Ah…Christmas. It’s the time of year where the air is filled with good tidings and great joy–or at least it should be! Christmas is a time that many of us choose to do extra service projects and spread a little holiday cheer. One of our favorite Christmas service projects is to carol at a nursing home or hospital. It is a fun, festive, and easy thing to do.
You can do this project with just a few friends, or you can take a whole group. This year we are blessed to be part of a homeschool service project group. We gather once a month to do various service projects together. For the month of December, we meet one Friday during the morning for a Christmas brunch and cardmaking party. Then the following day, we head to the local VA Hospital to hand out the cards and carol.
If you are interested in organizing a similar service project, I would love to give you a suggestions that might make your project more meaningful and run more smoothly. I can’t take credit for them really. Our fearless leader is fantastic at figuring out little details! Here are some tips:
Let everyone be equal partners. Everyone can bring food for the brunch and cardmaking supplies. Just make sure you have an idea of what everyone is bringing so that you don’t find yourself without card stock or with a million stamps and no stamp pads.
If you do happen to be going to a VA hospital or nursing home, you can have some books about veterans for the children to look at. H is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet is fantastic!
You could even gather them all together for story time. You could also read stories about the elderly or sick.
Put out sample ideas for cards. You can find plenty of simple cards online that you can print. Many kids won’t look at them at all, which is probably even better. But you don’t want a bunch of kids sitting around uninspired either.
Let moms join in the fun. We have a tendency of backing off and letting our kids do the fun stuff, but if we want our children to serve, we need to lead by example. We want to demonstrate being the kind of people that dive in and not just stand on the sidelines waiting for others to do the work.
At the end, the kids can even lay their hands on the cards and pray for their recipients. Let the kids lead the prayers from their hearts. This is also great practice for the kids to pray aloud and learn from their friends’ examples.
Let the kids clean up the mess while the moms have one last drink of coffee. It’s hard for moms to back off, but kids do need to learn that cleaning is part of the process. Of course, parents will have to double check to make sure everything is taken care of at the end, but mostly, moms should be able to be hands off. You would be amazed what kids can do if you offer them a little prize for who gets the most trash in their bags, etc.
Choose Christmas carols that most people know. Tell them what the songs will be ahead of time so those who want to can practice. It’s a great idea to have a page printed with the words on them. We also liked to mix up just plain fun songs with more spiritual carols (which can also be fun!). Some sample of the songs we included were: Joy to the World, Rudolph the Red Nosed Rainbow, Jingle Bells, Away in the Manger, and Up on the Housetop. We always like to end each set with We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It’s also a good idea to run through the songs once before you go. You can also do this at the cardmaking brunch.
Remind the kids to smile. Most of the residents/patients love to see the kids–especially the littlest ones. Dress them up in their Christmas best. Seeing older and ill people can be a little disconcerting, so talk to your children about what they may experience before you go. Remind them to smile and relax. A little smile may be just what the residence need!
Always debrief at the end. You can do this as a group or as a family. You always get more out of an experience when you talk about it at the end. You can think of ways to make the even better in the future. More importantly, you can talk with your children about how good it feels to serve others and make them smile. Your children may have questions about some of the things they saw too.
It’s never too early to teach our children to care for others. Though we should be doing this year-round, there is no more fun time to do it than Christmas!
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:34-40 NIV
What is your favorite Christmas service project? Do you have any tips you would like to share?
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