5 tips for good carol service follow-up
Christmas is perhaps the best opportunity in the whole of the calendar year for those who want to find out more about Jesus Christ to take that crucial first step towards hearing the gospel for the first time.
‘There is no doubt in my mind that Christmas is the easiest ask of the year,’ asserts Rico Tice, Associate Minister at All Souls Church, Langham Place. Last year 23,000 non-Christian students took this opportunity by attending a carol service hosted by their university’s Christian Union.
It may well be the easiest ask, but follow-up is also crucial for those who come to carol services. Former Rector at St Aldates and prolific carol service speaker Michael Green comments: ‘By itself a carol service will be ephemeral, but wisely used it can open the door to people coming again, and coming to Christ.’
Aside of hosting a beautifully presented event, there is no substitute for preparing to follow-up with seeking individuals. Izzie Sims, Secretary of Imperial College London CU says: ‘Christmas is a really busy time, which is why it's important to plan ahead! We always want to make sure that we have follow-up in place that we can offer, and that we contact people who've expressed interest as soon as we can. Making sure that you actually have something in place for people who want to find out more is important.’
Some attendees will be ready to profess faith then and there, but it should also be easy for someone who is not yet ready to commit to express interest in finding out more. What this looks like in practice is explained well by Canon J John, who has spoken at more than 100 CU Christmas events. In his guide to organising a carol service he shares that he usually expects an end of service response of between 5 and 10% – even for a service of 100 attendees, this means being ready to respond to ten people! Here are his five top tips for responding well:
1. Have a team dedicated to follow-up
Have a team prepared and ready to speak with anyone after the service who wants to respond. They should know exactly what follow-up is available, be sensitive to the needs of someone working through their response to Christ, and be ready to help them take a clear next step. A separate team should be ready to connect each person who provides contact details with a next step.
2. Have a clear next step for each person
Whether the person responding is making a profession of faith, a recommitment of faith, or expressing the desire to find out more, there should be a clear next step for each person. Most CUs offer some form of seeker-friendly course that runs in the first weeks after Christmas, and many students use Uncover as a way to help seekers explore the gospel further.
3. Make it easy for those who want to respond to do so
Make it easier for that next step to be taken. For example, if you provide response cards and pens on every single seat, and ask everyone to leave them in buckets at the exits to ‘help clear the hall’ it removes a barrier for those reluctant to make an obvious response. The response team then need to go through those response cards.
4. Give everyone the opportunity to respond, even if it is after the event
J John makes use of several Christmas booklets with a clear evangelistic message based on a Christmas theme. One is placed on every seat, so people have the opportunity to take material home with them that may in turn help them to take a next step. The booklet contains details of how to make a confession of faith, but should also include your contact details so that the seeker is able to speak with someone if they want to find out more or better still, to take their first steps in their new-found faith!
5. Pray earnestly
Ultimately, we recognise our dependence upon the Lord Jesus to be working through His Holy Spirit to open eyes to the truth of the Gospel. We of course do all that we can to anticipate the needs of those responding on the night, but we also pray earnestly that those who come to carol services may receive the Word with gladness, and in time bear a harvest!