December 29, 2013

5 Ways to Pay it Forward at Christmas with Your Children - Ruth L. Snyder

Many of us parents struggle with how to pass our faith on to our children in meaningful ways. We understand that if our children do not personalize their faith and make it their own, they will discard biblical beliefs as they grow older. My husband and I have discussed ways of making Christmas real to our children. We continue to try different approaches.

Here are a few of our favourite ideas:

  1. Have each child purchase items and pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan's Purse. We explain to our children that we are sending toys and other items to children who have no toys. This project has opened up discussions about helping less fortunate people and learning about other cultures.

  2. Help out at a local shelter or soup kitchen. We have made trips to the Mustard Seed several times to cook and serve an evening meal. It is enlightening to talk with people who access services. Some people are there due to poor personal choices, but others are victims of unfortunate events.

  3. Sponsor a child. Our family sponsors children through Compassion Canada and the Dalit Freedom Network. For a dollar a day, we can give hope and education to a child. Both organizations encourage correspondence between the sponsor and the child. This provides great opportunities for learning skills like letter writing and learning about other cultures. Compassion Canada also welcomes sponsors who want to travel overseas and meet the child they are sponsoring.

  4. Go caroling in your neighborhood. We've discovered this is a dying tradition, but people appreciate hearing carols at their doors. We have also baked cookies as a family and then distributed them to our neighbors after we sing. (Make sure you have a list of ingredients in case people have food allergies.)

  5. Write thank you notes to people who give gifts. This is almost a lost art today. Unfortunately, we have so much that often we are not thankful for what we receive. Writing thank you notes encourages us to stop and think about the person who took the time and spent money to buy us something. Hand written notes are few and far between and will mean a lot to the people you send them to. It is easier and faster to send an e-mail, but the extra time, attention, and cost you put into writing a note will demonstrate your gratitude.

This year we received an Adventures in Odyssey activity calendar from Focus on the Family. We didn't do all the activities, but we really enjoyed the ones we did. For example, before opening our gifts this year, we played the "ABC Advent game" where we came up with 25 things related to the Nativity. Our whole family (with children ranging in age from 5 to 16) participated and it was interesting to hear the different creative contributions each person came up with. For instance:
  • A is for angry - King Herod was angry when he heard about Christ's birth
  • E is for excited - the shepherds were excited to hear about the birth of Jesus
  • V is for the shepherds who came to visit Jesus
It is encouraging to see our children not only learning, but also sharing what they are learning with others. A couple weeks ago I wrote about how my one son made me cry in church - happy tears.

What have you done with your children or grandchildren to teach them about Christ and Christmas? Please share :)

Ruth L. Snyder
Ruth L. Snyder lives in north-eastern Alberta with her husband and five young children. She enjoys writing about her journey of faith, special needs, and adoption. Her novella, Cecile's Christmas Miracle was released on December 4th and is available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.


  1. What a beautiful story, Ruth! You made some excellent suggestions for helping children understand the meaning of Christmas. The teaching you and your husband offer the kids is obviously sinking in. Blessings to all of you and Happy New Year!

  2. Thanks, Sharon. I appreciate your encouragement and prayers. Happy New Year to you too :)

  3. these are some great ideas. when our kids were small I used to bake a birthday cake and we'd put candles on it and sing 'Happy Birthday' to Jesus

  4. My granddaughter and I put together 2 boxes for Operation Christmas Child this year. Then we watched one of the videos of children receiving these shoeboxes online and I explained about all these children that have very little. She was very moved by the video and so excited to give the boxes. It was a wonderful gift we shared together.

  5. Tracy, thanks for sharing an additional idea :) Connie, thanks for mentioning the videos. We read one of the stories online about the impact a shoebox had on one child. The additional resources Samaritan's Purse provides are great.

  6. This makes me lonely for my babies! But now we have our little grandson so we will have to begin collecting ideas like this and start them with him! We still pack OCC boxes every year and it's always been good for the kids to have a hands-on ministry to other children at Christmas.


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