Not Canceled: Church’s Christmas Party Adjusted, Augmented by Creativity
By Julie Campbell
How do pastors connect with their congregations and create community at a time when gathering is discouraged? For pastors all over the country, that is the million-dollar question. One congregation in Washington State rose to the challenge and answered that question last month by producing a fun-filled, virtual Christmas party. In early December 2020, Centralia Community Church of God hosted “Jingle Jam,” an online Christmas experience, complete with games, crafts, skits, and activities for the whole family.
For the past two Christmas seasons, the church has hosted the popular Jingle Jam event onsite at the church. But this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pastor Mark Fast and his staff knew things would have to be different. Mark’s wife Lori, who serves as worship arts director at the church, said, “When we realized our capacity would be too limited to pull off an in-person experience, we decided to take it online. Yet we still wanted it to include many of the fun elements that our families have enjoyed during the live experience.”
Staff members began by creating a “Jingle Jam Party Kit” as the foundation of the experience.
“We wanted people to have something tangible to have with them at home, so we put together ‘party kits’ that included an Advent wreath and candles to use during the actual event (the focus of the event was Advent), a family ornament craft, some candy, microwave popcorn, and hot chocolate,” explained Lori.
Party participants were encouraged to pick up their kits before the weekend of the event, and there were two event options for either Friday or Saturday of that week. The virtual attendance of the event was comparable to the in-person attendance in past years!
“We know that everything is different this year, and we saw this as an important way to keep people connected with our ‘normal’ rhythm of things, even though it was a virtual experience,” said Lori. “We have also seen Jingle Jam as a significant outreach to our community, so another goal was to engage families who aren’t regular attenders at Centralia Community Church. Our congregation runs 450 to 500 on Sunday mornings (pre-pandemic), and last year we had about 250 people attend Jingle Jam. This year we had 35 families register for a party kit and have had about 100 households watch it on Facebook.”
The Jingle Jam event reinforced what the staff of Centralia Community already knew—church is not simply a building where people gather.
“It’s people both gathered and scattered—ministry takes place wherever you happen to be—in the everyday places and spaces that God’s people are,” said Lori. “We can connect with one another (and with God) in very creative and unusual ways.”
If you’d like to see Jingle Jam and get ideas for a virtual party with your own congregation, visit www.cccog.com/jinglejam.
Julie Campbell is an editor at Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and a freelance journalist. A former city girl from Chicago, she enjoys country life with her husband, Russ, on a five-acre apple orchard in Madison County, Indiana. She is a blessed mom of three wonderful young adult children and one very spoiled white boxer.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.