Jason Hatley here – Worship Arts Pastor at The Journey and Founder of Worship Leader Insights – with some insights for you as we head into the holiday season…
Last November, my wife and I went to do a little shopping the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. When we walked into the store Bing Crosby’s White Christmas was blaring over the sound system.
Don’t get me wrong… I love the song, but 2 days before Thanksgiving strikes me as a bit too early. After all, I don’t want to skip over the Thanksgiving Day meal. Am I alone on that one?
I know why the department store did it. Because they sell more merchandise when Bing is crooning. But, for you and I, that’s not why we play Christmas music.
We do it to celebrate the birth of our Savior. And this time of year, a question I always get from worship leaders and pastors alike is, “How soon is too soon to start singing Christmas music in my church?”
As you might imagine . . . I have a little system for that here at The Journey
So, in the spirit of giving, here is my guide for introducing and selecting music for the Christmas Season:
#1 – INTRODUCE AT LEAST ONE CHRISTMAS SONG THE SUNDAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.
As soon as Santa Claus makes his entrance at the Thanksgiving Day parade, people find themselves in the Christmas spirit.
But also from a church history perspective, that Sunday typically marks the first Sunday in Advent. That’s why the first Sunday after Thanksgiving is a perfect time to introduce Christmas music.
But, you don’t want to jump immediately to making ALL of your music Christmas music. In fact, you want to slowly add it to your service. That’s why I suggest that on this first Sunday, you just do one Christmas song, maybe two depending on how much music you include in your service. And remember rule #2 . . .
#2 – PLAN CREATIVELY FOR HOW YOU WILL WEAVE CHRISTMAS MUSIC INTO THE FLOW OF YOUR SERVICE.
A great way to keep Christmas music fresh each year is to ensure that the music fits into the flow of your existing worship service. If you just carve out 12 minutes at the beginning to sing Christmas songs, yes you will scratch the itch, but the power of the music can be lost. So consider these two options:
- Integrate Christmas songs with other worship songs you are singing. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to move exclusively to Christmas music at the beginning of December. Rather, weave a Christmas song or two into the fabric of your worship set, especially early in December.
For example, you may sing 2 upbeat worship songs that don’t necessarily connect to the Christmas season, and then make a transition to a slower song. In the middle of that slower song, work in the refrain “O Come Let Us Adore Him”.
By seamlessly adding in Christmas music, you help your congregation connect with the power of these songs in their every-day lives, and not just a specific time of year.
- Be on the look-out for new versions of the Christmas classics each year. You may love that upbeat, feel-good version of “Joy to the World”, but you may also want to find a new way to make that song meaningful this Christmas. Look for a slowed down, acoustic version.
OR, do what I do . . . I may plan a couple different versions of the same Christmas song during the same season. What was a celebration song last Sunday could become a quiet commitment song this Sunday. Your congregation will love this fresh approach and the song will be meaningful in new ways when you do this.
- Turn current worship songs into Christmas songs. Songs like “Here I am to Worship” (Tim Hughes), “O Praise Him” (David Crowder Band), and “Jesus Messiah” (Chris Tomlin) can double as Christmas songs when placed in the right set with more traditional Christmas songs, or set up by you as the pastor or worship leader.
By planning creatively, you can help people experience a fresh experience of Christmas without just drudging through the same ol’ renditions of Christmas carols.
#3 – AS YOU DRAW CLOSER TO CHRISTMAS, INCREASE THE NUMBER OF CHRISTMAS SONGS IN YOUR WORSHIP SET.
The second Sunday of December I would probably do a 50/50 split of Christmas music and current worship music. Then 75/25 the next week. By doing so, you are raising the anticipation of what’s to come – and that’s exactly what Advent is about.
Then the Sunday leading up to Christmas we would do all Christmas music PLUS look to incorporate other elements to keep it fresh. You can only sing “Silent Night” so many times before it starts to lose it’s appeal. So look for opportunities to add creative elements to your worship set.
Ask one of your team members to read a portion of the Christmas story in the middle of the worship set. Include a testimony, video, personal story about Christmas, or even dance in the Christmas worship set.
There are plenty of ideas (I outline even more in my new Planning Powerful Christmas Services Special Report – download it FREE here).
#4 – WRAP UP CHRISTMAS MUSIC BY THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
Ever notice how on Christmas Eve, no matter how long radio stations have been playing Christmas music, that’s still all you want to listen to? But for some reason on December 26, you’re ready to put it to rest until next year. The same is true for Christmas music in your church.
Again, depending on what day Christmas falls, you should plan to wrap up Christmas music by the following Sunday.
Here’s my rule of thumb:
- If Christmas falls between Thursday – Friday, we will sing some Christmas songs that Sunday.
- If Christmas is on Saturday or Sunday, it will be 100% Christmas songs!
- If Christmas falls between Monday – Wednesday, it can be a little strange to continue singing Christmas music several days after Christmas has past. After all, the Advent season does end on Christmas Day.
So, as you plan your music for Christmas think about how you can begin introducing these great seasonal songs into your worship services, AND how you can keep them fresh!
Your partner in ministry,
Download your Free “Planning Powerful Christmas Services” special report here.
I wrote this report after planning a decade of Christmas services with our team here at The Journey and having received so many questions about this topic in my coaching networks. I have captured some the most important lessons we’ve learned in the process and put them in this special report for you.
In this Special Report, you will discover:
- Three MUST KNOW Christmas planning principles
- How to involve your volunteer team in the Christmas planning process
- How to overcome the desire for “opulence” and strive for “excellence”
- The basic ingredients for powerful Christmas services . . . and how to add in additional creative elements
- How to select music for the Christmas season
- When to schedule volunteers and/or hired musicians for your Christmas services
- And much more!
Christmas services can be some of the most memorable, and life-transforming services you do all year. But not if they are put together last minute, without a spark of creativity to capture the wonder of Christmas.
Whether you are preparing for the advent season, producing your own Christmas production, or need some ideas for your Christmas Eve service, don’t let another year go by just doing the same thing you did last year.
This special report can you help you get started in planning your Christmas services and ensure that this year’s Christmas services are all that they can be.
Download your Free Planning Powerful Christmas Services special report here.
And if the special report is helpful for you, be sure to forward this email, TWEET, or Facebook this link for some other worship leaders you know would enjoy this limited time free report.
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