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. Nativity Story Gift Unwrap 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 Right Left Nativity story to exchange your gifts instead.
Instructions: To play this Right Left Christmas 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, Caesar Augustus decided to count everyone LEFT living in the whole Roman world. Joseph LEFT, taking Mary with him RIGHT to his town of Bethlehem to register.
When they arrived, there were no rooms LEFT. All of the inns in Bethlehem were RIGHT full. There was just nowhere LEFT for them to stay. Finally, someone offered to let them stay RIGHT in their stable.
Mary was pregnant and while in Bethlehem the RIGHT time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a boy RIGHT there. RIGHT there in a Bethlehem stable, the Savior of the world was born. Mary wrapped him with LEFT over strips of cloth and laid him RIGHT in a manger.
Some shepherds who lived RIGHT near Bethlehem, were out at night RIGHT in their fields watching over their sheep. RIGHT then, they saw a bright light. The light was so bright that they had to close their eyes. When they opened them again, a beautiful angel was standing RIGHT in the sky RIGHT above them with his arms LEFT opened wide. The shepherds looked RIGHT at each other and were LEFT feeling very afraid.
Then the angel spoke RIGHT to them. “Do not be afraid. I’m RIGHT here to bring you the good news LEFT for all people. Today RIGHT in Bethlehem a baby has been born, He is the RIGHT one, the one that will save the world. You will know the RIGHT baby because He will be LEFT wrapped in cloths, and laying RIGHT in a manger.”
RIGHT then, a large group of angels appeared RIGHT there, and they said, “Glory to God, and peace be to all people LEFT on the earth.”
The shepherds were LEFT amazed and excited. They had to go RIGHT away to see this baby the angels were talking about.
They LEFT as fast as they could, and soon found Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus RIGHT were they angels said they would be. The shepherds fell RIGHT to their knees when they saw Jesus, and were LEFT filled with joy that they had found the Savior. They stayed for a short time and then LEFT . As soon as they LEFT they began shouting RIGHT in the streets and telling everyone LEFT in town about what they had seen.
RIGHT after Jesus was born, wise men traveling RIGHT on their camels noticed a very strange star RIGHT in the sky. They knew that the RIGHT One who would save the world had been born.
RIGHT away King Herod got very worried. He assembled all of the important people LEFT in the area and asked them where this baby had been born. The people replied, “RIGHT in Bethlehem.”
RIGHT then King Herod called the wise men to meet with him RIGHT away. He asked them to go and find the child RIGHT away. “RIGHT as soon as you find Him,” he said, “ tell me, so that I can go to Him RIGHT away and worship Him.”
After the wise men spoke to the King, they LEFT to find the baby. They didn’t know RIGHT where the He was, but followed the star LEFT in the east until it hung RIGHT over the place where Jesus was. When they found Jesus, and they bowed RIGHT down and worshiped him.
RIGHT after that, they opened the gifts they had brought Jesus… gold, frankincense and myrrh. Then they LEFT to find a place to sleep for the night.
That night the wise men all had the same dream RIGHT as they were sleeping. They were not to go RIGHT back and tell King Herod where they had found Jesus. King Herod wanted to kill Jesus because he was jealous of Him. So, the wise men LEFT for home another way so that Herod would not know the RIGHT direction they had come from. They also decided RIGHT then that they would not tell King Herod anything about what they had seen.
When the wise men LEFT , an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Arise, take Jesus and Mary, and run RIGHT to Egypt. Joseph got up RIGHT away and woke up Mary. She quickly picked Jesus RIGHT up and they LEFT in the middle of the night for Egypt where they would be safe.
RIGHT after King Herod died an angel appeared again RIGHT away to Joseph and told him to go RIGHT to a place called Nazareth. And that’s RIGHT where Jesus grew up.
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
Nativity Gift Exchange: http://creativechurchideaattic.blogspot.com/2007/11/christmas-party-games.html
Here’s my latest article for The YouthWorker Movement. Would LOVE to hear your ideas/comments. -Erin