OK, OK so I know that Christmas-speak is still forbidden for a few weeks more, but I know that many churches and CUs are already planning their carol services. I was asked to write a short article for the UCCF Transmission mailing to staff and Relay Workers, but thought it might be helpful for students too...
Carol services provide brilliant opportunities to present the gospel. Even a small CU not used to doing regular evangelism can often put on this sort of gospel event. Here are a few tips for ‘peace and goodwill’ on the night of your carol service!
1. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL. Students sometimes pressurised to do something ‘new’ in a carol service. They needn’t worry. Traditional carols played in a traditional way (with traditional refreshments afterwards!) are what most punters are after. Make sure there are copies of carol words so that all can join in.
2. ADVERTISING. Advertise widely in CU events for the fortnight preceding. The majority of non-Christians will probably be brought by CU members. Encourage them to bring people en masse! If they invite friends around for food beforehand, it’s often easier to bring them. Flyering is worth doing (maybe with mince pies) but rarely brings the hordes along.
3. VENUE. Because non-Christians are more willing to make an effort to come to a carol service, CUs may have a much wider range of venues to choose from. The event needn’t necessarily be restricted to campus – in fact, it’s often easier to create a traditional feel away from campus. Suitable churches can often be booked by CUs for a small fee. Students might also have ideas for venues. Ambleside CU held their carol service by candlelight a few years ago in National Trust caves: it had a novelty effect and was jam-packed. If there’s more than one CU in town, they might like to team up.
4. INVOLVE OTHER GROUPS. This can guarantee at least a few non-Christians hearing the gospel! Many universities have gospel choirs and chamber groups that might like to be involved. This works particularly well if there’s a few CU members in these groups. If there isn’t adequate musical talent within a CU, involve people from local churches.
5. BRIEF THE SPEAKER WELL. Unfortunately, many speakers don’t automatically think about how to pitch a carol service talk. Liaise with the speaker, clearly explaining what you’re after. A 15-20 minute talk is normally about right. If possible, find out which passage they are using, then make sure there’s a copy for each person. If you’re having a student testimomy (a good idea), then make sure they've gone through it with somebody beforehand.
6. INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS. Carol services are genuine British cultural events, so international students love them! Ensure they are made aware of the carol service. If the venue is off campus, make sure that there’s a map so those less familiar about town can find it.
7. FOLLOW-UP. Follow-up is notoriously hard after carol services. People unconnected to the CU may attend, and the timing of carol services means you may not see people again for weeks. Encourage the CU to talk with their speaker about follow-up. Will the CU give away literature to interested people? Will there be contact cards for people to fill out?