Planning for a Children’s Christmas Outreach

by Guest Blogger Alvin Gan

WeihnachtskugelnMost churches report that their highest attendance takes place at their Christmas and Easter services. While many of the kids who joined you for VBS and fall festival may have gone missing-in-action in-between, there’s a good chance they will turn up at Christmas if you give them a little nudge. So why not put together a fun outreach event this Christmas?

Start Planning Early

It’s never too early to start your planning for Christmas outreach, or any outreach event, for that matter. In fact, the best time to start planning for next Christmas is right after this Christmas! The earlier you decide on your theme, the better. You will then have more time to gather resources, ask around for well-loved items that you can re-use and take advantage store coupons and discounts. As you are preparing, executing, and evaluating this year’s event, take note of ideas that: you would have shelved, of what went well and what didn’t, and of what you wish you had done differently. Write them all down before you forget! They are all helpful tips for next Christmas!

Don’t Do It All Alone

Rather than doing everything yourself, invite others to join in your preparation and in running the event. Chances are you will end up doing a much better job at planning, promoting and executing your event as a team. Perhaps more importantly, you will have more people praying alongside you for the event.

Be Creative

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, but that doesn’t mean the theme for your outreach must be limited to the nativity scene or Bethlehem. Just google “birthday party themes,” and you will find lots of fun ideas, ranging from “under the sea” to “up, up and away!” Why should Jesus’ birthday celebration be any different? With some out-of-the-box thinking and creativity, there is no reason why we can’t think up a fun theme for our Christmas event – one that honors Christ and that kids would love to join in!

Ride on What’s Trending

One good way to get people excited about your event is to ride on the buzz of what’s currently trending. Find out what child-friendly movies will be released around Christmas and plan an event related to that movie. For example, Spies in Disguise is to be released in December 2019. The world is facing a disaster and counting on the nerdy Walter Beckett along with his partner Lance Sterling, (whom he accidentally turned into a pigeon), to come to its rescue. While not knowing much else about the movie, you can still plan an event with fun games involving heroes saving the world. Think spies, gadgets, and birds, and wrap it up with a Gospel presentation about Jesus Christ, the true Savior of the world! Alternatively, if you are uncomfortable basing your event on too many unknowns, plan an event based on a more well-known movie. Perhaps a film like Star Wars, which incidentally has another planned release in December 2019: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

Or Stick to Something Traditional

If you prefer something more traditional, below are three themes you may like.

1. The Greatest Christmas Gift

Play a variety of games involving gifts. For example:

  • Pile Up the Presents – Players stack presents to form the tallest tower.
  • Elf Challenge – Whoever carries the most gifts across the room wins.
  • Oven Mitt Unwrap –Try your hand at unwrapping a Christmas present while wearing a pair of oven mitts.
  • Christmas Left Right Game – A story is read aloud, and the parcel gets passed to the left or right as directed by the story.

Detailed instructions for these and other delightfully fun Christmas games can be found here.

To wrap up the event, bring out a huge, eye-catching gift-wrapped box for an object lesson on why Jesus is the greatest Christmas gift.

2. Twas the Night Before Christmas

Written almost 200 years ago, “Twas The Night Before Christmas” remains the most popular Christmas poem ever. Many of our ideas about Santa Claus, for example, how he enters homes on Christmas eve through the chimney with a sack of gifts, originate from that poem.

Sadly, Santa Claus and Christmas trees have overtaken the nativity scene as symbols of Christmas, and “happy holidays” is becoming more commonly heard than “merry Christmas.” Recent surveys show that, although most people in the United States still celebrate Christmas, it has become more of a cultural holiday rather than a religious one.

Rather than sweeping Santa and the Christmas tree under the carpet, why not throw a party involving these popular festive icons before bringing up the true story of Christmas?

You can play a variety of games involving these Christmas symbols. For example:

  • Christmas Bingo – Featuring colorful festive illustrations of the nativity scene, baby Jesus, the wise men, Christmas trees, gingerbread houses and more!
  • Who Has The Ornament? – Don’t get caught with the ornament in your hands! Players sit in a circle and pass a Christmas ornament around behind their backs while someone standing in the center of the circle tries to guess where the ornament is.
  • Christmas Tree Dress Up – Use paper and other materials to transform a teammate into a Christmas tree.

You can find detailed instructions and download beautifully designed free printables here to play these and other Christmas games.

