The time of Advent and Christmas is a joyful season in the Church, but for church leaders and volunteers, it can also be an incredibly busy and stressful time. With so much to do and such a short timeline, sometimes you forget things or you just don’t know where to start. Here’s some planning advice to make sure every Advent candle, service-time announcement, and Christmas-program child gets where they need to be, when they need to be there.
Especially if you’re stressed, nervous, confused, or overwhelmed. Ask God to give you peace during the hectic season. Ask Him to keep your eyes focused on Jesus so He can remain the front and center of all your plans. Ask Him for guidance as you study His Word to find a theme. Ask Him to provide the help and materials you need. Ask Him to give you perseverance if things fall through, and to help you give Him the glory if things go well.
2. Come up with a theme.
Take a step back and hold off on diving into the details. Think big picture. Choose an element, message, or Scripture passage you want to focus on during the Advent season. Don’t worry about how you’ll preach on it, how Sunday School teachers will teach it, or how you’ll prepare devotions on it. Just let your head get broad and creative.
This big-picture thinking is essential to do at the very beginning. Especially if we feel stressed or rushed, we may want to start cranking things out just to check them off the list. But then we may find later that either the individual pieces are inconsistent or a lot of work has to be redone.
3. Now, start thinking about the details.
Think about the different audiences in your church and the different scenarios in which they will encounter the theme. This is the beginning of bridging the gap between ideating and doing.
Answer questions like these:
- How can the theme make sense to children, young people, and adults?
- How will I reinforce the theme in take-home devotionals?
- How can the theme be used in Sunday School and adult Bible class?
- How can the theme translate into a Christmas program or service for children?
- How can Law and Gospel be articulated clearly and faithfully?
- How can I make sure the Good News of Christ remains the key focus?
4. Make a list of all the things your church needs to do.
You can download our free Advent and Christmas planning checklist, or make a list of your own. Talk to your staff and current volunteers while you’re doing this. They can tell you if they think the plans are feasible, and they can share their ideas as well.
Here are some things your church may need to think about:
- Holding special services
- Having a children’s Christmas program
- Using special music during your services or having a musical performance
- Giving gifts and donations to church staff, shut-ins, and families in your community
- Distributing important information via your website, social media channels, newsletter, and bulletins
- Replenishing your stock of church supplies
- Planning logistics and setup for special services and events
- Decorating the church
- Planning special outreach events or Advent dinners
5. Gather your people.
There’s no way you can (or should have to) pull everything off on your own. Put a call out for volunteers. Write something in the bulletin or newsletter or on the church website. Make an announcement after worship. Talk to individuals when you see them on Sunday morning and ask if they’d be interested. Ask people to talk to people they know.
Once you have your list of people, start matching up staff and volunteers with responsibilities based on their interests and skills. Welcome the ideas your people bring, and be willing to adjust plans accordingly.
As people are out doing their thing, check in with the team leaders every so often, but don’t micromanage. Just make sure things are going smoothly. Be available to answer questions and offer assistance if you are able to (but don’t overstretch yourself).
6. Stock up on, replace, and repair things.
This is something else you might want to jump on right way—but take the time to meet with your people first. Ask them to tell you what they need. Then order the stuff. If you try to check everything yourself, you’ll drive yourself nuts, you might miss things, and you may spend money on things your church already has.
At the same time, don’t wait too long to do this in case the things you need take a while to arrive.
Some things you might need to get, restock, or replace:
- Communion wafers and cups
- Bulletin covers
- Candles (handheld and for Advent wreath)
- Pads for Record of Fellowship books
- Offering envelopes
- Christmas program
- Choir robes
- Gifts for church staff
7. Create a schedule of everything going on.
Ask the people leading each team to create schedules for their teams and give you a copy. Then put everything on a master calendar. This bird’s-eye view will help you keep track of how the entire machine is functioning, and you can see if there will be conflicts for space and resources. As you assemble the master calendar, make sure to work in out-of-office days and vacation time.
8. Thank your people (during and after).
If a volunteer feels appreciated, he or she is much more likely to want to help out again. Even just a simple “thank you for all your hard work” in person after the service will mean a lot to them. If email works better for you to reach them, make sure your note sounds sincere and personal, not like you’re just blasting it out to check it off your to-do list.
9. Afterward, have a debriefing meeting with everyone involved.
Gather all your staff and volunteers again. Talk about what went well, what could have gone better, and what adjustments may need to be made next year. This meeting is just as essential as everything else on the list. Don’t skip it! When you listen to people’s honest feedback, you’ll avoid enduring the same problems year after year and you’ll better keep up with the changing needs of your church.
Though this season will no doubt be busy, it doesn’t have to be frantic. Start planning now. Gather your team of helpers. Pray, and breathe. And have a blessed Advent season!
Don’t forget a single thing. Download our free planning checklist.
Get Advent and Christmas Planning Checklist
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