By Julie Heath
Around Christmastime, one of the words you’ll hear most frequently from a child’s mouth is, “Presents!” It’s ironic that just a slight change in spelling leads to a different word that points to the deeper meaning of Christmas—the presence of God.
"[Mary] will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’"
Matthew 1:23 NLT
While Christmas is an important time to love our own church family, we can also use it as a time to share with others the joy that Jesus came to earth. Just as God came to us, we also can go into the world to share his love. Christmas is a wonderful time to help children understand this concept. While serving in our communities and our world, we can also bring God’s presence to others.
Christmas is often a busy season for churches with celebrations and programs for families and small groups. Some of these busy activities could shift from just a celebration within the walls of the church to outreach beyond the church walls. There are so many ways to care for families, children, and others in our neighborhood and city ministries. It’s also a great time to find ways to serve the global community.
Here are 11 ways you can get your children involved in serving others this Christmas:
- Collect hygiene supplies (soaps, deodorants, toothbrushes, toothpastes, etc.) to give to homeless ministries.
- Decorate paper bags with the Christmas story or Bible verses to “gift wrap” supplies and snacks for guests at shelters. You could even use a themed Christmas gift bag, such as the One Night in Bethlehem Goodie Bags.
- Work as a group to adopt a family through a local community center or a program such as Angel Tree Christmas
- Take a group to serve at a local food pantry (children can stock shelves or deliver and wrap boxes).
- Collect and assemble shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child (older children could volunteer at a processing center).
- Sponsor a child or family through an organization like World Vision, Compassion International, or denominational outreach programs.
- Bake and deliver holiday treats to first responders or other community helpers.
- Have kids collect coins to raise money for national and international missions.
- Offer a free gift-wrapping station at a local shopping center (kids can help make tags and stick-on bows if they aren’t quite the best wrappers yet).
- Sponsor a booth and let your kids distribute hot cocoa, water, and Christmas treats at a Christmas parade or festival. It’s a great way for younger members of the youth group to work with the children’s ministry.
- Volunteer to read Christmas stories at local after-school programs or ministries (children can minister to other children).
Remember to emphasize that giving to others gives you the chance to share God’s love during Christmas (or at any time)! Giving doesn’t always entail an actual “gift,” sometimes you can give a listening ear or give your time as a friend. For us as Christ’s children, we can use Christmas as a chance to be reminded that he came to be “God with us.” Remember that we are trying to show God’s presence even as we give presents this season!