Charlie Brown: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn’t have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don’t know what Christmas is all about.[shouting in desperation]
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.[moves toward the center of the stage]
Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.[a spotlight shines on Linus]
Linus Van Pelt: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'”[Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown]
Linus Van Pelt: That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.*
I love “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Hard to believe the show was created in 1965 – it gives me chills every single time when Linus shares the real meaning of Christmas. Even Christian youth leaders are guilty of forgetting about the real meaning of Christmas as we get caught up in the hustle and bustle and commercialism of the holiday…or in the stress of planning a fun Christmas party.
So what about your annual Christmas party? We all know how to run a mean white elephant gift exchange, right? But what else can you do at your youth Christmas parties to make the experience more meaningful? Here are 12 ideas to add more meaning to your youth ministry party:
1. Watch the Charlie Brown Christmas – I already mentioned being a fan. You can show the entire movie or just the clip above and talk about it. What do your youth say that Christmas is all about? What is the meaning of Christmas to your youth?
2. Have an Ornament Exchange Instead of a traditional gift exchange, have youth bring a Christmas ornament to exchange this year. Have everyone sign and date the ornament they brought and each year the recipient can remember the youth ministry time together. Even better, Make Ornaments. Check out the post I wrote last year for easy ornament and gift ideas.
3. Act out the Christmas Story – No doubt your church has probably had a Christmas pageant. Maybe some of your youth were cast as Mary and Joseph back in the day. Challenge youth to create a skit about the real meaning of Christmas. Here’s a free example script for youth I found online.
4. Birthday Party for Jesus – Have a birthday cake for Jesus’s birthday. Sing the birthday song. Talk about what Jesus would wish for if He was blowing out his candles. Would He wish for peace, love, kindness? Ask the youth – What can you do to make Jesus’s wishes come true in the next year? As part of the party, Give a Birthday Gift to Jesus Christmas is about Jesus’s birth. Have youth give Jesus a present by donating a gift to the needy. Challenge the youth to donate something that they still like – there is more meaning in giving away something nice than giving away your old sweatshirt you didn’t really want anymore anyway.
5. Bring your Christmas party to the doorsteps of the elderly or shut-ins or go to nursing homes (call ahead). As you plan your party, call a local shelter or talk to a pastor about the needy in your community. What are the greatest needs in your community? From canned goods to clean socks, collect the items most needed and deliver them personally as part of the party. Consider singing traditional Christmas carols and handing out Christmas cards and candy canes while you’re there.
6. Wrap Christmas Presents for Others Have elderly or busy parent church members bring gifts and wrapping paper to the church. The youth can spend party time wrapping presents. This also works as a fundraiser idea.
7. Nativity Scavenger Hunt Armed with digital cameras, have teams of youth find elements of the nativity to photograph. Or the team that finds the most nativities in a certain time limit. Inspire your youth by sharing Mark Oestreicher’s blogpost of the 42 worst nativities.
8. Gifts of Prayer – Have youth spend time in prayer, even writing prayers on cards to give to others as gifts. What are the youth thankful for? Who needs prayer this Christmas time?
9. Give Alternative Gifts – You can support the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) by collecting money donations and purchasing from the UMCOR Alternative Gift Catalog. Rethink Christmas http://www.umcor.org/christmas
10. Sing Christmas Carols by Candlelight – Close your Christmas Party with some time of worship and singing. Instead of “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” opt to sing traditional hymns and carols about the true meaning of Christmas. End with “Silent Night” and a prayer.
11. Cards for the Military (if by Dec. 7) We’re pushing the last minute deadline to send cards to the military this year, but consider checking out the Red Cross for ways to support the military. http://www.redcross.org/support/get-involved/holiday-mail-for-heroes
12. Modified Christmas Story Gift Exchange Game* If you have a large group and the steal-the-gifts-gift-exchange format doesn’t work, or if gift exchange time is short, consider using this Modified Christmas Story to exchange your gifts instead.
Instructions: To play this Modified Christmas Story Gift Exchange Game, form a circle and pass the gift(s), (candy, prizes, etc.) to the right when you hear the word RIGHT and to the left when you hear the word LEFT. When the story is over, the gifts belong to whoever is holding them.
“In those days a decree went out RIGHT from Emperor Augustus that all the people LEFT in the world should be registered RIGHT away. This was the first registration and was taken RIGHT while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went RIGHT to the towns they had LEFT to be registered RIGHT away. Joseph also went RIGHT from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David (RIGHTLY called Bethlehem), because he was RIGHT from the house and family of David. He and Mary LEFT to be registered. Mary and Joseph LEFT Nazareth while they were engaged but expecting a child RIGHT away. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And RIGHT away she gave birth to her firstborn son and LEFT him in bands of cloth RIGHT in a manger, because there was no room LEFT for them in the inn.
RIGHT in that region were shepherds LEFT in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. RIGHT away an angel of the Lord stood before them, and they were LEFT terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all of the people LEFT: to you is born this day RIGHT in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. There is a sign LEFT for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth LEFT in a manger. And RIGHT away there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God RIGHT in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
When the angels had LEFT them and went RIGHT into heaven, the shepherds said RIGHT to everyone on their LEFT and their RIGHT, “Let us go RIGHT now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So RIGHT away they went and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, RIGHT where the angel said they would be LEFT.”
Hope this list inspires you to think about ways to make your youth ministry celebrations more meaningful. As you move closer to Christmas, our prayer is that you personally find the joy that is in the real meaning of Christmas. You are a blessing.
Do you have an Annual Christmas party with your youth ministry?
What other activities have you done to make the Christmas season more meaningful for your youth? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.
*Sources: Charlie Brown Christmas Quote: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059026/quotes?qt=qt0272807
Inspiration for Modified Christmas Story Gift Unwrap Game was found in Luke 2 (NIV) and the Nativity Gift Exchange: http://creativechurchideaattic.blogspot.com/2007/11/christmas-party-games.html