Monday, January 4, 2016

Chasing Christmas - Responding to the Christmas Visitors

I recently ran across a web page I love,! Great name, right? I was actually looking for some statistics for a writing piece, and instead found a new reading spot.

As we wrap up the holiday season, like most leaders, I am debriefing what we did to engage families we see twice a year on a different level. The seeds have been planted, but as we enter the new year how do we get them to take root? How do we let these families know that there is a place for them all year long? In an effort to support my thoughts that we do indeed see an influx of families that are unchurched, not just visiting out of state away from their church home - I found this! Below is a clip from the site mentioned above:

More Stats: More Jesus

  • 79% of Americans think Christmas should be more about Jesus.
  • 63% think Christmas should include a visit to church. (Wishful thinking, since only 47% get there?)
  • “Younger Americans are least interested in church at Christmas time.” 38% of 18- to 24-year-olds say church is an essential part of Christmas, compared to 55% of 25- to 34-year-olds. Across the board, younger people are less enthralled with Christmas than older people. Of course by “younger people” we’re not talking about little kids enjoying the many bribes of Christmas.
  • While people do want religious Christmas songs in schools (86% agree), fewer buy the “War on Christmas”: Only 29% agree that saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is offensive. 
  • Best way to get those 47% to church on Christmas? Personally invite your family (67%) or a friend or neighbor (63%).

As I sat and read over this material, I realize that we are (as a nation) still marketing and advertising like we are talking to the baby boomer generation. Boomers wanted to invest in something - however generation X and Y are longing to belong to something. Very different engagement points indeed! When you consider that gen X and Y are now showing up with their kids to church, maybe even once or twice a year, we need to be ready with an answer of how they fit in and be able to show them where they belong.  I always find this interesting with this generation, and can only assume that the desire for the church to be prepared for their arrival stems from the "instant information" culture they have always known. These are generations that have any and all information needed at their fingertips in an instant thanks to technology. 

A few ways we as the church can engage these guests came to mind as I continued to study family ministry trends, hopefully you find them useful as you look at all the visitor tags and connections that were made this Christmas season

1. Trend vs Tradition - there are few things that allow tradition to trump trend these days. I believe Christmas is one of them. There needs to be a sign that Christmas is still made of what you knew as a child, even if your church brings in a high demand talent, streamlines decor, and puts on the "wow" factor - make sure it's still about the birth of Jesus. Oddly enough, it is non-Christians who usually notice that the "baby Jesus" they came to see isn't present. The simple Christmas story is a familiar part of Christianity that they connect with.  And after the fact, a simple "thank you for joining us" in the form of a traditional postcard is usually welcome. It reminds them of what they came to and provides a personal touch, it also opens the door when you chase it with an email of what you have for them in the new year.

2. For the younger crowd, finding a way to let them know they can be part of something is key. I once  had a lady tell me that she doesn't attend church because "they don't need her". She stayed at home and watched it on TV. She eventually visited a church that had a clear message in their mission statement that they were all a family on mission together - to change the heart of their city for future generations. This was something she could get behind, and she has now been there 2 years. While Christmas is now over, hopefully you communicated that you do indeed need people and can follow up with them. 

3. As a leader, the first week into the new year is a crucial time. Families who showed up still have a fresh feeling of what they experienced at Christmas in their mind and this is the week to let them know that some of those elements stay all year. This should be a week of reminding people that the community they found during the holidays can be an all time part of their life, surprisingly some don't know that. 

This past Sunday I ran into a young couple that visited during Christmas. They have an 11 month old baby and a 2 year old. During our Christmas services they came and learned that the service was going to be a bit much for their littles and opted to take turns sitting in the lobby. Having sat with them for a few minutes, I offered to stay in the lobby with the kids while our feature talent was performing so they could both see it. Surprisingly they agreed and went inside! (I am the children's pastor, so it wasn't a super creepy move ha!) They came out and were like static electricity with their excitement and the fact that they got to share it with one another. By now I was in the floor with legos and crayons and the kids were great, I told them to go hear the message if they liked and I would text if needed. After the service, the kids were great and so were they. So why am I telling you this?

I knew they needed to belong, they felt at home there and just needed someone to guide them a little. Over the weekend after Christmas I let them know I would be in the building for weekend services and we would love to have the kids - Sunday morning at 9:45 they came walking down the hall with no kids! I excitedly shouted "You did it! You checked them in!....AND LEFT" (anyone in kids ministry understands the value of the "you left" part). Smiling from ear to ear they headed to church, and upon return said they met some friends in the sanctuary they knew. Had they not dropped the kids off, they would have never run into each other. 

I know the seeds are planted, and I know the Holy Spirit will work, but I am so excited that they took the steps to experience the community they were longing for. 

Its a great reminder that we have to be ready in so many ways to respond to the different generations and cultures that will be entering our doors as they seek a crumb of what they found to be nourishing at Christmas.  I pray we find ways to let them know that it's nourishing all year. 

1 comment:

  1. Christmas is on a Sunday this year and it will be especially important to apply this wisdom! Thank you for sharing!