Christmas is a week away! As Catholic churches around the world prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, we remember that “the regulars” – Mary and Joseph – were not alone that Christmas night. While there was no room in the inn, there was space in the stable to welcome the shepherds.
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Midnight Mass…tis the season for fuller pews. How can your parish best handle the influx and prepare an inviting celebration for all?
Prepare Your Christmas Parking Lot
If as guest arrives and the parking lot experience is terrible, “this is why I don’t come to church” might echo in their head. Send a quick reminder via text message, push notification, or email to your parishioners reminding them to arrive early for Christmas Mass and park a little further away. This will allow easy access to your church for your Christmas visitors. Use this simple template for your Christmas parking lot message:
This Christmas, we are asking all of you to arrive a little early to Mass. For those who are able, we’d ask you to park a little further away at the [PARKING INFORMATION]. We are going to have many visitors this Christmas and we’d like to make their experience fantastic! Hold doors, sit in the middle of the pew, and say Merry Christmas to your neighbor.
Our Christmas Masses are [TIME]. Thanks for your help creating a welcoming community at [PARISH NAME] this joyous season.
Reinforce Your Greeters
How many people typically hold open doors and hand out bulletins each Sunday? Consider adding to your hospitality numbers for the Christmas Masses. Having additional greeters offers greater flexibility and ensures that everyone is welcomed. If a few people get caught up in brief conversations with old friends, returning college students, or the Sunday regulars, there are plenty of others on hand to look a newcomer in the eye.
Extra Up-Front Presence
Do you typically save announcements for the end of Mass? Consider having a lector or cantor serve as an initial “MC” of sorts. Ten, twenty, or thirty minutes before Mass, extend a warm welcome and encourage parishioners to move to the center of the pews to accommodate newcomers. Include a greeting again before Mass begins when announcing the opening song.
Build Your Bulletin With Visitors in Mind
Oftentimes the parish bulletin can serve as a parish message board or events repository. When you prepare your bulletin for the Christmas season, consider: “If I hadn’t been to Mass in almost a year, what would draw me to read this?” Perhaps the pastor could write a “welcome back” message in addition to his normal weekly letter. Remember that images catch the eye more quickly than text, so consider placing a beautiful image prominently on the cover, or including attractive art throughout. Rather than a dense list of parish events, perhaps leave out a few this time around! Focus on including events that might appeal to newcomers or Catholics coming home after quite some time. Social events, RCIA classes, or family programs would be great events to emphasize in color, with larger fonts, more details, and attractive imagery. Are you an LPi bulletin customer? Visit our Art & Media Portal for a variety of vibrant options.
Remember, a Christmas visitor can become a lifelong parishioner and growing disciple. A little extra time preparing now can have an eternal effect. May your Christmas preparations be smooth and your celebration be bright!