As the COVID-19 crisis continues, many churches have been faced with the difficult decision to close their doors. In these months of ongoing uncertainties, church leaders are struggling to find ways to stay connected with their flock. Deciding whether the best course of action is to continue online streaming, open for indoor worship, or provide hybrid options isn’t an easy call to make. As the holidays approach, the pressure to create fellowship will only grow. If you’re struggling with decision-making, here are three ways to keep your church connected this Christmas.
1. Community is Christmas-y
While it’s important to keep church leaders connected to their flock, it’s also key to keep the flock connected to one another. In our most trying times, it’s crucial to have a support system in place. After months of isolation, the holidays can escalate feelings of loneliness for many individuals. While some have packed houses bunkering down together, others are flying solo in this COVID-19 chaos and will feel that lonesomeness even more strongly as Christmas approaches.
If your church is able to reopen for the holidays, be sure to offer several service times to accommodate as many members as possible. With local restrictions, you may have limitations as to how many people can occupy your building and you want to do your best to provide ample opportunities. If you’re sticking to online streaming, consider implementing small groups that can meet via Facebook, Zoom, Google Meet, or through texting apps. Groups can coordinate gift exchanges, advent study groups, and outreach opportunities as a newly-formed family.
2. Feels on Wheels
One of the hallmarks of Christianity is serving others and being the hands and feet of Jesus. A pandemic doesn’t have to end your community outreach. Take your typical indoor events and scale them down to mobile accessibility. Do you typically serve Christmas Eve dinner to underprivileged families? Have your volunteer team meet with masks and gloves to package meals in to-go containers and schedule a window of time for pick-ups and deliveries. You might be surprised how many members of your church would be willing to serve this holiday season and drive meals to those in need.
Does your service traditionally tell the story of Jesus’ birth? Host a drive-through nativity with Christmas tree lights along the length of your parking lot. Set up stations with various moments from the shepherds to the wise men and every full inn in between. Families young and old will be thrilled to get out of the house and spend time revisiting the moment of Christ’s birth. The best part? They can wear their PJ’s and sip hot cocoa from the safety and comfort of their car — no masks required!
Speaking of Christmas tree lights, it’s a good idea to go way out there when decorating for Christmas this year. Even a small sense of normality will go a long way, and seeing the church decorated with strands of lights (whether they’re fairy lights, multicolored lights, miniature lights, or white lights) will bring joy into your community’s heart. If you’re Christmas string lights need some refreshing, there are great online options for buying various types of lights and wreaths for outdoor use to create that holiday magic for your community. When they drive by and see the holiday lights up on their church, it will definitely make the holidays that much more special.
3. At-Home Advent
Encourage your congregants to use their extra time at home to fully experience the season of Advent. Celebrate the hope, love, peace, and joy of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each week, encourage church members to log in to an online stream. Have a church leader explain the significance of that week’s candle as families light their own at home. Accompany each candle with a devotional for the week and a corresponding print-out activity for little ones.
In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season and anticipation of Santa Claus’ arrival, it’s easy to lose sight of the holiday’s true meaning. Being sequestered at home means ample time to prioritize keeping Christ in Christmas. Households can find Bibles for sale online if they don’t already have one at home, whether they need a study Bible or a different New Testament, and follow along with your devotionals and teachings. This keeps families connected to the church, their spiritual leaders, each other, and — most importantly— to God.