Planning your carol service?

November 22, 2023

It’s the middle of November, so it is the time of year when we begin to plan our carol services and Christmas ministry. If, like me, you have been doing that for many years, the challenge is to remain fresh. Maybe you have more than one carol service to fill, and you want each to have a different feel. Christmas is the most traditional time of year, and many who come along to a carol service, as the only time they come to church, will expect to hear the famous favourites. Yet a mix of old and new can be enriching, and there are some superb contemporary songs that can add to a good carol service.

Here are some tips that you may find helpful:

  • If you have more than one carol service, why not style one as the traditional ‘lessons and carols’ service, and include the ‘famous five’ carols (O come all ye faithful, Once in royal, O little town of Bethlehem, Silent Night and Hark the Herald) along with a singing group performing something less congregational.
  • A contemporary carol service will include some of the classics, perhaps played in a modern arrangement with a band rather than an organ, while including two or three contemporary Christmas songs. You could add in a pre-recorded video of a poem or a story, and involve the children in singing some children’s songs (to guarantee their parents come along!).
  • Contrast can be enriching. We published Christmas Praise! to give you some fresh material to sing at Christmas. We’ve included some powerful new songs such as Come adore the humble king, What kind of throne and Comfort and joy. We also recovered some old treasures to give them a new lease of life. Good Christians all rejoice has a new arrangement by Yvonne Lloyd in a folk style, with instrumental versions for violin, flute and more. You might also enjoy the Sussex Carol, On Christmas night all Christians sing.
  • Bible readings at carol services can be very predictable. Why not push the envelope a little and read some of the less well-trodden parts of the nativity story? Dig a little deeper into the rich promises of the Old Testament prophets. Every carol service should tell the story of ‘the loving purposes of God’ through history. It may be the only time that some people hear the Bible read aloud, so show them its riches.

To give you some ideas, we’ve attached two service outlines, one traditional and one contemporary, to give you some ideas

Check out our Traditional Carol Service or our Contemporary Carol Service


All piano scores for songs featured are available in Christmas Praise!

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