The Ghost of Christmas' Past
About five years ago we decided to start trying to put a little extra “oomph” into our Christmas services. We’d been doing a Christmas concert for years but it wasn’t part of our weekend service experience and it wasn’t really a big focus for us as a church. It was a concert filled with typical Christmas music on a Wednesday night. One of the first ideas we came up with shortly after forming our creative team in 2005 was to really expand our Christmas experience. Since then, our Christmas services have really become a huge deal around here and a lot of effort and planning go into crafting them.
Obviously, we’re not the only church who does this. We know that, like us, so many of you are working really hard right now to put together some incredible Christmas experiences for your communities and, like us, you’re sweating every song, every word, every video, and every detail. So here’s the deal. I thought it’d be fun to post our last five Christmas services in an effort to show the journey that we’ve been through the last five years and to hopefully spark some creative thinking for you and your team.
You’ll notice straight away that we’ve come a long way since 2005! You’ll also notice that some things worked really well and some... not so well, but I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything because they’ve been a great teacher. Really, this was our first attempt at anything like this and I’ll be honest, we were so proud of this service. We started planning this thing so late, we had no production budget, and the stage was made up of a giant REAL Christmas tree and fiber optic curtain.
This year we hired Daniel Connell as our lighting designer. We were so impressed with the job he did that we hired him! The opening sketch was heavily influenced by a Willow Creek sketch and watching it back it seems REALLY LONG! We went for a big band feel and it’s a little on the cheesy side, but the trade off is that the big band is always pretty warm.
This year was the first time we’d really jumped into the world of giant video screens and I’ll tell you, it was a lot harder to work with than what we ever anticipated. The challenge we ran into was making the stage feel warm. The giant video wall just felt a little soulless and we worked really hard to warm things up. We experimented with some cool ideas like putting the choir on video that worked pretty well. This set really had a pretty big wow factor and we got a lot of great feedback but putting it together was a nightmare (it weighed something like 30,000 pounds) for us and our production team.
For this year we really scaled back our Christmas production. We were just relaunching an outreach that we do at our camp (Dry Gulch U.S.A.) called The Christmas Train which reaches about 50,000 people a year. We hadn’t done the Christmas Train for the previous 3 years and so we went with a much more scaled back version knowing that much of our time would be spent getting the Christmas Train up and running.
2009 Celebrate With Family
We had just finished remodeling our auditorium in October and we knew we really wanted to do something special. For the first time ever we really tried to combine our Christmas Train outreach and our Christmas services and we saw a huge impact. We were packed out in every service until a GIANT blizzard blew through on Christmas eve. All in all we were really happy with the way our first ever Celebrate With Family event turned out.