Question: What costs £7million, is filmed in July and merits a specially created smartphone app, storybook and (overpriced) range of soft toys?
Answer: The John Lewis Christmas Advert.
With their cute penguins, heart-warming children and genuinely emotive storylines, there's a lot to be enjoyed about the department store’s seasonal marketing campaign launched every November. To some, it might seem all rather overblown, but the time and expense it requires to create is clearly worth it. Christmas represents a huge opportunity for the company, who make well over £700million of sales over the Christmas period.
A bigger opportunity
We know that Christmas is an even greater opportunity for our churches: perhaps the biggest opportunity we have to tell people in our communities about the God who stepped into human history to bring peace on earth.
Even in the face of continued secularisation, carol services continue to have an enduring appeal—and that’s not to mention school assemblies, community fairs and other special events and parties where we might be a gospel witness. The opportunities are many—so we need to think carefully about how to make the most of them.
While no one’s expecting a smartphone app or tie-in soft-toy range for your Christmas outreach, it is good to ask the question: What could we do that is fresh or different so that more people hear the good news than did last year? What could you do to further publicise your Christmas services?
Perhaps it’s something as simple as putting up posters in shop windows, invites through doors, or an advert in your local newspaper. Perhaps you could pay for some social media advertising targeted to your local area. Or you could arrange an interview on local radio, carol singing or handing out flyers at the supermarket. Or maybe it’s a new emphasis on giving personal invitations to friends and neighbours that’s most needed.
Christmas is also a great time to get gospel material into the hands of non-Christians. Who could you—or your congregation—reach out to with books and tracts that explain what Christmas is really about? There are some great options available – how about A very different Christmas by Rico Tice? Or How to have a happy Christmas?
It does matter what it looks like
The gospel message is ancient yet timeless—but it’s never old-fashioned. So our church publicity shouldn’t look dated either. We can glorify God by presenting the good news in a way that looks attractive—and so do justice to a gospel message that is truly beautiful. Invites that look genuinely inviting can go some way to challenging preconceptions about boring church services in draughty buildings. They give a reassuring indication of the type of people newcomers are likely to meet if they dare to cross the church threshold. And good publicity inspires confidence in church members who are nervous about giving out invitations.
Three ways to get the ball rolling
So, perhaps it’s time to get the ball rolling on your Christmas campaign. Whether you’re a church leader or church member, here are three things to get started with:
Church leaders: If you’re a church leader, sorting out flyers, posters and tracts doesn't have to be your job. Is there someone in your congregation who you could delegate to?
Church members: Who handles your church’s publicity? Could you offer to help? Perhaps offer to arrange for something new or extra this year, on top of what they usually do. They’ll likely thank you for it!
Church leaders: A beautiful Christmas campaign won’t come free, but it will be money well spent. Budget ahead so that you don’t have to cut corners.
Church members: If money is an issue for your church, is publicity something you could give specifically for? Could you plan to sponsor an advert, or pay for this year’s service invitations, as part of your giving this Christmas?
Church leaders: The further you plan ahead, the further church members can pray ahead for the friends and neighbours they want to invite. Sharing your Christmas plans as they develop will be a massive encouragement in this.
Church members: Get praying! Perhaps think of three specific people you long would hear the good news this Christmas, and then resolve to pray regularly for them.
A well-planned and executed publicity campaign will bring more people under the sound of the gospel this Christmas—a much better place to be, even than John Lewis.
December 1st, 2017 - Posted & Written by The Editor