I have discovered over the last several years a surprising source of energy in the preparations for our church’s Christmas Eve worship service. Relative newcomers to the church become the best source of volunteer support for this special night of worship.
Typically, one month before Christmas Eve, I begin making general announcements in worship about the need and importance of Christmas Eve greeter and hospitality support. (I learned the hard way that many of our regular volunteers leave town at Christmas.) When issuing the invitation, I remind the congregation of the many visitors we receive, most from out of town, and how helpful it is to have a friendly face at our entrances and at the hospitality table after worship (where, in Miami fashion, we eat cookies and drink hot chocolate outside in the garden).
Relative newcomers to the church become the best source of volunteer support for Christmas Eve worship.
What surprised me a few years ago, when I started making a more public appeal for assistance, is that many who volunteered were newcomers to the church. By and large they were also new to Miami. It caught my attention that perhaps some were spending the holidays in a new city alone and distant from family. Others seemed excited to participate in a Christmas Eve service for the first time in a new church home. Whatever the reason, I was thrilled with this development.
Currently, because the public appeal provides more than enough volunteers each year, I also send word to our regular ushers and greeters that they can have the night off. I know if the regulars are present, it tends to leave the newcomers with little to do. I also know our regular volunteers need a break. So I kindly thank them for always being willing to serve and ask them to celebrate with me the willingness of the new volunteers to be present on such an important night.
When Christmas Eve arrives, I make it a point to be the one who greets the volunteers as they arrive in advance of the service. I do this in order to thank them personally and to cast the vision for what our church hopes Christmas Eve will be like for our congregation and visitors. I remind them that we are in downtown Miami and our guests will include people coming straight from the beach as well as our homeless brothers and sisters. I want the new volunteers to be prepared. I also want them to be excited to welcome people into a unique and diverse church home on Christmas Eve.
Finally, I commit each year to sending an email on Christmas Day to all of those who volunteered the night before. I thank them for going out of their way to serve God and others on Christmas Eve, and I ask them prayerfully to consider becoming a regular part of our greeting or hospitality team.