Giving Above and Beyond This Christmas

Although I think we would all agree that Christmas is a season for giving, we often restrict that giving to family and friends.

Yet this season offers us a beautiful opportunity to show the love of Christ in a very tangible way, as we give beyond our personal relationships.

Not only do we have the chance to reach out and bless others who might not otherwise receive anything, but we can also do it together as a family, teaching our children about generosity and showing kindness, and even by being thoughtful about the purchases that we already plan on making for family and friends.

On a Local Level

Food banks or soup kitchens.

Offer a monetary donation to help them provide families and individuals with meals at Christmas. Or, choose to volunteer and serve as a family.

Christmas hampers being put together in a community near our home

A center local to us, packing up Christmas hampers.

Christmas hampers.

Many churches put together hampers for those in need in the local community. Our church has been doing this for years, and each small group within our church will take one family and purchase a large amount of food, dry goods and fresh items (including a turkey), as well as gifts for various family members.

A family that you know is in need.

You don’t need to know of a Christmas hamper program to simply help a family in need. One year our family put together a hamper of sorts with about 3 other families from our church. The family in need were recent immigrants from Sudan and we had been trying to build a relationship with them, so it made sense to find a way to bless them in particular at Christmas.

With the state of the economy the past several years, you may also know of families that have been out of work or really struggling to make ends meet, and I’m sure they would be so happy to receive gifts for their children, special foods or Christmas treats, a gift certificate to a local grocery store or anything else you can think of.

Image by Keely Scott

On a Global Level

Compassion International.

Since my husband and I travelled with Compassion International to the Philippines this spring, and we were able to really delve into how they manage their funds, we feel very comfortable putting our money towards the support of this incredible ministry. Not only are physical needs being met, but the Gospel is going forth and lives are truly being changed.

Several ways that you can support the work of Compassion:

Operation Christmas Child 

Although it’s too late to make an actual shoebox gift yourself and send it in, you can still create one online and customize it, including personalized notes from you and your family members.

I’ve enjoyed learning more about this ministry at the Relevant Conference, and in addition to a child in need receiving a box full of gifts, lovingly packed for them, they also receive a live presentation of the Gospel message, and many of them receive further information in their own language, including a follow-up discipleship program. This is definitely something worthwhile to consider doing next year (boxes are usually due by late November).

Other Ministries and Development Organizations. 

There are so many amazing ministries and ways to give globally. Simply discuss it as a family and choose to make a donation to any organization or ministry that your family feels that they can stand behind.

Our family has recently discovered Hope International, which provides micro-loans and business training for qualified entrepreneurs in developing countries, and we’re excited to decide how we will partner with them as an entrepreneurial family ourselves. Find something that really speaks to you, pray about the options and then just give.

Missionaries

Give an extra love gift towards the work of missionaries that you know of or already support. They may be in need themselves, or may have extra ministry needs at this time of year.

Image from Mercy House Kenya

Through the Gifts You Purchase

Buy fair trade whenever possible.

Whether it’s coffee, tea, chocolate… there are so many fair-trade options out there, that are ensuring that farmers are being fairly paid for their work and their products.

Buy speciality handmade gifts.

Looking for unique gifts? There are many ministries, like Mercy House Kenya, where beautiful handmade products are available to help support the work of the ministry, and in exchange, you can buy a truly special gift for someone on your list. I recently bought one of their Large Funky Paper Bead Necklaces (in blue), and I love it!

Emily has a good list of links to ministries like this in her post on shopping green, where you can both shop and give at the same time.

If you’re struggling with the cost of products like these, I have found one great way to be able to afford to support both fair trade and speciality handmade stores is to purchase vouchers from deal sites like Jasmere. They frequently feature vouchers for companies that are selling speciality handmade, fair-trade goods, or green and organic products from small business. The vouchers give me a great value for my money, and allow me to make my own Christmas gift shopping intentional without busting my budget.

How Do We Afford to Give Above and Beyond?

Simple. By buying less ourselves.

Keep the gifts exchanged among your own family minimal. Our children are receiving only a small handful of inexpensive gifts from us this year. We do have a minimal budget for purchasing other gifts, I use vouchers like the ones I mentioned above, and we just don’t buy in to the mentality that expressing love has to mean spending a fortune.

When we make giving generously to bless those in need as much as a priority as giving gifts to our loved ones, suddenly it isn’t that hard.

