Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

26 December 2012

One last Christmas idea (to store up for next year) and a request

One of the fun things I did on Christmas day was to run some activities for the kids who came to church in the morning.  I've done this for a few years - but lest you think me very virtuous, let me tell you I have had an extremely checkered past in this department.  There was the year I planned fabulous activities and only two kids turned up to church.  The following year I didn't plan anything (thinking I would just play with the two kids) and loads of children came.  There was the year of making Christmas cards (boring...already done that at school and by Christmas day it is too late) and the year I was so tired that all I could muster up were a few colouring in sheets (the less said about that one the better).  Last year we did a simple craft activity which went down very well.

Running the kids' activities on Christmas day is always a bit hit and miss.  You never know how many kids will be there.  And you never know what shape the kids will be in.  Some years they arrive full of beans.  Some years they arrive spent from nights of excitement-induced lack of sleep, an early start and possibly crazed from too much sugar already and it is only 9am!  There are the kids who have already opened their presents (and very possibly would rather be at home playing with them) and the kids who are impatient for church to finish because they are yet to get near their Christmas tree.  So many variables.

A few weeks ago I made the conscious decision to give some enerygy to this part of Christmas day this year.  We played party games.

Game # 1 - the treasure hunt
I pulled out the stable from the old Vegie Tales nativity set from a gift bag and asked the children what it was.  Then I sent them off to find all the characters, having hidden them all around the hall before church.  Once all the pieces were found the children set up the scene, telling me the story along the way.

Game # 2 - the guessing game

I'd taken six decorations from our tree and put them in a bag.  The children took turns to put their hand in the bag and guess what one of the decorations was by touch.  As they guessed them we pulled them out one by one and had a Christmas related discussion.  The decorations included a star, two angels (because one visited Mary but a host of them visited the shepherds), a bell, a tree and a stocking (the last three giving rise to good chats about traditions, church and giving.)

Game # 3 - pass the parcel

This was especially good for the children who hadn't yet opened anything that morning.  We sat in a circle and rolled a dice, passing the parcel around the number of people as shown on the dice.  Underneath each layer there was a question to answer or an instruction to carry out (by the child who had done the unwrapping and sometimes others chipped in as well, which was nice.)  The layers went as follows...

Layer 1 - What is your favourite thing about Christmas?
Layer 2 - What is your favourite Christmas song?
Layer 3 - What is your favourite Christmas food?
Layer 4 - This layer had a small prize with the instruction, "Because it is nice to give presents at Christmas time, give this prize to someone else in the group" (leading to a discussion about giving as well as receiving.)
Layer 5 - Tell us a short version of the Christmas story.  Make sure you include Gabriel and Mary, the journey to Bethlehem, Jesus born in the stable, shepherds and angels and wise men and the star.  Or give this task to someone else to do. 
Layer 6 - Give the parcel to the person who told the Christmas story and tell them they are allowed to open the next layer.
Final Layer - there were two small bags of chocolate coins at this point and a note that said, "Well done for telling us the Christmas story.  Here is prize for you to take home and one to share with everyone now."  And then we shared out the chocolates amongst the group.

This done, there were just a few minutes left - long enough to play three quick running around games - and then the parents were out to fetch their kids and take them onto the rest of their Christmas day events.  It was a great morning.  The kids were engaged and I think they all had a good time.

So here is the question.  If you organised something for kids at church on Christmas day (or if you have kids and they had something organised for them) could you please please please share what you/they did with me in the comments?  Because I am sure I will doing this gig another time and I'm always on the lookout for new ideas.

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