Is your ministry getting ready for Christmas?

Is it really time to be thinking about Christmas, it is only September?  Before you panic, this post is about working on your environment now so that you are welcoming community by Christmas.  We know that many people come back to church for Christmas so you need to start working on creating a welcoming environment so that you can keep them into the new year.

It is a well known that attendance numbers drop off during the winter months, especially at Sunday night services.  People think it is too cold or too dark to got out, it might be raining or they want to somewhere warmer than a cold church building.  So it is likely that your ministry has dropped a few people over the winter months but now is the time to start welcoming them back.  Just as the trees and plants spring to new life around this time, perhaps the ground work you do during September and October will prepare you for a growth period over December, January and February.

Here are a few common sayings in ministry and how you might need to address these at the moment:

  • People always come back to Church at Christmas: each parish has a group of Christmas and Easter Christians that you will see coming back to church this Christmas.  Whilst you might not like it but if you don’t ask then they won’t come; if you are not welcoming then they won’t stay.  Recently I heard that the biggest growth group in Australia is the unchurched who don’t love or hate the church; they just have never been asked.  We often listen to the vocal minority who are vocal about their opposition to the Church but the majority of Australians don’t hate the church; some of them will return this Christmas.
  • Vision leaks:  has your ministry grown tired and lost the energy that it had in the beginning of the year?  Whilst you might know where you are heading you need to tell the people in your ministry as the vision leaks.  Some leaders say that when you get sick of reminding people of where you are heading then people are just starting to get it.  For more on this topic check out the article, Where are you heading?
  • Good habits drop easily but take months to re-establish: perhaps you were a welcoming church at the start of the year but with no new people coming over the winter your team lost the habits associated with a welcoming church.  So in the coming months you need to re-establish these habits so that it comes naturally when the Christmas season rolls around.  For more on this check out this article, Creating a Welcoming Church.
  • Narrow the Focus: whilst you might want to stir up energy by adding new programs to excite people you probably need to narrow the focus rather than widen it.  Sometimes people get confused with where they should put their focus, as the leader you need to target one or two things for people to focus on.  Don’t bring in 50 strategies for creating a welcoming church, perhaps just work on a good greeting before the service/event and unexpected hospitality after the service or event.
  • Good branding just makes bad products fail faster: if you spend a lot of time and effort on marketing your service and events without improving them then they will only fail faster.  Some leaders wait until people turn up to start improving things, which only shows new people how bad things really are.  Improve your Sunday services and midweek events first then invite people to experience the revamp.
  • A good spring clean makes for a good summer: perhaps this is more a gardening image than a ministry one but I think it applies well here.  Some teams plan to leave all their cleaning up for the “downtime” in January but that is when you need to be taking a break and a holiday.  January is not just about your members taking a holiday, you need one as well.  Perhaps a good spring clean in September and October will bring much needed focus and energy ready for the Christmas season when people feel like coming back to church.

So whilst you might think it is too early to think about Christmas, just remember that you need to give November over to thinking about the New Year, which I will post on shortly.  If you need to start your planning for next year in October and November then it is better to start preparations for Christmas now.  Remember we are not just talking about the Christmas Service but the welcoming atmosphere that you hope comes naturally around that time.  A little bit of extra work now will reap better results for your ministry come Christmas.

Please leave a comment about how you are getting ready for the Christmas rush.

Print Marketing … on a budget

It is that time of the year when our letter box is full of church marketing.  A number of churches in my area have dropped off invitations to the Christmas events.  Some churches have invitations to carols, nativity plays and of course their Christmas services.  Some of the invitations are glossy professionally printed cards whilst others make some amateur home printing mistakes.  In this post I want to share with you some tips I have learnt about doing print marketing on a budget; meaning you are printing hundred of postcards in your office.

One thing I learnt about professional printing is that they can do anything you want … for a price.  Perhaps you don’t have the money to send the flyer to a printer so you are going to print your flyers “in house”.  Maybe you have a photocopier, maybe a colour printer or maybe you have a black and white printer.  What ever your situation you are limited by the printer you have and the time to cut up hundreds of items.  But there are some tricks to get around your printer to disguise that they were printed in your office.  I suggest two types of print marketing, posters and postcards.

