11 ideas to make your Carol Service sparkle
They call it ‘the greatest story ever told.’ It's full of drama, there's a hint of scandal, a cast of colourful characters and even a donkey.
But the birth of Jesus is a great story because it's a true story, ‘good news of great joy for all people.’ Your CU carol service is a brilliant chance to share this brilliant news with your friends and your campus, so you obviously want to make the most of it! Here are eleven ideas to help you do that...
1. Your mission starts here
A carol service can be a lovely way to round off a busy term, but it's also a key opportunity to introduce your friends to Jesus. If you have a mission week in the spring, try to see your carol service as the first event. Invite your mission speaker so your friends get a chance to meet them.
And think carefully about how you'll help your interested friends to take things further. The Christmas story is a great introduction to Uncover John, and a gospel or a book addressing difficult questions (such as this) makes a great Christmas gift!
2. Think BIG
This will be the easiest invitation of the year by far, so think big and plan big! You could even offer to host a carol service on behalf of the whole university, or at least see if they will publicise it.
3. Keep it traditional...
Most people are happy to come to a carol service because they know what to expect – singing along to songs they sort-of-know, the Christmas story and a festive message. And international students will love experiencing a quaint bit of British culture. At Christmas people love a bit of tradition, so give them some.
4. ...But don't be afraid to mix things up
Tradition is great, but you can still be inventive. A new twist on a familiar carol, Bible readings in multiple languages or a quirky venue can go down really well. You could include drama, film clips, poetry, or videos like this one or this one.
5. Location is everything
Think carefully about where you hold your carol service. A draughty old church would usually be a turn off for most of our friends, but at Christmas it can be the perfect venue. Or choose a large central space that your friends will be willing to travel to on a cold winter's night. You need somewhere that can hold plenty of people, where you can make lots of noise, and ideally where you can serve refreshments afterwards.
6. Create an atmosphere
Whether you decide to head for tinseltown or an evergreen winter wonderland, decorations can make all the difference. Nothing kills the festive mood like a magnolia lecture theatre, but some well-placed fairy lights can transform even the most uninspiring space.
7. Keep things old school
Singing along to words on a screen is pretty weird if you aren't used to it, so print some old-fashioned handouts of your carols and Bible readings. Make them as attractive as you can so your friends will take them away, and include CU contact details and info about upcoming events.
8. Share the love
You can give your carol service a real community feel by involving other groups on campus. Think about asking a band or choir to perform something, or getting an SU officer or the Vice Chancellor to do one of the Bible readings.
9. Add some festive cheer
Serving refreshments after your carol service is a great way to show love and a generous welcome to your guests, and it gives everyone a chance to talk about what they've heard. Mulled wine and mince pies always go down well, and your lovely local churches will be delighted to provide them! But there are loads of other options too – could you introduce an international flavour with stollen, pan de pascua or vánocní cukroví?
10. Make a night of it
Encourage CU members to cook a Christmas dinner for their friends beforehand, or to go out for a meal or a drink afterwards.
11. Spread the word
Make sure you invite your friends, but also think about how you can let the rest of campus know. You could:
- Go carol singing around the campus, handing out invitations as you go.
- Host a talk at lunchtime on a Christmassy theme, such as ‘Virgin on the ridiculous: did the Christmas story really happen?’ or ‘Jesus vs Santa’.
- Give out mince pies or gingerbread (with flyers) between lectures.
- Make a giant Christmas card for your campus and invite people to write a seasonal message to the rest of the uni.
- Organise a festive flashmob in the centre of campus – you could get friends in the gospel choir or drama society to help out.
- Set up a live nativity scene somewhere visible (baby/donkey optional).
Gareth Leaney is a Team Leader for Friends International, where he works alongside international students in Bournemouth.
Planning your carol service? We've got load of resources to help you.
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