By Debbie Freeman
Retail stores have Christmas displays up before Halloween and the radio reminds us that “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” Advertisers tell us to “grant a wish” to the important people in our lives and to take the next year to pay for it! And, we’re surprised that our kids and their families are missing the real meaning of Christmas?
To provide a time and place for families to reconnect with each other and to be reminded of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place, I designed a special event to meet these needs. We offer a fun and effective Family Advent Night!
Each year, the children’s ministry team offers the Family Advent Night the first Sunday of Advent. This popular event is scheduled from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. Preparation is vital to make sure that everyone has a chance to participate in the activities and to eliminate long waits, which are always hard on the littlest ones in the family! The Family Advent Night includes dinner, crafts, family pictures, and a puppet show by our puppet team and music by the kids’ choir.
Families choose a time for dinner (4:00, 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.), with the number of families distributed over the three dinner times. We offer a schedule for each dinner session. One hour is set aside for dinner and a puppet show. The dinner menu was always kid-friendly and including cookies to frost (and eat!). This was a very popular activity! The cookies were always creative masterpieces! After the meal, families went to the sanctuary for the puppet team’s presentation. Their show was fun for all age groups.
Another hour of the evening included a variety of crafts. We offered 7 rooms with a different craft in each room. Making their own advent wreath to use at home was by far the most popular. We provided an advent devotion book to go with it. Painting glass ball ornaments was easy. It involved pouring little amounts of paint inside and swirling them around. We always included these two crafts, but changed the rest of the crafts yearly. Other fun and meaningful crafts were nativity finger puppets, a Christmas stocking for Jesus, Advent calendars, an Advent chain with daily activities, placemats, wrapping paper, and even a little box full of dinner discussion ideas â€¦ enough for every day of Advent.
The third hour included more crafts (4 more rooms) and a family picture. What a blessing to have people loan us props, backdrops, costumes and even professional lighting! Families choose costumes and dress as members of the nativity scene…Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus (sometimes a doll, and sometimes a real baby from the family being photographed), angels and even a variety of animals.They enjoyed themselves! These pictures turn out incredibly well and a copy is given to each family to take home. I have discovered that many of the families include this picture in their Christmas greetings!
During the last hour of the evening, the participants gather in the sanctuary for the Christmas presentation by the Kids’ Choir. Everything from stars to trees and even a camel are used to creatively recall the real Christmas story.
I did the Family Advent Night for 6 years at my last place of ministry. My new church is planning a World of Christmas event with a mini-EPCOT area outside and a musical indoors. I will tell you about that next year. I look forward to seeing families learning more about Jesus, his birth at Christmas, and how it is celebrated around the world!
Debbie Freeman was the Children’s Pastor at a large urban church in Denver, CO for over 15+ years. She is currently ministering and loving children at Creekside Christian Church in St. Johns, Fl.