I’ve talked with loads of ministry people lately and asked them their feelings about planning for the holidays while in the midst of increasing pandemic numbers. Three commonly heard words? “Anxious,” “overwhelmed,” yet “hopeful.”
It was encouraging to hear the “hopeful.” Will our celebrations look different this year Thanksgiving through Advent into Christmas? Yes and out of love for our people, it’s our best form of hospitality to offer church goers the safest environment we can.
Are the holidays ruined? Of course not; Emmanuel (God with Us) has come! What if the needed simplicity of 2020 is the year we keenly focus on the Love That Came Down at Christmas?
We know that the CDC is recommending we avoid large family-type gatherings this year for the holidays. Here’s a list of COVID-safe ideas you can do at home, as a church, at a safe socially distanced event, etc. During this time don’t forget about the loneliest of our congregations, the elderly. Find ways to infuse connections with our older members.
- Christmas Card Project: Have families create 10-12 Christmas cards, then package them into gift bags for shut ins so that they have a card to open each day of December.
- Reverse Hanging of the Greens: Plan a church Zoom service where lessons and Scriptures are shared about the tree lights, wreaths, garland, ornaments, the nativity, etc. Altogether, each family will hang their wreaths, turn on the trees, put up that special ornament, etc. What a special moment of sharing with each other!
- Resource your families for Advent: My friends at LeaderTreks have a devo with a daily page, a space for journaling your answers to questions, and then a weekly family activity based on the daily devotions. I’d get one for the whole student ministry. Even better, every member of the church, then create a Facebook page to post comments and pictures from the daily/weekly work. https://www.leadertreks.org/product/the-wondrous-gift/
- Breakfast with Santa: What if donut holes, a box of hot chocolate packets, and a few craft projects were delivered to each family? Then everyone Zoom’s in to do the crafts, eat the snacks while listening to the Christmas story, and then…(drumroll): a special man in red ho-ho-hos into the meeting? Fun!
- Virtual Nativity Pageant: Divide up the parts of the Christmas story among families, give them costumes, have them record themselves, and send you the clips. Put together the story and have a special night with popcorn and pajamas to premier the pageant.
- Christmas Eve: We know we can’t pack into the Sanctuary like years past. What we can do is offer more services and have people register to keep safe numbers. For virtual worship, we can borrow from dramas, choir anthems, bells, readings, etc., from past years and fill in with a new message and candle-lighting. Insert a children’s message or also reshow the recorded nativity pageant.
Offering our congregations a safe version of its most favorite traditions will be key to negating any sense of loss or anxiety the season could bring. I wouldn’t be surprised if we do something different this year out of necessity…and we love it so much, it becomes a new tradition.
Stephanie Caro has been involved in ministry to children, youth, and adults in the local church (both large and small) for a long, long time (35+ years). Her humorous, straightforward style keeps her busy presenting and coaching at conferences, training events, camps, mission trips, retreats, churches, etc. She is now Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects, which allows her to help churches assess, vision, and formulate their ministry game plans.