3. Christmas Scavenger Hunt

There are many ways to conduct a Christmas Scavenger Hunt. Here are some ideas:Christmas Scavenger Hunt

  • Christmas Party Scavenger Hunt – If you are playing indoors or with a large group of young children, you may like this version of a Scavenger Hunt. Instead of hunting for physical objects, players look for 40 Hidden Cards.
  • Christmas Scavenger Hunt Bingo – Combine the fun of Scavenger Hunt with Bingo! Each player gets a unique Christmas Scavenger Hunt Bingo Card and hunts for items found on their own card. The first player to Bingo wins!
  • Christmas Treasure Hunt – Just like the Magi followed clues that eventually led them to baby Jesus, players will look for various clues that ultimately lead them to the Christmas treasure.

Detailed instructions along with beautifully designed free printables for these scavenger hunts can be found here.

Keep Christ at the Center of Christmas

It is important that every child goes home with a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. You can do this by giving each child  The True Story of Christmas Animated Tract at the closing of your event. It’s an affordable stocking stuffer and unique Gospel childrens-gospel-tract-5201-main-atract. It has captivating, moving animations, and kids will be intrigued by how the images can move without any batteries. Or buy any small gift and pack them in this YOU Are The Reason For Christmas! Box-Tract that opens up to reveal the gospel message.

Christmas is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar for outreach. Remember to keep Christ at the center of your event, and also at the center of your preparations. Pray, pray, pray! Christ loves all the little children of the world, and he wants to see your event draw the little ones to Him!

Click here to learn more about the plan of salvation for kids.


About our guest blogger, Alvin Gan:

Alvin Gan is the father of three noisy (but lovely) teenagers and founder of two websites that provide creative evangelism and discipleship resources.

Child Evangelism
LetTheLittleChildrenCome.com
specializes in unique child evangelism tools and resources to help convey the plan of salvation for kids effectively.

BibleGamesCentral.com
develops Bible games for youths, kids and even adults to teach spiritual truths.

Truth Matters Too

“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29  ESV)

Image result for image jesus is the way, the truth, the lifeThese days, if you watch the news and read about many main line churches, or what’s going on in many college campuses, the great passion of today is not what John, the Baptist, is saying here.

There is an overwhelming pressure for social justice, diversity, full acceptance of many minority identity groups, and the idea that “you are not a Christian church or a good person if you don’t love, promote, celebrate, and endorse just about every lifestyle and identity plea that is thrown at you.” Inclusion! Inclusion! Inclusion!

The Apostle Paul emphatically states in 1 Corinthians 14:1 to “pursue love” (ESV). Another version says, “Make love thy great quest.” The KJV renders it, “Follow after charity.” Paul, earlier in 1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “. . . but have not love, I gain nothing” (ESV).

God is love and God is for love. We dare not forget that!

But He is also the God of eternal, unchanging, inerrant truth. I believe John the Baptist knew about this never-to-be-separated duo of love and truth.

Image result for image proverbs 3:3Proverbs 3:3 states this essential connection: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the tablet of thine heart”  (KJV  Bold added).

These two, mercy and truth, are never to be found separate. Yes, Jesus was, is, and always will be about love. But as John declared here, may we never forget the eternally important truth that Jesus came to save sinners from being damned and lost forever!

I guess in these days of the watered down or forgotten Gospel, I’d like to see us all return to a more healthy balance of mercy and truth.  Concepts like conviction, repentance from sin, and a holy reverence for the Word of God are desperately needed in our churches, our campuses, and our culture. Please join me in praying for this if you are led.


Many thanks to Jim Grunseth for contributing this guest post. Jim and his wife, Barbara, are the authors of numerous materials on marriage, marriage preparation, family, dealing with past emotional wounds, and discipleship. People from over 93 countries have visited their website, www.marriageanchors.com . Couples and churches from over 50 nations have downloaded their free ebooks. They have sent free of charge their materials to 186 local pastors, missionaries, seminaries students, and orphanages their materials to strengthen families, build up local churches, and advance the Gospel. They have 7 children and 11 grandchildren and live in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

Jim has been on staff with Campus Crusade for 37 years. He is a graduate of The United States Military Academy at West Point and also has a Masters in Counseling – Psychology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Barbara is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and taught 13 years at Faith Christian School in Williams Bay. She has been on full time staff with Campus Crusade for 18 years.

God Loves You! How God Commissioned Me

It was a hot, sunny day in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987. I was standing behind thevan-rensberg sliding door in our lounge, watching the birds enjoying themselves in the birdbath that I have installed that afternoon, together with a bird feeder, filled with food, nearby. They were flying backwards and forwards, feeding and then going to the birdbath to enjoy themselves in the cool water. Lots of noise as they coo-ed and chirped, and the water was splashing everywhere.

