Many people enjoy a carol service at Christmas – even if church-going isn’t on their agenda. Sports Chaplains at clubs, large and small, find that club carol events are valued and offer spiritual input into the life of the club and community. This resource from sports chaplains at Sports Chaplaincy UK aims to encourage communities to hold Silent Night Carols events in local sports stadiums to mark the centenary of the Christmas Truce of 1914.  Here are some helpful hints and ideas to bear in mind as you plan ahead.

Things to consider:

  • Ask the club – Don’t assume, ask if they would like a Silent Night Carols event which comes with loads of benefits for everyone – engaging local churches, schools and the wider community.
  • Who is your audience – We are encouraging a public event involving the whole club but this needs to be talked through with your club, playing staff and your community trust/foundation.
  • Who to involve – every club is different. Involve foundations/ trusts, local youth organisations, the local council, churches.
  • Will this be a free event or ticketed and how?
  • Choice of date and time is vital – It must be when all can readily get to it! Bear in mind when there are club fixtures etc. Work on a date that meets the demands of the club and community you wish to serve but we are suggesting the week of Dec 7th to 13th 2014 as the most suitable time.
  • Location – Ask the question: ‘What is the most suitable location in the club?’ We are hoping to have as many carol services as possible outside in the stadium but you will need to discuss this with the club as it will affect your planning, cost and length of service.
  • Style – There needs to be a balance here. We would advocate a ‘traditional carols and readings’ format, but geared to non-church people, and involving as many staff and club departments as possible.
  • Musical skills – Involve your community, a brass band can be great – get them booked early. Get local schools involved asap – it brings involvement and parents and is one of the reasons we have suggested the above dates. Consider the use of local church musicians (check the quality first!).
  • Prayer – get praying for the event as early as possible. Prayer is vital for planning and during the event.

Practical thoughts:

  • Costs – most clubs may absorb them, others can’t; if you work with your local trust/foundation and churches they may support you.  There are grants for community activities, consider sponsors, council etc. Don’t presume on the club.
  • Programme planning – don’t leave it too late; you must book bands, stages, schools early. Make sure relevant staff are aware: conferencing, stadium staff, coaches and players etc asap.
  • Programme length – A general rule is that it’s better to stop with folk wanting more, than to go on with them wanting less! Depending on the content of the programme, aim for 45-60 minutes.
  • Programme content – Try to create a programme with something for everyone: children who come along, folk who want their favourite carol – major on the familiar. Traditional carols and traditional readings which are familiar to all should be at the heart of it.
    • Prayers and talk: Don’t be frightened to include prayers in the event. People expect prayers from the Chaplain and respond positively to appropriate opening and closing prayers. The message or talk needs to be appropriate – it provides a brilliant opportunity to say something distinctly Christian about Jesus. Don’t let it run longer than 5-7 minutes – be short, lively and positive. Leave people hungry for more or invite them to local investigation groups like Alpha or Christianity Explored.
    • Special elements you might want to include: A Children’s Carol, Solo from local artiste, Staff / Players doing the readings, collection for a local charity, the Tearfund Appeal for Syria (this is mentioned in the Silent Night Carols programme).
    • Atmosphere: Be intentional – provide food & drinks – ask the community to get involved (if the club is receptive) have a market stall, drinks etc or ask a local supermarket to donate mince pies or offer them at a discount so they can be bought to give a festive flavour as people chat afterwards.

Event Practicalities

  • Advertising – local press, club programme, website, churches and local radio stations, fliers to schools, churches etc (A5 10,000 £120).
  • Programme production– HOPE and Tearfund have produced a programme which you may use or insert into your own club-specific programme. These can be ordered at www.silentnightcarols.org. If you produce your own programme it could include quotes from the club owner, manager, player and trust or local community partner. You may think of getting a sponsor. COST depending on pages and quantity £500-£1000.
  • Video clips – HOPE can provide short video clips which can be used from Tearfund, SGM Lifewords, Christmas Starts. Make sure the projector is powerful enough for the venue you’ve chosen.
  • Power – Inside or outside external power.
  • Sound/ PA – You might be able to use the club’s PA but make sure it is of good quality. You may have to either hire or borrow PA from a church.
  • Lighting – You may need lighting – who can put it up and on and for how long?
  • Staging – Do you need it? Where can it go? Bear in mind the pitch and weather, is it covered? COST can be anything around £1500-2000 if hired. The club may already have some – get permission.
  • Stewarding – you might need to use club staff or involve church staff but costs are incurred over 5000 people – St John Ambulance, licensed stewards.
  • Cleaning up – Again each club is different but be aware, the event is not just a witness on the night, but the following day to the staff.

Involve people – the sooner the better – get a commitment out of them (club, churches and schools) do not assume!
Hopefully this is useful as you step out and plan ahead. You never know – this could become a catalyst for the Church to unite for the rest of the year in outreach. Go for it!