That’s why this year we’re here to help you plan ahead. After the year and a half we’ve all had, there is no better time to get involved and spread a little holiday magic where it’s desperately needed. Plus, as our kids get older and become more aware of the world around them, we want to instill in them empathy and kindness. Taking part in service projects is a great way to foster a sense of community and caring for others. Older kids may also discover or strengthen skills that will last them a lifetime. You can’t beat that.
Jesus calls us to follow Him and to love one another, and we cannot think of a better way to do the latter than to serve.
Want to get your family involved in serving others this holiday season and beyond? We’ve compiled a list of ideas that we love and think you’ll enjoy with your family as well. There’s something here for virtually any age group - from toddlers to teens. They’re never too young to make the world a little brighter!
Service at Home: Giving Manger
What it is: The Giving Manger might be just what your family needs to shift the focus of Christmas back to giving. We read the story together as a family at the beginning of the season and place a piece of straw in the wooden manger for each act of service performed. What a sweet way to prepare a manger filled with service and love for the One born to us on Christmas Day.How to get started: This story gift set contains everything your family needs as you bring service to the forefront this season. It can be found in your favorite bookstore or here.
What it is: You’ve probably seen advent calendars in stores. Each day of December kids (or moms) get a piece of candy, a trinket, or some other treat as a way of counting down to Christmas Day. I’ve even seen versions with mini bottles of wine! Fun, right. A reverse advent takes this same idea of counting down to the big day, but instead of getting, you GIVE.
How to get started: Most variations of the reverse advent involve adding a non-perishable food item to a donation box for each day in December. We personally encourage you to begin on Thanksgiving day and to plan for your delivery to be made the week before Christmas. Your local food bank will be grateful! You could also change this up a bit by collecting everything needed to give a local family a day of ease for Christmas (food, gifts, decorations) and drop it off at their house just in time to enjoy. Or, collect clothing items and other necessities for your local homeless shelter. The point is to give instead of receive, though the gratitude expressed upon delivery will have your young ones feeling pretty special too.
What it is: Spartanburg Interfaith Hospitality Network, or SPIHN, provides shelter, meals, and supportive services for homeless families in Spartanburg County. This ministry is able to do something unique. It provides a way of keeping families together as they navigate the trials that homelessness can bring.
How to get started: Volunteers are most appreciated and can assist in many ways. Local churches host the families and are often in need of helping hands to prepare family spaces, plan meals, and to provide fun and interactive play opportunities for children. EE FULL RECIPE ONLINE
The Lot Project
How to get started: The organization depends on volunteers to keep running, and you can donate your time in any number of ways - from getting dirty in the garden to helping with administrative tasks and marketing. Visit thelotproject.com to learn more. They accept volunteers of many ages, so your older kids and teens can have a blast digging in the dirt while making a difference.
What it is: Blessings in a Backpack exists to ease transitions for youth. There are over 400,000 foster youth in America. These kids are not only removed from their homes, but they often carry their belongings in trash bags. Comfort Cases, a national organization, offers a solution. They provide backpacks, duffle bags, and luggage for foster youth so they can carry their items with dignity. Each bag is also filled with comfort items, like stuffed animals, and necessities such as hairbrushes, toothbrushes, and school supplies.
How to get started: Anyone can hold a bag drive to help support this organization. Collect luggage or backpacks along with items to load inside and ship to Comfort Cases for distribution. They’ve partnered with Give Back Box for lower cost shipping. You can also send $25 for a bookmark making kit. Kids can use their creativity to decorate bookmarks for a good cause, since Comfort Cases will include your designs with an age appropriate book in every Comfort Case. To learn more or get started, visit Comfortcases.org.
How to get started: You will find information on every mission supported on the Samaritan's Purse website but we think your kiddos will especially enjoy creating Operation Christmas Child boxes to be shared in sponsored countries. Your fam can shop to create unique gift sets in person or go through a simple online creation process from the comfort of your sofa. Collection week is November 15-22. It’s a fun one, just be sure to prep your boxes before or during collection week. The upstate has several organized drop off locations to make this act of service as simple as it is fun.
If none of these ideas are what you’re looking for, here are a few other simple ways you can serve as a family.
Read to children at schools, libraries, church, or even online via Zoom!
Gather your family and go out for good old fashioned caroling. It’s a no-cost way to spread cheer and meet your neighbors if you haven’t already.
Make activity boxes for kids at the local children’s hospital. Add games, cards, treats, and craft supplies. Stuffed animals and comfort objects are also well loved.
Greet people at your church, or offer to help set up before service. Even young kids can smile and say hello!
Send holiday cards, letters, or care packages to deployed service members who won’t get to see their families this season.
Low on time but still want to help? The organizations we've shared, and also those surrounding your community, also require monetary donations to keep doors open. Have a sit down with your child about the importance of giving as a family and ask for help in choosing the best missions for your family to financially support.
Service. We are simply made for it!
It is our hope that something here is nudging your family into action. Will you be adding any of these service project ideas to your holiday festivities this year? We'd love to hear how your family will be giving back in YOUR community. Sound off in the comments below!