Involve Children in Christmas Eve Worship—Without Losing Adults

December 20, 2012

Christmas Eve presents a dilemma for family-oriented churches because it’s a time when parents want to bring their children but it is difficult to provide programming for all ages.

Christmas angels in front of church entrance in the evening.

Do you offer an adult service that is high on solemnity but bores children? Or a family service that includes kid-friendly moments but little reverence? Or one of each?

As a pastor I’ve faced this dilemma for years.

When I’ve opted for a more reverent experience, I’ve watched parents struggle to occupy squirming children. Often, parents with toddlers would either wind up in the foyer. Others simply stayed home.

I’ve also attempted to preach moments after a group of young children performed a program. Energy was high, but kids and parents were so wound up that it was nearly impossible to command attention.

There may be a middle way.

Here’s a great idea for involving children in your Christmas Eve service that requires little preparation, no rehearsal, and allows for some sacred moments.

The idea, in a nutshell, is to have children don costumes and play the roles of biblical characters—without memorizing or reciting lines.

Here’s how it works.

1. Plan to tell the Christmas story in four segments. You could select four passages from Luke 1–2, or write your own narration of the events. Also select four Christmas carols (or more), one to accompany each reading.

2. Prepare costumes. The children—any and all who want to take part—will represent the holy family, angels, shepherds , and wise men.

3. As children arrive, invite them to take part. No advance preparation is needed. They simply don the constume and begin the service sitting with their parents.

4. Invite the children to come forward, group by group. After each reading and before the carol, invite the kids representing each of the groups to come forward and take their place on the stage.

When the readings are concluded, the nativity scene is complete. You could use that moment to light the Christ candle on your Advent wreath or add another element that creates a climax for the service.

Children get the joy of taking part in worship, but there is no pressure on families to attend more rehearsals or add another prep time to the calendar.

What are you planning for Christmas Eve?

Lawrence W. Wilson


I blog about Christian faith and ministry. I've also written a few books including The Long Road Home and Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering.