A Very COVID Christmas
We made it to December, y’all. And now that the last of the leftovers have mercifully disappeared and the decorations have emerged from the attic, it’s time to turn our attention to Christmas services.
In years past, we’ve gone all-in on huge events like Christmas at DPAC, a multi-day worship experience at a local performing arts center. Last year we transitioned to Christmas with the Summit, utilizing our own facilities but maintaining a high level of engagement, broadcasting between sites.
And then there was 2020.
As with everything else this year, our cherished Christmas services have had to be reinvented. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the approach we’re taking:
1. Safety first.
From our beginning planning conversations, the safety of our congregation and community has been top of mind. The potential for a second wave, the natural advent of cold and flu season, and the necessity of masks and social distancing have informed plans for everything from programming to volunteers to locations.
As we plan for RSVPs and seating capacities and “stand here” signage, we’re doing so as an act of love for our city. We don’t want an elbow-to-elbow, standing-room-only crowd be a deterrent for someone to hear the gospel or a danger to someone more susceptible to COVID.
2. “Current normal, A+ quality, Christmas themed.”
That’s a term one of our staff members coined. In a year with so. many. changes, we decided to hold steady on our “current normal” so that we weren’t introducing yet another change to our staff and congregation.
That means our “special Christmas services” will happen on our current Thursday / Sunday schedule (December 17 and 20) at our permanent campuses. The only change we plan to make is adding a second gathering option on Sunday (currently we just have one meeting time).
We’re going to make sure the services are “A+ quality,” paying special attention to programming, guest engagement, and family focus. But we’re intentionally keeping the normal “Wow!” factor of a Christmas at DPAC at bay. Do we want people to want to come? Sure. Is it wise to lure in the thousands that normally come? Not this year.
3. Part-time volunteers
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know my stance on Christmas and Easter services: they’re a great time for “one-off” volunteers to dip their toe in the serving waters. In years past we’ve seen 1,500+ volunteers serve at DPAC, and we’ve encouraged them to “attend one, serve one” every year.
But this year, we’re taking a new approach: “full time / part time.” Full time serving (managing the entire service and a skeleton crew) will be handled by our staff, who are required to attend one, serve two. Part time serving will be handled by actual volunteers, who will attend and serve the same service. They’ll serve in the rush before we begin, and as the service starts will join their families inside. When the service is over, they’re dismissed to leave.
The “safety first” side of this means that we don’t have people hanging out in the building all day. Clearing out volunteers gives us time to clean the building between services. Serving and attending the same service means we don’t need to provide a Volunteer Headquarters and food.
Is there a drawback? Absolutely. Christmas services are something our volunteers love. For many it’s a family tradition to serve one or two or even all services. We don’t want to hijack our “attend one, serve one” plan in the years to come, and we know that’s a risk we’re taking.
Our Christmas services have always been family-friendly, because we could only provide childcare for the very youngest children due to capacities. In 2020, we’re incorporating all kids into the services, which will free up much-needed staff. Incidentally, if we were to provide childcare, it would be the first time our team has done so since March. We didn’t want a Christmas service to be the test run.
So we’re programming the services to be under 60 minutes in order to be family-friendly, because we know that Baby Liam can only celebrate the Baby Jesus for so long.
5. Online. Online. Online.
We know that our livestreaming and on-demand options will be what the majority of our congregation chooses. For that reason, a lot of eggs are going into that virtual basket. We want to make sure that the online experience is every bit as “A+” as in-person. We know that many will choose to watch that service as a part of their family gatherings, so we will highlight opportunities for first-time guests to connect with us in a meaningful way.
How are your Christmas services changing this year?