What is Christmas really about? Certainly not the latest gadgets or new clothes as retailers would have us believe. With the rampant commercialization of the holiday, it is easy to forget what we are really celebrating—not gifts, not decorations, not even “some distant religious event.” What we are really celebrating is the birth of God’s greatest gift to mankind: unconditional love. A love so pure and genuine that all pain, suffering, and strife can be eradicated.
But, this is not the message that our youth have grown up with. As church leaders, it is our job to teach young people about the true miracle of Christmas—the power and strength of Jesus’s love to change the world. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by encouraging our children to give back during the holiday season. Here are a few tips on getting your youth involved in philanthropy.
1. Make it personal: Offer an opportunity to volunteer in areas that are relevant to kids. Many youth suffer with bullies and low self-esteem. Show them that they are not alone by organizing a rally against bullying, or schedule a day of compliments where everyone shares something nice about someone else in the room. Young people face a plethora of challenging and unique issues. Find something that is relevant in your community and encourage your kids to find a solution.
2. Make it real: It can be difficult for young people to comprehend the challenges of others unless they witness them first hand. Simply collecting cans for a soup kitchen may not be enough. Bring your young people to a homeless shelter. Have them work directly with the homeless in their everyday life. This allows them to see the many different faces of homelessness—mothers, fathers, and children just like them.
3. Make it a challenge: Turn giving back into a fun game. Give kids a goal to strive for like smiling at ten strangers, or complimenting five people. It can be simple as that or more complex. Maybe they have a nonprofit that they would like to raise money or resources for. Help them create and execute a realistic plan. This will help them to share God’s love and raise their self-esteem as they meet their goals.
4. Share a story: The power of the written word can work miracles with children. My own daughters helped me to write my Christmas novel, Mary’s Son. As the story progressed, I could see positive change in them as they absorbed the important life lessons in the book. Have your young people write a story that means something to them or they can choose a favorite novel with a strong moral lesson. Encourage them to read their stories out loud to young kids at schools or shelters.
5. Take it home: Sometimes the biggest impact we can make is in our own homes. Encourage your young people to lend a helping hand at home or perform an unexpected act of kindness for their parents and siblings. Make breakfast for everyone one morning, or clean up the house without being asked. The feeling of love and support that they will create can only be rivaled by God’s love for the world.