FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The chairs are empty at Cross City Church in northeast Fresno. And for the first Christmas since it opened, thousands of people will not be filling them.
But this year, lead pastor David Rutherford knows the message he gives may be needed more than ever.
"The Bible says it's the good news of great joy, but for a lot of people that are missing their favorite person or a loved one or a neighbor, it's a difficult season for a lot of people and especially during this pandemic," he says.
This year, churches are getting creative and trying to welcome people in without a warm smile and handshake.
Cross City leaders threw on their coats and went the extra mile to deliver the Christmas message that was filmed up in the mountains.
The message will be played on the church website every hour on the hour beginning at noon Christmas Eve until midnight Christmas morning.
But not every church is sticking to just virtual services.
The parking lot around Peoples Church will be set up for several hours Thursday for the community to mask up and mingle at a walk-thru event.
"And it's a walk-thru around the entire facility. So it will take about 45 minutes to walk around and stop at each of the stations. But it's a great opportunity for families because they need a place to go. Everybody is feeling so tied up," says Larry Powell with Peoples Church.
Tables will be set up for attendees to take communion, listen to carolers and hear a Christmas message.
A snowmaking machine will also be part of the experience.
Many local pastors say they won't dwell on the hardships of this year but instead look ahead to a new year where people will appreciate more. including the fulfillment that comes with connecting with others face to face.
But what many pastors learned in 2020 has helped them grow in a way that will allow them reach the community from here on out in new and personal ways that they never thought of before the COVID-19 crisis.
Local churches find new ways to reach people amid pandemic