By Michael C. Mack
Give gifts to people in need. Use the gift catalogs from International Disaster Emergency Services (IDES)—go to ides.org, select About Us, and then Newsletters, and then Gift Catalog—or World Vision (www.worldvision.org) to provide people the opportunity to buy useful gifts such as animals, handcrafted gifts, or clean water for children and families in need. You can even create a gift registry to help raise funds.
Give gifts of time. In a small group or class, have each person identify one person they know who may need a listening ear or emotional availability from a friend this season. Then as a group brainstorm ideas for these gifts of time (e.g., dinner or coffee together, driving around to look at lights, shopping together).
Celebrate lives changed by Christ. Display a Christmas tree in your foyer with ornaments that represent every baptism since the church’s start, or over a specific period. Use the tree as an illustration of what God is doing and to cast vision for changing lives in the future.
Emulate Cindy Lou Who (of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!). Get your whole church or small group involved in identifying a “Grinch” in their workplace, neighborhood, or family and to unconditionally accept this person’s quirkiness and include the person in their lives. Invite the Grinch to a Christmas dinner, your group, or church services, or serve him or her in some way. Like Cindy Lou Who, this may be the way for church members to find the real meaning of Christmas while growing the heart of a local Grinch three sizes that day! (This idea comes from Sue Skalicky at SmallGroups.com.)
Host military members. Is there a military base nearby? Ask church members to volunteer to welcome military members who will be far from family to their homes over the holidays. What a great way to honor their service! Contact the base and ask them to identify the service members who will be paired with families.
Offer rides home from New Year’s Eve parties. Contact local party venues and let them know about your offer. They can call or text a number when someone needs a ride home.