In my opinion, it's important to have good traditions in our youth ministries.
Traditions aren't just fun, they play a huge role in building expectations. They become part of the life of a ministry. Stories are passed down, adding to the excitement and anticipation of the tradition. Traditions build "group," and help students develop a sense of belonging.
Here are some of my favorite Christmas Ministry Traditions. If you're looking to start some Christmas traditions with your group, maybe some of these might get you moving in the right direction.
Graham Cracker Houses
Every other year, the Youth and Family Ministry sponsors a Graham Cracker House Night. A couple weeks before Christmas we invite families to come to the church to build a Graham Cracker House. The whole thing is quite easy to do, but provides an awesome opportunity for families to spend time with each other. Each family is asked to bring an appetizer, a box of graham crackers, and a bag of candy. The appetizers are put out for munching. The candy is shared. And the graham crackers are used to construct the house. As the Youth and Family Ministry, we provide the drinks and melting chocolate. Why chocolate? Chocolate works as a great mortar. As it cools it hardens and holds the crackers and candies in place well. Why graham crackers? Graham crackers are pretty inexpensive and a lot easier than ginger bread to come by.
The White Elephant
The White Elephant is a Christmas staple. Every year, the White Elephant gift swap is part of the student ministry Christmas party. Some years we allow the students to shop around while other years, they have to bring something from home. We encourage them to look for items that are really creative and unusual. The more unique the better. One of my most favorite gifts? A student brought a pet frog that the family no longer wanted in a sparkling cider bottle. It was totally unexpected!
The Great Gift Exchange (aka Dirty Santa)
The Great Gift Exchange is a game that you play with wrapped gifts. While it can be played in various ways, the basic idea of the game centers on the trading (or stealing) of gifts. Each student is assigned a number. When their number is called they have to choose between opening a gift or stealing a gift that has already been open. Differently people have different rules on how to play, but we've found it to be a lot of fun, and a great tradition for building memories.
Christmas Movie Countdown
The Christmas movie is as much a part of Christmas as the Christmas tree. For the last couple of years, our ministry hosted a countdown to Christmas by showing some of the more popular Christmas movies. There are a ton of fun, clean, family-friendly movies that help ring in the Christmas season.
Over The Top Decorations
Decorations have become a huge part of our Christmas season. Early in December, we host a decorating party. Students are invited to help decorate our youth room for Christmas. Christmas trees, lights, wreaths, garlands, figurines . . . you name it, we use it! We have had some truly over-the-top decorations. Where do you find our decorations? The congregation. In early November, put the word out that the youth group is looking for unwanted or out of date decorations. I'll never forget the first year we did this. The youth room was and amazing disaster of holiday mess. And we loved it!
What are you waiting for? Pick this year as the time to start a new tradition with your youth group.
By doing so you'll build new memories with your current students, and give future students something to look forward too!