Behind them I can see the amazing view of verdant valley where a river flows through the Glenvista golf course. The people who designed the course created a few dams and waterfalls in the flow of the stream as it meandered through the valley. “How blessed we are to be able to live in such a beautiful place, “ I thought to myself. Lainie and I bought the stand years before and then took quite a while to develop it and build the house we wanted, with a view that went on forever. “God has been so good to us, “ I thought.

A sudden flapping of wings and wild squawking from the birdbath brought my thoughts back to the pigeons, sparrows and finches in the hot sun. I smiled and was very pleased that I had installed the bath and feeder for them and had an irresistible urge to move the lace curtain and go out there to tell them how much I love them and how I was enjoying seeing them enjoying the cool water. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they would fly to me and land on my shoulders or hands to thank me for what I have done? Yet, I knew that if should even move the curtain a little bit so that they would see me, they would take off and fly away in fear of their lives. And how silly is that? Did I not buy the birdbath and feeder and install it for them? It is my money that pays for the water and purchased the birdseed! And yet, they would flee from me in fear?

As I was thinking this, the voice of the Lord came to me: “Meyer, now you have an idea how I feel,” He said. “I created the earth and everything in it and I provide in all man’s needs and yet, they are constantly fleeing from Me in fear of their lives! I want them to come to Me and thank Me for what I have done for them. I love them and want them to enjoy the gifts I have given them! Now, I want you to go out into the world with this message: Tell them how much I love them. I love them with a Father’s agape love and they don’t need to be afraid of Me!”

God had previously confirmed my calling as a teacher of His Word, but since that day, I have been endeavouring to fulfill that commission. In the Old Testament, the people were so afraid of God that they told Moses: “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear…” (Ex.20:19,20). Amazing: God delivered them out of Egypt and brought them safely through the Red Sea: He provided a cloud by day and a fire by night to keep them from harm, He gave them food in the desert and yet they were afraid of him!

Today, my friend, we are the same: people run away from God instead of to Him. He loves us so much He came and died on the Cross for as so that we can be saved and come into His presence boldly!

Like I did with the birds, it is God’s desire for us to come to Him and not run away from Him: to accept Him as our Father who loves us and cares for us. My message to you today is: “God loves you so much more than you can ever think or imagine, therefore run to Him, not away from Him!”

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb.4:16)


van-rensberg-2

Many thanks to Dr. Meyer van Rensburg for this guest post. Please visit his website!

 

 

About the author:

Dr. Meyer van Rensburg was born again in 1982 and has been studying God’s Word ever since. He attended Bible School in 1985/6 and then continued his studies to obtain various degrees: Bachelor of Theology and Master of  Christian Counselling and Master of Divinity from an American Institution as well as Master of Theology from Wales, Bangor and Doctor of Ministry. God has called him as a teacher of the Word and told him to “go and tell them how much I love them.”

In 1987 he was ordained as a minister of God by the International Federation of Christian Churches. After establishing various Bible schools in South Africa, he accepted the post of Senior Lecturer with a Bible Training Centre in Bristol, England, in 2004. After two years he accepted the position of Senior Lecturer and Dean of Students from a London university college. He travels to teach all over the world, especially in the UK, South Africa and Poland. He holds various degrees: Bachelor of Theology and Master of Christian Counselling and Master of Divinity from an American Institution as well as Master of Theology from Wales, Bangor and Doctor of Ministry.

In South Africa he was well-known with Radio Pulpit listeners for programmes such as “Running the Race” on Friday mornings where he used to interview Christian sportsmen, as well as “Music & the Word,”  “Mosaic,” “Light before Midnight,” and others.  He writes extensively, regularly contributing articles for Lucerna and other magazines, as well as being the author of seven books: “Brother to Brother: A Handbook for the Study of Covenants,” “A Dwelling Place for God, A Handbook for the Study of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness,” “God & sons: A Study in  the Fatherhood of God” and “Images of Christ in Genesis, Vols. I, II, and II, and “The Cure for Today’s Dying Church: The Wellspring of Life.” The books are available from the Amazon or one can order it directly from the author. drmeyervr@yahoo.co.uk

Dr. Meyer is married to Lorraine and is the proud father of five daughters. He also paints in oils, does sound engineering, writes poetry, and loves doing woodwork and gardening. His favourite Scripture is Galatians 2:20:  I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet, not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.

Website: https://www.meyervanrensburg.com/

 

Are You Hopeful or Hopeless?

Are You Hopeful or Hopeless?

