Christmas and Easter are notorious for bringing in newcomers to church as they follow old traditions or join loved ones for a Mass.
It’s a unique time where we can capture the attention of those who may not know the personal experience of knowing Jesus.
Even more than just inviting them to participate in the service, we want to serve them as Jesus would and remind them they belong in your parish, and not just as a visitor.
Here are some ways that you can make newcomers feel right at home during Christmas.
Gather around food.
Food is great common ground for anyone to connect. It doesn’t have to be a meal, but offering things like food or drink before or after Mass is a great way to find common ground and serve people.
Some ideas for places to host food:
- Scones and coffee before mass
- Run Alphas in the New Year and take the opportunity of Christmas mass to invite them to a night of food, community, and conversation
- Host Christmas celebrations for the community around your church’s geographical location
- Encourage parishioners to gather neighbours, family members, and friends for meals after Mass
Serve initial needs first.
Do people need financial support? Emotional support? A community to gather with during the holidays? Focus on meeting those needs before anything else.
Of course, this can be a hard thing to approach with someone you’ve only met. Here are some ideas about how to approach people’s needs:
- Announce a food donation sign-up within your parish community
- Host Christmas dinners open to all (even better, host it at the church after mass to make it an easy transition)
- Provide pew cards that ask about any needs the church can provide in order to gauge needs and help avoid any shame in someone asking for help
Have volunteers go out and bring people in.
If someone hasn’t been to church in awhile, walking into a church can feel intimidating or foriegn. Go out of the building to walk people in, engage them in conversation, and help them find someone to sit with during the mass. This can remind newcomers this is a place they don’t have to just visit but could belong.
Some key parts to making this invitation easy:
- Find volunteers who have gifts in hospitality and can make people feel at ease
- Find volunteers who are willing to sit with newcomers
- Place volunteers outside the church building and inside to make sure there’s a friendly face as they come in
- Connect with newcomers after the service to see how they enjoyed the service, what their plans are for Christmas, if they are in need of any support (see the second point)
Remember where they are coming from.
In all our interactions, it’s important to get outside our own tasks and to-do lists and think about what might be going on in someone’s life. Are they nervous to come to church? Feeling guilty? Reluctant? Are they worried about the holidays? Feeling tired from the stress of the pandemic? From their job?
Some questions that could help:
- What do you do for work? How do you like it? Has it been impacted by COVID at all?
- What are your Christmas plans? Are you spending it with family or friends?
- How did you enjoy the Mass? Do you know anyone else here?
- Would you join our Christmas celebration or next Mass?