Prepare for Christmas in September
Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan
In 2003 we offered a unique series of messages during December to help people deal with the shopping, traffic, deadlines, and family gatherings that make the Christmas season so stressful. We broke from familiar tradi¬tions and delivered an unexpected experience called Blue Man Christmas. Each week, with assistance from the real Blue Man Group (www.blueman. com), we featured three bald and blue characters who took the audience through a multisensory experience that combined drama, percussive music, and several crazy stunts to encourage people to slow down the rhythm of life in order to enjoy the Christmas season. The series captured people’s attention and allowed us to share with them a life-changing relationship with Jesus.
Blue Man Christmas, not unlike other message series at Granger, included a fairly elaborate set design, music and drama that supported the messages, small-group studies tied to the message topics, video transi¬tions, and plenty of promotions to encourage people to invite their friends. To complement the personal invitations, we also designed a direct-mail campaign to the community to let people outside the church know about the new series. The Web site was updated with promotional information, and we included previews of the series in our e-newsletters. It was a well-orchestrated effort that involved well over 100 staff members and volunteers over a two- to three-month period.
Pulling off this type of comprehensive effort begins with the senior pastor. Before all that creativity kicks into gear, the senior pastor must commit to a certain topic. Months before the message is actually prepared and delivered, the senior pastor must include others in the service preparation.
We can leverage the creative horsepower of hundreds of staff and vol¬unteer members to deliver an amazing service experience each weekend that complements the message because the speaking pastor has agreed to allow the team to participate in the process. He has given up the freedom to select and prepare a message at the last minute in order to gain the benefit of the team’s contributions. Some might argue last-minute preparation allows the Holy Spirit to direct the service. However, if you allow him, the Holy Spirit can guide service preparation months in advance to create an experience that will powerfully affect lives and draw people to God.
Here’s a broad overview of the planning schedule we use for each weekend series at Granger:
• Prior to each new cal¬endar year—We map out the general teaching topics we want to cover and schedule blocks of three to six weeks for each mes¬sage series. Tim explains this in detail in Chapter 37, “A Sched¬ule That Simplifies.”
• Two to three months before the series—The senior management team brainstorms the ideas for the new series, including the main theme, such as Blue Man Christmas.
• Six to eight weeks before the series—The senior management team decides the specific message titles and topics, and the creative-arts teams begin brainstorming specific service elements to complement the messages.
• Four weeks before the series—The communications team devel¬ops the promotional postcard and begins preparing graphics and stories to include on the Web site, e-newsletter, and press releases. The media team begins creating video elements including short teasers to promote the upcoming series in weekend services.
• Two weeks before the series—Set design begins on the plat¬form in the auditorium, and music and drama scripts are distributed to the artist teams.
• One week before the series—The promotional postcard is included in the weekend bulletin, and in most cases it’s mailed to the community. The Web site is updated, and a feature story runs in the weekly newsletter. The service programs are designed to pull in graphical ele¬ments from the series’ theme. The artists rehearse, and final preparations are made for staging and lighting.
As you can see, a number of teams work closely together before the message is prepared to pull together the weekend-service experience. That’s why it’s critical to decide early what’s going to happen on future weekends. And that’s why it’s important to decide in September what you’re going to do during the Christmas season. —Tony
The above article, “Prepare for Christmas in September” was written by Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan. The article was excerpted from chapter 40 in their book, Strategic Growth.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”