“We are all artists in everything we do. Art is creating; it is our link that makes us like God. All you have to do is look at any form of nature to know that God is the greatest artist of all. He gives us beauty in his creations to inspire us to find the artists inside of us. Art isn’t just about painting or sculpture. It is in everything from how you organize your life to how you communicate with the world.” – Bethany Jane Andrews Hoey
Killing a little time, I ran across this Facebook status update, “Make things for Christmas this year not simply because of economics, but because you’ve forgotten that you are an artist.” So who would have guessed – maybe the Facebook newsfeed is the new way to get inspired.
Now, I don’t define myself as an artist. In the world of arts & crafts, I certainly lean toward the passably-crafty-at-best end of the spectrum. But why not spend a little time unleashing your own creativity or the creativity of your youth this season?
Here are 7 really easy & thrifty gifts you (or your youth) can make this year:
1. Handmade cards. Grab a piece of card stock, cut it in half and then fold that in half (any direction is okay). Voila! You have the beginning of a card. There are a jillion stickers and stamps and products you could buy to make a card, but the favorite one I ever received was a hand-drawn stick figure with a santa hat and a heartfelt message. You could recycle images from old Christmas card fronts as well. How cool would it be if the youth made cards for the seniors or the pastors in your church?
2. Favorite Memory Drawing. Think of a friend and a favorite time together – maybe it was a special worship time on a retreat, for example. On a plain sheet of paper, draw a picture representing that memory. This doesn’t have to be impressive art here – think Shel Silverstein or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Frame your art when you are done. On the back of the frame, you could write a personal message about your friendship.
3. Start an annual ornament tradition. For the last several years, I’ve crafted little ornaments for each of my youth. The idea behind an annual ornament is that if they stay involved in the youth group, by the time they graduate they will have 6 ornaments of their own to put on their first Christmas trees as young adults. There are tons of ways to make an ornament, here’s how I did mine: First, I found matching plain wood cutouts, usually with a meaningful symbol like a cross, angel, star, etc. I spray painted them white, drew the date & a little verse or symbol on the back with a ultra fine permanent marker, tied on a ribbon. (I have a weakness for glitter so I added that, but it’s totally optional.) Although I made mine as a gift for the youth, you could also have the youth make them as a group project or tie it in with an advent lesson.
Marbled Ornaments. Here’s a really easy ornament that youth could make, but make sure it’s youth who can handle breakables. You’ll need clear glass ornaments & craft paint in a variety of colors. Remove the metal cap & drip paint into the opening of the ornament. By slowly turning the ornament around, the paint coats the inside of the ornament. You can add additional colors until you get the marbleized effect you like. A little paint goes a long way. For best results, let the ornaments dry overnight before replacing the cap.
4. Time capsule ornament. You’ll need a clear plastic ornament that you can open (available at most craft stores), strips of colored paper, optional small photos & mementos, ribbon & tape. Write down favorite memories from the year on strips of paper, or even favorite Bible verses and wishes for the future. Fill the clear plastic ornament, tape it shut and tie it with a ribbon. Add the date on the outside. If you happen to know someone with a little one having a first Christmas, this is a great gift. This might be a cool New Year’s Eve project as well.
5. Cookie baskets. Or really any kind of homemade food. Include the recipes for an additional nice touch. (Feel free to send me one.)
6. Homemade Coupons. A meaningful way to tie the idea of serving others to Christmas is to make service coupons for gifts. Have youth brainstorm ways they could help out their loved ones & make coupons. Would they be willing to shovel the sidewalks for other church members? How about offering to clean the kitchen without complaining? Youth could put them in a decorated envelope. (I’d suggest making coupons good for “Staying after the New Year’s Eve lock-in to clean up,” but that’s just me.)
7. Write a poem, compose a song. Everyone has different learning styles, different gifts. Celebrate the creative genius in your youth by having them write poems or songs. Or write a song yourself, make a YouTube video of it & share it with us.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting about two dozen emails a day from retailers this week trying to get me to buy something no one really needs for Christmas. Why not give a gift of your own creation this year? And if you do, share some pictures with us!
What other creative gift ideas do you have?
Erin Jackson is National Director – Community & Care for the Center of Youth Ministry Excellence and the YouthWorker Movement. She is a veteran & certified youthworker as well, and loving her current role as a volunteer Senior High Bible Study teacher. She lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband Dennis, three kids and a dog. She can be found blogging at http://umyouthworker.com/