Santa’s not the only one making last minute adjustments to his Christmas plans these days.  At least he shouldn’t be.

As church leaders we know that there will be a lot of faces in the pews on Christmas Eve that we rarely see for most of the rest of the year.  A survey from a few years back found that, while on average 18% of Americans attend church on any given Sunday, 47% will be present for worship on Christmas Eve.

And while it’s easy to bemoan the fact that many folks only come to church on Christmas and Easter, the good news is, they will be there!  Some of them strangers.  Some of them old friends.

Hopefully, your church is way ahead of the game and you have prepared well for the guests who will come your way.  If you haven’t, don’t despair.  There is still time for some last minute preparations that can go a long way in deepening the hospitality of your church this Christmas.

Prepare Your Greeters
Several years ago I heard the phrase, a powerful welcome.  Not forceful, not overwhelming, but powerful in how it made you feel.

How can you create a powerful sense of welcome that is authentic to your congregation?

People are drawn to places where they feel prepared for and cared for.  Folks that seldom come to church are likely to already be feeling awkward and hesitant when they arrive at your doorstep.  Helping them to feel welcomed and at ease, whether with a genuine smile when they are greeted at the door or a simple sign that helps them to find their way to the restroom, can go a long way in helping someone to feel like they belong.  And we want them to belong.

Prepare Your Communication
Give folks a reason to come back.  Don’t let the special series on relationships that you are having in January or the fact that your church has a group volunteering in the soup kitchen on the first Monday of every month be the best kept secret in town.

We all share common desires to do good in our community and common struggles that we need help with.  Folks in the pew most Sundays think to look to the church to help them with those things.  But not everyone else does.  You will have an audience with folks on Christmas Eve who long to do better, to be better.  They just might not know that the church shares those longings with them.

Don’t assume people know what’s going on.  Tell them clearly and invite them to be a part of it.

Prepare Your Heart
As Barry Howard encouraged us in Advent: Taking the Scenic Route to Bethlehem, preparing our own hearts for Christmas may be the very best way that we get ready to make room for others on Christmas Eve.

Whether you use Passport’s d365 devotions, my own Advent blog at The Soul in the City, or any of the dozens of other sites and books offering daily reflections during this Advent season, I hope you are encouraging your church members to be intentional during this time of preparation in the church year.  As we wait for the Messiah, as we anticipate his coming, we have opportunity to reflect on the ways that we need his grace and mercy in our lives; what hope and peace, love and joy can really look like in the world.

As we prepare ourselves to receive Christ at Christmas, Jesus prepares us to receive others in his stead.

Making a list and checking it twice.  Santa’s not the only one coming to town this Christmas.  May the warmth of our hospitality, the caring intentionality of our preparation, and the openness of our hearts and lives be a worthy reflection for our guests of the love of the Savior whose birth we anticipate this Christmas season.

Jayne Davis
Jayne Davis has served as the Minister of Spiritual Formation at First Baptist Church, Wilmington, NC since 2001. Prior to going into ministry, she was the Executive Director of a non-profit organization and worked as a strategic planning consultant for early childhood initiatives. Jayne is a certified coach, working with both individuals and churches, and is a part of the CBFNC coaching network. She is also a partner in Hopeful Imagination, a ministry encouraging and supporting churches as they seek God’s direction in a changing world. She is a coach and a consultant for CHC and the co-coordinator for CHC-Carolinas.