  1. The Postcard – this will be your base print marketing because you can put it in the hand or mailbox of everyone you want to invite.  The easiest way to do this “in house” is to print four cards to an A4 page.  This is just a matter of repeating the same card four times on the one page.  Here are a few tips –
    1. Never do a border – if you print a border on your card then you will spend hours trying to get your margins the same on all four images once they are printed.  If you remove the border then it is easier to cut up the four cards without it looking off center.
    2. More detail than a poster – on a postcard you should include more details so that the person will keep the card.  If it is too basic they will throw it in the bin and jump on your website.  You want them to keep the card.
  2. The Poster – you want to saturate your church with posters of your events and an A4 poster can be affective.  If there is room it can be more striking to place four posters together on a notice board.  The poster should do two things:
    1. Draw in someone’s attention – the poster should turn heads not blend in.  Find an image that will draw people in.
    2. Send them to a website for more details – some posters can be too overloaded with information.  A poster shouldn’t be a larger version of your postcard.  Never include the price on the poster as you want them to check out all the details on your Facebook page or website.

Here are just a few other thoughts that will help you when you have no budget and have to print in-house:

  1. White edge – most of us printer that can’t print to the edge; it leaves a white border of 3-4mm.  So design your poster or postcard with this in mind.  You can design your card to look like a Polaroid as this has a white border.  You can also fade the edge of your image to white.  Black backgrounds don’t look good with a white border so avoid these if you don’t want to cut each item.
  2. Graphics – you can use a lot of good images off Microsoft clipart, type in backgrounds to see a range of images to build your poster on.  Go for their new items such as vectors or photos.
  3. Fonts – a good font can make all the difference.  You can download hundreds of fonts for free from many websites.  Try about 20-30 fonts before you print, one font might take it from an average design to a great design.
  4. News print – some churches have used the news print style to cover up for the basic printer they are using.  The retro, rustic or newsprint styles all look better on cheaper printers than trying to do the high gloss corporate look in the office.
  5. Work with the imperfections of your printer.  If your printed always misses a spot then don’t make that spot where the key information is.

Whilst it might be a little late for Christmas, you have some tips to improve your news years marketing. When you are launching your programs for 2012 you have some design tips to help you.

Perhaps you have made some mistakes in the past and have learnt some trick that others would love to learn from.  Please consider sharing them with us by leaving a comment

Discipleship is like a Christmas tree

This week I was looking through all the Christmas catalogues that landed in my mailbox.

One major department store were advertising a beautiful Christmas tree for $27 dollars. The picture of this $27 Christmas tree was amazing; it was so beautiful that it made me want one in my house. My second reaction was “how can a tree that beautiful be worth $27?” Then it hit me that this tree would have had over $200 of ornaments, lights, tinsel and other decorations on it. The picture of the $27 dollar Christmas tree I was looking at was really worth about $227.

When you think about a Christmas tree,

it looks rather plain without any decorations. Yet if you had the beautiful decorations but no tree, then all you would have is a pile of decorations. The tree is the major element and the decorations are the extras; you need the tree to hang everything on. The same is true with discipleship; we need something to hang everything off. Let me explain.

Just like in the Christmas tree example, the key to element to discipleship is our relationship with Jesus. Without a relationship with Jesus there is no discipleship. We can get so distracted by the “lights and tinsel” that we forget the core element. We can think that if we have the extras then our relationship with Jesus is secure; in reality that may not be the case. Sometimes we need to strip back the extras to see what is really lying underneath it all.

In the case of the $27 Christmas tree, I am sure once you take the $200 worth of decorations off it isn’t the best looking tree. When you strip back all the extras in your spiritual life what does your relationship with Jesus look like? Is it something that you would be proud to show off to the world by itself or do you want to put all the extras back on? Some of the extras that could distract you from the core relationship with Jesus could include:

  1. Attendance: sometime we think the more we attend Church the more we love Jesus. See Attendance vs Commitment
    for more details
  2. Friends: sometimes we think that if we hang around lots of other disciples that makes us a disciple; discipleship through association.
  3. Routine: sometimes we think that if we fill our routine with spiritual exercise that will makes us more of a disciple, we might be busier but do these exercise fill our time or draw us closer to Jesus?

As a person with the Mark of Faith on your life, sometimes you have to strip back the extras to show others the core element of that faith; your relationship with Jesus. Please leave a comment.