Tony Miltenberger is a husband, father, and follower of Christ. He is currently serving as the lead pastor at Restoration Church Centerville, ohio.

Practical Tips for Surviving Christmas Eve at Church

Listen, I get it, there are a lot of things that happen around the holidays. Some of them are tradition, some of them are fun, some of them are even fun traditions. As a pastor, one of the things I’ve learned that there is a large portion of the community who will come to church on Christmas Eve.

For some of you this may be the only night of the year you come to church. For some of you this is your chance to explore your faith.  I also understand that on Christmas Eve there is a large portion of the church family who get frustrated with all these people taking up spots! I recognize that you are at the church every week, and all these visitors don’t know the unwritten rules. 

No judgment here. Faith is hard. Having your normal routine disrupted is hard. Merging all of this together on one night is hard. 

So with this blog post I thought I would give you some practical tips for surviving Christmas Eve:

1. Dress in layers. Churches are big buildings, and it is hard to maintain a constant temperature in them. When you add a bunch of people to the room, it is even harder to maintain. Having a layer to take off, or put on, is something that might make the evening more enjoyable.

2. Get there early. Crowds and space can be daunting. If you don’t like either, it is perfectly okay for you to show up early and just enjoy the space. This will also give you a chance to find the bathrooms.  And, here are some helpful vocab words you might encounter:

            Narthex = space outside of where the church service is actually held. (It is always okay to walk into a door that says Narthex.)

            Sanctuary = where the church service is actually being held, sometimes called the worship area. (It is better listen at the door and make sure you aren’t walking into something that seems like a service already happening.  This is especially important if you are running late.)

            Sacristy = room where the church stores stuff for worship. (Don’t go in there because it is likely full of people hurriedly rushing around.)

            Vestibule = very similar to narthex. (Again, this is always safe.)

3. Take in the space. In every church I’ve ever been in the space means something. On Christmas Eve it is usually looking its best. Drink it in. I can almost guarantee that everything means something. Not sure what it means? Google it! The more you know the more engaging it will feel.

4. Don’t judge. Whether you are a long-time church member or a first-time visitor, just know that everyone is stressed and doing their best. I’m sorry if someone yelled at you or gave your baby a dirty look. MOST of the time the majority of us try to be nice, but the heightened tensions of Christmas Eve can lead us all to stressful reactions. I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me.

5. Remember January 8th. This year, Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on Sunday. So most churches won’t get back to their normal routine till January 8th. If you like what you see, or don’t like what you see come back on January 8th to see how it pans out. If it is a good church, January 8th will really tell you if you like it or not.

6. Participate. I’m just going to be honest, this one will make or break your experience. If you stand there like a rock it will feel like a rock. If you participate you might feel something!!! This is especially true for long time church attenders: Please set the example! And if you are new, what do you have to lose? You aren’t going to see these people again anyway! By participating you open up yourself to the Holy Spirit, and new adventures.

7. Be nice. This one is important for life, but if you aren’t sure where to go, or what you should be doing, or if you aren’t sure if you want to be there, or if you want to leave – just be nice. If you are there all the time – just be nice. Being nice has the capacity to make everything less stressful. Just be nice.

That’s my list: What do you think? Did I leave anything off? Anything that has to be added? Leave your comments on Facebook.

And if you don’t have a place to go on Christmas Eve, we’d love to invite you to Centerville UMC! (click here for info.)

Merry Christmas!


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