The Christmas program: 5 key tips from a Sunday school leader

Oct 2, 2018 7:00:00 AM / by Christy Olson


Families LOVE the Christmas program as long as:

  • Their child gets to be Mary, Joseph, or Gabriel
  • They don’t have to come to practices
  • It is on Sunday morning at their preferred service
  • Their neighbors all get to come and watch
  • And if anyone in the house is sick, they don’t have to come to the program 

Easy, right?

It is a wonder families or anyone involved love the Christmas Program with a capital P! No matter what the situation or tradition, faith communities can struggle with this event. Even if you have perfect volunteer(s) who help lead it every year, they may decide to update and not use the sacred “traditional” costumes. Or there are more kids now and the choir room needs to be used for other groups on Sunday morning.

Here are tips I’ve implemented that work:

  • Process, process, process. Design a process for your community that fits your setting and resources (human, space, time, and financial). Let parents evaluate each year’s process in January. Set changes to happen in February, NOT December 1. 
  • Practice options. Offer two practice runs the two Saturdays before your program date and let families choose the one that works best for them. Have simple tasks ready for parents to stay at church and help while kids are practicing such as folding programs, mending costumes, or watching younger siblings. You may end up with many families that have so much fun they come to both practices! 
  • Pick a child friendly program. Look for options with poems, carols, and readings – they often get more enthusiastic support from adults. Some ready-to-go favorites I’ve used are from Cathy’s Music. Cathy knows kids and voice ranges and often includes carols in her short Christmas musicals. Ask ministry colleagues what has worked best for them too! 
  • Host a cast party. A fun way for your actors to get to know each other after a rehearsal and treat kids with speaking or behind the scenes leadership roles. It can also be an event younger kids will aspire to attend in the future.
  • Teach the Christmas story outside of the program. Try hard not to miss regular faith formation teaching on Sundays with the program practices. There are so many wonderful ideas for sharing the Christmas story.


The best program I ever witnessed was very low on the intensity scale. In regular Sunday school kids learned two Christmas songs. One was a traditional carol, the other a modern melodic children’s song about Jesus.

The first Sunday in Advent any kid who wanted to be in the program attended a one-hour event. All the kids tried on Christmas costumes, did Christmas art (not crafts), and danced around a big manger. Lots of pictures were taken to create  a beautiful slide presentation. Kids were present during worship and sang their two songs while slides were shown. Everyone loved it! No complaints.

Be joyful! Be relaxed! Jesus is always with you!


Looking for a Christmas program idea for this holiday season? Check out Sparkhouse’s digital downloads, offering several different options to fit your needs.

Topics: Children Ministry, Sunday School

Christy Olson

Written by Christy Olson

Christy lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she and her husband have retired. But a writer never retires! She continues to freelance, and blogs for the UUA. Her ministry joys include 20 years at three congregations doing children's and family ministry, writing for four different denominations, doing workshops (see her Faith Gardener website), teaching at Luther Seminary, getting her M.A. in Theology, and consulting with churches about ministry challenges.


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