Innovative Outreach Ministry: Festival of Nativity Art

Innovative Outreach Ministry: Festival of Nativity Art


The Nichol’s UMC in Trumbull, CT first created their Festival of Nativity Art to spread the Good News of Christ in 2008 with 50 nativity displays.  This year the Lay Ministry Team on Liturgical Music and the Fine Arts sponsored the Festival that displayed 102 nativity scenes - in a variety of art mediums including the nativity in needlepoint and even a jigsaw puzzle - all borrowed from members of the congregation and the community.  The theme this year was Star of Bethlehem.  A special display was created for the theme (see picture). The angel is spreading her wings to reveal the holy family. The displays were set in the church along a labyrinth like path from Friday Dec. 5th – Sunday Dec. 7th.  An advent service was held on Saturday afternoon with singers, instrumentalists, and storytellers bringing the story alive in yet another art medium.

The Nichol’s Festival of Nativity Art is modeled after exhibits held in Tarrytown under Pastor Bill Holman’s direction over 50 years ago.  Serving as a minister was a second career for Holman and he incorporated his event planning experience at Time/Life into his ministry. Holman reached out to the entire community and held the event at a college gymnasium.

Advice for Success

  • Start planning early!
  • Involve the entire church, particularly the evangelism team and the membership committee
  • Strive for Excellence in what you do.
  • Plan ahead so that frustration is kept to a minimum
  • Build an event toward a celebration.
  • Identify specific ways to develop relationships
  • Have a follow up team ready to continue building the new relationships.
  • Evaluate – learn from what you did

Nichol’s UMC follows Holman’s approach of including the entire community.  The community youth choir sings at their Saturday afternoon service.  The advertizing committee spreads the news about the event through local radio and TV, in addition to newsprint advertisements, flyers and personal letters.  The last time Nichol’s organized a Nativity Art Festival 350 people attended over the 3 day period.

The art displayed is the conduit. The actual purpose of the event is to provide an opportunity for people to rethink their relationship with God and their connection to the church. Hanging up flyers for the event has led to some very special outreach moments for retired Pastor David Harper.  When people find out what he is doing many begin to tell him about the family’s nativity set. Before the conversation is over Harper makes sure to ask if that person is active in his/her local church.  If the person responds that s/he is looking for a church, Harper makes sure that follow up is done by the lay membership committee. “I got to talking with a woman in a store when I asked to put a flyer up.  She told me about her nativity set and I asked if she’d like to loan it to us for the festival.  Then I invited her to attend the festival and that led to her attending our church.

Each person who walks through the display is handed information about the church. This year following the theme of Bethlehem Star, a paper star with a message about the Good News Christ brings to our world was handed out. Included with the message of peace, joy and hope is church contact information.  The opportunity to build relationships means following up is as important to the event as the art.

In order to pull off a successful event like this Pastor Harper stresses the importance of planning ahead and involving the entire church.  His team met for the first time in March!  Everyone has a role to play and the more planning ahead means people can adjust their schedule to get their part organized.

Contributing to this article: David Harper