One of the most effective times for evangelistic outreach is Christmas Eve. Outreach pastors and evangelism ministry leaders agree on this: Unbelievers seem to be more willing to come to a church service on Christmas Eve than any other time during the year. Perhaps that’s because they often attend as entire families, or maybe, for some, attending is a carryover from childhood practices. I’ve found that most people know Christmas is about Christ (even if they know little else about Him) and think going to church at some point over the holidays just makes sense. We would do well to take advantage of this nostalgia-by designing a Christmas Eve service as an intentional outreach event.

Here are some suggestions for making your service meaningful and effective.

Secure congregational “buy in.” Train your congregation to see the service as primarily an outreach event. The support of the church family in inviting unsaved relatives, coworkers, and neighbors is important. Enlist church-wide prayer support for God’s blessing on the effort.

Get the word out! Advertise the service throughout your community. Consider newspaper ads and a well-placed, attractive sign on the church property. Hand out flyers in the neighborhood. Make a big splash on your website.

Make the service shorter. When I pastored, we tried to keep our Christmas Eve service only 45 minutes long-and announced it as such. People knew we were respecting their family time and personal Christmas traditions. I think they were more willing to include the service in their evening plans when they knew we meant it!

Offer options. Since people have different schedules on Christmas Eve, consider offering a service at two different times-perhaps one at 4:00 p.m. and another at 6:00 p.m. The people who minister in the services will probably be willing to give the extra time if they know it is what God might use to lead someone to Christ.

Include creative elements. Make the extra effort to plan a service that includes lots of special music (children’s choirs are a draw), appropriate video clips, brief drama sketches, and more. Consider asking a capable elementary age student to read the Biblical account of the Christmas story or a Christmas poem (see sidebar for a possible example). Of course, include the singing of well-known Christmas hymns, along with newer Christmas songs. Consider arranging for at least one of the services to be by candlelight.

Share the gospel clearly and succinctly. This is not the time for a lengthy sermon, but for a clear summary of why Christ came and how to know Him as Savior. Consider including response cards in the pews and providing literature in the lobby. Some churches have distributed free copies of a relevant evangelistic book to any families who want to learn more about Christ and the true meaning of Christmas.

Strive for excellence in all that is done. Unbelievers can make excuses for not responding to the truth due to our sloppiness or lack of organization. Take the time to prepare thoroughly and seek to do things with genuine enthusiasm and high quality.

Jim Vogel is assistant national representative for the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.