phone call to build a partnership. They are living into this partnership by placing advertisements about Arborlawn’s Christmas Eve services on the shop’s hot beverage cup sleeves during December.

    “We hope to build name recognition in the community and also reach the unchurched looking for a place to belong,” Rev. Dister-Dominguez say.

    Statistics show that coffee shops sell approximately 200 to 300 cups of coffee-based drinks a day, so there’s plenty of opportunity for exposure for you to try this idea in your community.

    Depending on your relationship with a local coffee shop, your advertisement could be simply the cost of the cup sleeve. (Arborlawn had a budget of $1200.) Consider talking with the owner/store contact to see if it’s possible to do a swap instead of payment, and offer to place an ad about the shop in your bulletin or promote an offer via Facebook (noting the partnership).

    Building partnerships outside the walls of the church not only helps businesses but also helps churches attract the elusive attention of the community. When thinking about Christmas Eve marketing, be sure to consider business connections for interesting synergies in your own area.

  2. Puppet team movie trailers
    St. Andrew’s By-the-Sea United Methodist Church in San Clemente, California, has a puppet ministry performing a Christmas Eve service for children.

    They filmed their fuzzy performers in a 30-second commercial promoting details of their service and bought slots during the previews at their local movie theater. The ads ran throughout November for two consecutive seasons. (Rates for in-theater advertising vary widely depending on whether the theater is managed locally or by a national chain, market size, etc.) 

    “We went from 75 attending the service to 350 in two years,” reports Rev. Steve Petty, the former pastor. “We had to move to two Children’s Christmas Eve services."

    Finding what’s unique about your church’s Christmas Eve services is key to your marketing strategy and to help people remember you as they consider where to worship on Christmas Eve.

  3. Postcard invitations
    In a recent survey by Lifeway Research, 51% say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor from the church is the most effective way of getting them to visit a church. Yet, it can be hard during the holidays to connect with those friends and neighbors to extend that invitation in a meaningful way, i.e. in person, via a Christmas card, in a hand written note accompanying holiday treats, etc. versus digital correspondence.

    Help your members by creating and providing a printed postcard. You can design your own or use affordable professionally designed Advent outreach resources offered exclusively to The United Methodist Church. 

    Ask members to write a personal note of invitation and address them by hand rather than use labels. It’s more personal and noticeable than labels.

    $400 to help you get started

    Even when you are talking about one of the biggest services of the year, budgets are tight.

    Don’t worry. RETHINK Church will give you $400 toward Christmas invitations. Use the promotion code W18UMC4 as you order to take advantage of this incredible boost to your Advent 2018 marketing budget!

Don’t forget the follow-up

Visitors shouldn’t feel as though they’ve attended — anonymously — a performance instead of participated in a service of worship.

Whether first-time guests give your church a second chance in part may be determined by your welcoming and follow-up. As covered in a recent screencast, guest readiness and hospitality are greater than simply being nice to visitors.

Creating a welcoming and hospitable climate begins before and at the curb and continues through the heart of the congregation. Welcoming ministry is the responsibility of the entire church family. While it takes time to build relationships, be prepared to ask members to seek out newcomers for introduction and ways to connect people to the church beyond the high seasons. As much as possible, collect the names and contact information of these guests as you do for any other service; use your regular follow-up practices, especially with local visitors.

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*Make the most out of people’s love for cozy beverages by inviting them to “The True Meaning of Christmas Tour” 2018, sponsored by The United Methodist Church, for free hot chocolate and fellowship. If there’s not an event in your area, we invite you to share about it via your church’s social media feeds and encourage members to do the same. This can help spread the word to their friends and family who may live in those markets.

 

Jeremy Steele

— Jeremy Steele is the teaching pastor at Christ UMC in Mobile, Alabama, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book All the Best Questions, at his website: JeremyWords.com.