A simple carols service is one of the most effective ways to share the Good News of Christmas with a range of people from both inside and outside the church. Incredibly, almost everyone (even secretly) loves coming along to sing carols! Despite living in an era in which fewer people identify as Christians, it is amazing that still so many are delighted to join in and sing perhaps the highest christology that would ever pass our lips! It’s also an opportunity to be less formal and more accessible – an important ‘entry point’ for people who may have never been to a church before.
At St Bart’s, we’ve found that a simple one-hour service, followed by refreshments of fruit (fruit, fruit cake, and fruit punch) is an incredible opportunity to welcome people in a non-threatening way. We hold the service mid-week, usually in the last week of the school term, as this is often a slightly quieter time (and before everyone goes away). Over the years, we’ve also found that our own parishioners are increasingly comfortable in inviting other people along. We hold the carols inside (now over two nights) because it means that things are less weather dependent, it helps create more intimate engagement with people, and it’s a first step in making St Bart’s familiar. God has used these carol services in ways that we could only previously have dared to imagine – there has been some extraordinary Gospel fruit, including people coming to faith, returning to the life of a local church, and taking another step towards Jesus.
Over the years, we’ve used the following guidelines when planning our ‘Carols by Glow Stick’:
Missional: The clear focus is sharing the Good News of Jesus. That happens through the songs, kids talk, Bible reading, brief message, and also prayer. We don’t start planning until we have an event prayer team in place to help ensure that our focus is on God.
Welcoming: People should receive an amazing welcome (beginning online, when they arrive in the carpark, as they enter the building, and then extending afterwards).
Multi-Generational: There should be opportunities for all generations to engage. This means that we design a more contemporary and informal service to reach a broader demographic. (We do love the traditional lessons and carols too, but it’s just not the focus of this event.)
Excellence: Everything we do should be simple but high quality.
Succinct: We keep to 1 hourfor the actual service. We recognise that it’s a busy time of year, people are tired, and we would love people to leave still wanting more (not less!). We also don’t want to hinder people from staying afterwards by making it too late.
Invitational: Our people are encouraged to be invitational(by sharing flyers and also via social media such as Facebook). Making it easy for people (e.g., good quality promotional material), building their confidence (through positive experiences each year), and modelling (e.g., interviewing people on their experience of how to invite someone) is helpful.
Free: We don’t charge for tickets, glow sticks, any gifts, or refreshments – the night is a small but sincere gift to all who attend (however, we do have a bowl for gifts in the foyer, as many people ask to make a contribution and we want to honour their request).
Intentional: During the service we invite people to our Christmas Services (flyers are handed out afterwards) and also offer follow-up via expression of interest cards (e.g., a short four-week course on Jesus). Many people have responded!
Generous: We offer a small gift with a simple Gospel message to all who come along (see the example linked below) that helps families (of all shapes and sizes) to be discipled. Last year we produced sets of cards with some really practical ways to prepare for Christmas in a meaningful way. This was inexpensive but very much appreciated.
Relational: The time afterwards (refreshments) isn’t just an ‘add-on’, but a key opportunity for engagement and great Gospel conversations. Having a photo booth is a terrific point of contact and also an appreciated gift (we print out the photo and put it on an attractive card - with magnet - with some information about children and families activities at St Bart’s) that will end up on people’s fridges.
Video of Kids Talk (see below - unfortunately there were some audio problems)
Other Videos for Carols made by St Bart’s Kids (below)