When I was in church, Christmas was always one of the great recruitment holidays, much like Easter. The church always planned some kind of Cantata, or kids play, or both to bring in the masses. On a table in the foyer were fliers that we were encouraged to give to every human body that was in our area. In the beginning of my time in that church, I would actually make "baby Jesus cakes" to go with the fliers to kind of "soften the blow," so to speak! I stopped after a few years; it seemed so sneaky.
I can remember the guilt because I hated to do that. It seemed so manipulative. The church pretended it wanted people to come and enjoy some down time during the hectic holiday season. But in reality it was a ploy, like a bait and switch to bring people in then bombard them with the "Christmas message." I hated it. My husband would go around and put the fliers in our closest neighbors mailboxes, or give fliers to them in person. I don't think he liked it either. But he thought, like myself, that he was doing the "right thing." Then we would have to pray every Sunday for all these people to come to our church. Of course there was competition from every other church for victims also, so we were supposed to work very hard to bring them to OUR church.
I can remember never enjoying the holiday season as a Christian. There was so much pressure every year to bring someone new to church. I had only my mother, and would force her to go, just so I could quiet some guilt. It was made obvious that the cantata was not for our own enjoyment, but for the poor hell bound souls. Some years I was in the choir, but when I wasn't, I would feel bad if I went just for myself. I think everyone who wasn't a born-againer knew what was going on, that's why no one ever came in off the street.
I always wondered why these pastors, or whoever, didn't catch on that if people were in a church already, they were happy there, and didn't want to leave. Why should they? Should we have left because someone had a better Christmas program, or a better hell and brimstone message? But of course, I eventually caught on that it had to do with money. Bring in more people, and there is more money. But they never said that.
We had to make sure the church was "visitor friendly," meaning: clean, enough toilet paper, extra nursery help, baked goodies, (Baptists love to eat), and of course we had to be "extra friendly" to the potential converts. At the end of the program, we would have to listen to another born-again message, sit at attention, nod our heads and pretend we had not heard it all a thousand times while we were actually thinking about the coffee and goodies at the end! Since no one was fooled, there were no conversions, and we quickly ran to talk to our friends, eat, and pass out gifts.
I feel that people need fellowship. They need to met and get together without any kind of agenda. Lots of people are lonely, especially during the Hallmark holiday season. We all need to just relax and enjoy ourselves. I feel that if the church had something truly to offer us all, there would be no need for all the tricks to bring people in. They would come by themselves, because they would see something in the church, in religion, that they needed.