Guest blogger: Mark Goodman

In a song from Les Miserables, Fantine mourns her shattered dream.  Weeping, she sings:

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dream to shame

And later:

Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

Everyone reading this has lost a dream to the strangling grasp of life.  What dream did you bury?  What dream do you continue to exhume?

On a now-famous day in August of 1963, a man well-familiar with personal pain and shattered dreams stood before a crowd of thousands on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and declared his dream.  Later he still held to that dream as he evidenced in the words from 1967 that we now hear:

If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.  And so today I still have a dream.

This week marks the beginning of the Advent season, a time of expectant waiting.  We imagine what it was like for the Hebrew people awaiting the Messiah’s arrival and we experience our own wait for the Lord’s return.  Today we focus on the Hope of Advent. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so beautifully stated, hope is indeed “that courage to be.”

I want to point you in the right direction in which you can choose to travel and to the journey along which you will discover the sources of Hope from which come strength as you tap into them.

Like the Oz-bound brainless Scarecrow pointing in all directions, shared opinions, spoken philosophies, and a plethora of spiritual teachers will steer you toward a hope found in self-actualization and/or the true fulfillment of your inner being.  For the follower of Christ, however, the only true guidance comes from Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  This Christ spoke all things into being, including the Word of God as found in the New and Old Testaments.  Let us, then, turn to the Old Testament to find the map for our journey toward Hope.

1 Hear my prayer, LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 In my distress I groan aloud
and am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.

Psalm 102:1-7
 (1984 NIV)

Withered heart, vanishing days, no appetite for food – the situation appears hopeless.  Yet (oh yes, yet), the afflicted man dares raise his eyes to take in the wider view of life.  There his eyes or, perhaps more so, his spirit found a profoundly delightful focus.  God came near.

25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

Psalm 102:25-28
 (1984 NIV)

J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, wrote:
“Hope is hope for infinite Hope.”

Notice the capitalization of the last “H” in the sentence.

To push “shift” as one types that last word’s first letter, is to recognize that hope, in order to last, must claim God as its source, motivation and destination.

In 1626, from the pulpit of the immense and magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the English poet and pastor John Donne proclaimed the following words about death on Christmas Day, of all times.  I am glad he did.

Others die as martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr.  He found Golgotha (where he was crucified) even in Bethlehem where he was born.  For to his tenderness then, even the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as his cross at last.  His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day.  (Hendrix 53)

While I am quite sure that Jesus the newborn child did not formulate thoughts of the cross while still in the manger, I do know that when the soldiers led Him up to Golgotha, it was no surprise to Him.

Ultimately and immediately, you will discover Hope if you will look forward to the Lord’s return and will look backward to see His willingness to die.

Works Cited
Hendrix, John. Celebrate Advent Worship and Learning Resources. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 1999.

_______________________________________________

Many thanks to guest blogger Mark Goodman. You may visit his blog here. He shared this about himself and his family:

 

I have served in Christian Ministry for over 25 years in Texas and Alaska. Since 2008, I have been living in Anchorage, Alaska and serving as the Senior Pastor of Rabbit Creek Church. As a pastor and teacher, my passion is guiding people and helping them in their journey with Christ. I was raised in Arlington, Texas. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree from Baylor University and my Master’s Degree from George W. Truett Theological Seminary. I earned my Doctor of Ministry degree from Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. My wife, Vonda Kay, and I have three children. All of us love Alaska!

Resurrected Life

Today’s post was contributed by Rev. Anita Keire, the author of A Parent’s Guide to Prayer; the ten levels of non-denominational Mustard Seed Series Sunday school [or homeschooling] curriculum for churches, individuals, homes, and religious schools; Resurrection Dialogues with Skeptics and Believers; and Walking on Water: Skeptics and Believers Discuss Whether Jesus Matters. I encourage you to visit her website to learn more: MustardSeedSeries.com.

_____________________________

One thing we can learn from the resurrection of Jesus is that what looked like a dead end is just the beginning of new life. The same applies to the life cycle found in nature. Spring has arrived. Trees and plants are coming to life. Soon they will be in full bloom fulfilling the purpose for their existence.

As we awaken to our own new life found in Jesus Christ, let us commit ourselves to be our Lord’s heart, voice, and hands in this world. For starters, let us reflect on the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi on peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console,

To be understood as to understand,

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Think about it.

  • Do you agree with this peace prayer? Why or why not?
  • How does this prayer reflect the way we live our lives?
  • Should we take into consideration the fall of our lives? Why or why not?
  • Have you truly internalized this prayer?
  • What does the empty cross image suggest to you?