By Emily Houk
The holidays inspire feelings of warmth, generosity, and caring. The reason for Christmas, however, can become muddled when youth groups try to carry out holiday service projects. With all of the promotion of holiday charities, some of which start competing for donations months before December, youth leaders have difficulty deciding which charities their groups should contribute to as a service project.
Not all charity activities suit youth groups. Some mentors get caught up in the frenzy of the giving season and try to arrange toy or food drives to rival The Salvation Army and the Marines’ Toys for Tots. These organizations plan their drives months in advance, whereas a youth leader often does not begin planning until late in the season; one cannot plan something of that scope without feeling overwhelmed or exhausting the youth group. It is also difficult to coordinate times for helping the needy, given teenagers’ participation in activities other than church youth groups.
A solution is to look closer to home. Discussing service ideas with the clergy, administrative board, or other adults in the church could help bring about charity projects the congregation would support and benefit from. Some ideas are
· helping a family in the church who has bad luck this year obtain presents or a decent meal.
· delivering items to an elderly couple or splitting wood for their fire.
· repairing the church building or decorating it with ornaments hand-made by the youth group.
· assisting the clergy or deacons in preparing for church services. (This involvement will help the youth understand the reasons behind the leaders’ actions.)
· implementing ideas the youth may have for a charity project, which may be assisting someone who they know needs help but is ashamed or afraid to ask for it.
When looking for a charity activity this holiday season, keep in mind that sometimes the giving should begin at home. Youth will benefit more from giving to friends and those they know than to strangers, because youth see more gratitude when they give closer to home. In today’s fast-paced world, it is important to remember those in need, but not at the sacrifice of learning true values.
Originally from White House, TN, Emily Houk has served as youth director for the two campuses of Christ First United Methodist Church in Wasilla and Palmer, Alaska. She now lives in South Carolina with her husband, daughter, and son.
For more Christmas Ideas see Destination Christmas! Advent Programs and Practices for Youth .
© 2003 The United Methodist Publishing House. Permission is granted for copying for educational purposes.
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