Should We Avoid Experimentation During Christmas Services?

A Church in Winter

Avoid Experiments (Slide from Stephen Brewster)

This is a slide from a talk that Stephen Brewster (Creative Director at gave at the past Echo Conference. His session was entitled, “How I Ruined Easter & Developing Your Creative Process”. With a title like that, how could I not pay attention?

I don’t know if my Dad told me this but I once heard somewhere say that, “Experience is the second best teacher. Learning from someone else’s experience is far less painful.”

This is what Stephen says about what would go down as a pretty sizable creative failure during a very important weekend.

Two Easter’s ago the Cross Point creative team had the idea to have a 4-minutes spoken word video.  They found a Grammy nominated rapper to write it.  Built worship set around it.  Built the service around it.  After the first run through they realized they made a great Good Friday piece but something that was terrible for Easter morning.  They realized their planning process failed, so they created a new one. [HT:]

Several years ago, I read a blog post by Maurilio Amorin that sticks with me to this day. Which says a lot, since I’ve since moved and changed jobs. It was called, “How to Screw Up Christmas 5 Different Ways“. It was his third point which discussed the mistake of going ‘cutting edge’ creative that got me thinking.

… When it comes to Christmas, I’m looking for traditional, warm, chestnuts-roasting-on-an-open-fire type of service. And most of everybody else is looking for the same thing as well. A lot of people I talk with around Christmas time are displaced from most of their families and are looking to make traditions of their own. Christmas Eve, for those of us, is a very sentimental time, and we want to feel like George and Mary Bailey and not like Homer and Marge Simpson.

All that being said, what do you think? How do you approach the tension of making Christmas special without trying too many new things? Or do you think that Christmas weekend is the perfect time for new and unique creative elements? Ready, set, comment!

[Thumbnail via MEJones on]


Blane Young

Blane is a former Communications Pastor who now works with college students as a Campus Missionary with Chi Alpha at American University. He considers himself to be the second funniest person alive, fairly humble and an incredible chef because he once owned a recipe book for Ramen Noodles. He is happily married and is enjoying adjusting to life in Washington, DC.

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  1. says

    I think a better way to phrase it than “don’t experiment” (which to me has a connotation of “don’t be creative”) is “focus on your strengths”. We will be having live painting take place on Christmas Eve, but it’s part of a series we’re doing all through Advent, and the artist paints about once a month for us throughout the year. Certainly in some churches this would be experimental, but for us it’s one of the strengths we’re able to lean on.

    So, yes, live animals in the nativity or a traveling dance troupe might be a little much, but don’t just settle on a “safe and boring” Christmas Eve service. Remember, Advent may be a season of expectation, but it’s also a season of surprise. =)

    • Chandos says

      It’s funny that you mention live animals, cause for a long time we’ve been known as the church with the live nativity, and this is the first year we’re NOT doing it. We’re a little nervous about it :)

        • Chandos says

          We didn’t announce anything this year, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Usually we’d have a ton of people come just to see what the heck was going on…why there were camels in the parking lot. A couple of weeks ago, we had a free Advent worship event with the band the Brilliance as sort of our outreach to the community. It went over really well and let us bring up our Christmas eve service to people that might not have normally heard/known about it.

          And our really big push for this Christmas….is Santa….St. Nick is showing up to tell a little about his story (about the actual Saint Nicholas) and then tell the nativity story. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes over :)

    • says

      I like the way you put it, “a season of expectation and a season of surprise”. Although I tend to be an either/or person, I feel like finding a balance in this area might be the best bet. However, I do like Christmas services that lean to the traditional even in a church that is more edgy or contemporary.

      • says

        I think there is healthy “rooted-ness” in churches normally on the contemporary end of the spectrum going with a traditional Christmas service. The surprise, if your church normally does big and loud well, might be going still and small on Christmas Eve. You know, kind of like the God of the Universe being born in a manger. =)

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