First impressions matter, right? With that in mind, we've put together a list of tips to help your guest experience stand out this Christmas.

Christmas is one of two times a year you have a large influx of guests … so let's make sure they’re getting the best possible experience from your church!

For many visitors, Christmas Eve might be their first time attending your church. This special season draws people who are seeking spiritual connection, hope and a sense of belonging. By providing a warm and inviting atmosphere, your church can effectively convey the message of Christ's love and the true meaning of Christmas. 

A good guest experience not only offers newcomers a glimpse into the church's values but it also creates a lasting impression that may influence their faith journey. When guests feel welcomed, comfortable and engaged, they are more likely to return for future services and activities. They’re also more likely to share their positive experience with friends and family, extending the reach of the church's ministry impact.

Here are 9 tips to boost your guest experience this year:

1. Get the Word Out.

First and foremost, people need to know your church exists. In 2023, people will find your church through a number of ways - Google, social media, word of mouth, your website, snail mail, etc., and you need to make sure you’re present in those spaces. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Have a landing page with key Christmas information such as service times, social media invite downloads and text and email prompts people can use to invite friends, family and neighbors. 
  • Advertise on social media and Google Ads. It doesn’t take much money to see impactful results on social media advertising. Google Ads are another great way to reach your community. If you’re not utilizing the Google Ads Grant yet, let us know and we can help you get set up.

2. Provide a Free, Fun, Meaningful Way to Connect Before Christmas.

The onboard ramp to your church doesn’t necessarily have to be through a weekend or Christmas Eve service. You can do this in other unique ways. 

One idea is to create a free downloadable Christmas packet with fun resources for individuals and families. It can include recipes, advent activities, a daily devotional, coloring sheets, and anything else you think could be special for someone searching for a church this Christmas. Place it on social media, your website and in online ads and make sure you require their email in exchange for the free download.

This means that you now have their information and can send them personalized messages inviting them to Christmas Eve services or another next step at your church.

3. Ensure You Know Who’s Coming.

Something we’ve seen churches do over the years that has yielded positive results is utilizing a Christmas Service reservation system. This allows guests and congregants to “save their seats'' in advance. It works well because it allows new people to have the peace of mind that there is a spot at your church just for them. If you have one or two services that tend to fill up quickly, it also helps individuals and families know which services are not full so they don’t come and get turned away or have to sit in an overflow area.

There are a few recommendations for “ticketing” sites you can use. First, you’ll want to have an idea of how you want to disperse tickets. In most cases, saving a spot is all that is needed so you’ll want a form with a registration cap. Software you’re already using such as Planning Center Online and Pushpay can do this. If you’re looking for a system where people can request their actual seats, this is where EventBrite and EventPro are more helpful. If you’re on Rock RMS, the reservation system is what you’ll want to use. 

4. Be Extra Welcoming.

Make sure you have friendly and approachable staff and volunteers stationed in the parking lot and at entrances to welcome guests, provide directions, and assist with any questions they may have. Utilize a special desk or area for guests to come ask questions, meet people, get some free swag or grab a cup of coffee and a snack.

5. Have Interactive Elements and Activities for All Ages.

Incorporate interactive elements like pre-service slides with fun Christmas trivia, silly activities, or Bible facts so guests can actively participate. Many times families go to church together on Christmas Eve, and while your church may offer childcare, not everyone might want to utilize it so be sure to have engaging activities and craft bags for children during services. This can help families feel more comfortable attending.

6. Give Clear Next Steps for Guests During Services.

Provide simple ways for guests to connect with your church. This can be done through verbal announcements and videos throughout the service. You can also provide connect cards that guests can fill out to receive more information about your church or express interest in getting involved. Remind them that after they fill it out they can stop by the welcome area (see above) to ask questions and get some free swag and/or snacks.

7. Provide a Photo Op.

This has been something that we’ve seen churches really latch onto in the past 5-10 years and, every year, people love it. By having a space in your building where families and friends can gather and take a nice photo shows that you care. You can even create a fun hashtag for people to utilize so you can find them and repost them on your church’s social media accounts.

8. Follow Up.

Reach out to guests after the service through email, text and/or a personal note thanking them for attending and providing more information about upcoming events. This will be easy to do if you’ve used a reservation system. In fact, we’ve seen that the reservation system yields a much higher success rate for churches than the pen-and-paper method.

It’s important to always be pointing people to the next step they can take with your church so they can continue growing in their relationship with Jesus, but don’t be one and done. Spread out your communication and check in with them every few weeks or months to keep inviting them to new opportunities.

9. Don’t Make it Weird.

It’s funny, yes, but it’s also true. Try to avoid anything that calls special attention to guests like making them stand up if they’re new. Christmas Eve services should be filled with joy and hope at what the meaning of Jesus’ birth means for us, so avoiding heavy sermons that leave the guest feeling sad or anxious is also something you’ll want to avoid. Just remember in all that you do, put your best foot forward.

If this sounds overwhelming or you don’t quite know where to start, just pick one or two. Our Fishhook team would also love to connect and help you take the next step to make a big impact this Christmas.