Lastly, when there is nothing to give financially, we can always give of ourselves. Loving service to others is a gift in and of itself. You may have not have the ability to give monetarily this season, but consider how you can serve those in need instead. Write special letters to your sponsored children. Visit an elderly care home. Invite someone lonely to join you for your Christmas festivities. The possibilities are endless.

What are some of the creative ways that you have given at Christmas? Is this important for your family and how do you make it a priority?

Top image by Impress Your Kids- filling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes!

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. Jenny in CG says:

    I love seeing the giving hearts here…

    There is a tip, from personal experience, I’d like to share-
    When you are filling a basket, hamper or bags to bless another family, consider adding a package of toilet paper and a roll of paper towels, sandwich bags or plastic wrap, bar soap, dish soap or laundry detergent. All of these “non-food” items CAN NOT be bought with food stamps and I know of no state voucher program that allows for them either. It is so demoralizing to not be able to be sanitary and clean, to ration toilet paper or not wrap left-over precious foods properly.

    A church group that once brought us groceries included a 12-pack of toilet paper, a roll of paper towels (I made that last for 6 months! It was like gold), bar soap and laundry detergent. I broke down in tears of gratefulness; the food was a blessing enough but that they thought of our personal needs too spoke volumes of love to me.

  2. Great reminders for sure. We heard the challenge once that we should always give to Jesus (beyond “tithing”) as much or more as we give anyone in our family. Our girls have loved the ways we’ve served others as a family during the Advent season!! :)

  3. We actually stopped giving Christmas gifts to the adults in our family (and this year, things are tight, so the kids aren’t getting anything either). Our own children only get one, small gift. It is purposely, something that will help them grow closer to Christ. We have done OCC shoeboxes for years. Each one of our children fills a box. As we clear out too-small coats, mittens and hats, we donate them to places that will GIVE them to those who need them. We usually bake cookies and take them to neighbors and shut-ins. This year, we have no extra money ourselves, but my husband uses a credit card when spending money for the store that he runs. He has enough points to get several gift cards. Normally, we would cash in on those and get gas cards for ourselves to relieve our gas burden (hubby drives 120 miles a day 6-7 days a week), but he has decided that we are going to cash those in for gift cards to give to people who are even worse off than we are. We are trying to keep Christmas about giving to Jesus rather than getting gifts for ourselves (or people who don’t really need them).

  4. Thank you for this post. There are so many wonderful ideas in here on ways we can help those in need. This year was are first year participating in OCC and I loved it. It also warmed my heart when we dropped off our shoe boxes to see how many others were already there. It makes me realize how much more I want to purposefully give throughout the entire year.

  5. These are some great ideas. As a family we try to spread out our giving over the year, focusing on things like you menitoned. This way its not all at once (and all at once for the budget) and also helps us spread our time around to different things. I know that you didn’t mean to ONLY give at Christmas, but it is something people think about this time of year. I find that many places like food banks and things like that also need a lot of help other times of the year. In fact, they usually need more help then for donations because people don’t think of them other times of the year.

    So we don’t really specifically do things at Christmas but through the year. Some ways we have done this (and could be applied to Christmas time) are giving an encouragement card and money to someone we know that is in need, taking the kids to the store and helping them choose healthy food (with some of their small allowance) to give to the food bank, having a sponsor child, having them help me prepare and deliver (or purchase if we don’t have ability at that time to make it) a healthy meal for someone who is/family who is sick or greiving, having my children make cards to go with that or just on their own to give to people. Some ways I have thought of but haven’t applied at this stage of my life very much are doing practical works like shovelling snow or raking leaves, cleaning, babysitting, etc all for “free”…just doing it to bless the person and encourage them.

    One way that I have really found makes a huge impact for people is simply giving them an encouragement card, which can also be done anonymously if you prefer. Including some encouraging words, mentioning specific things, a verse of Scripture, that sort of thing, really makes a difference for people and isn’t done very often. We all need to be encouraged and encourage others more.

  6. I absolutely adore this post!

    We support so many of the organization that you’ve shared! We love packing OCC boxes with our church, we did 78 of them this year.

    We have also been completely changed by our ten amazing Compassion kids! I hope to be able to give a few Gifts of Compassion this year.

    We’re doing a Mitten Tree at our church this year and anyone can hang a pair of new mitten or gloves on it on Sunday. In a few weeks, we will take them all to the Open Door Mission in the city.

    We also plan to go and visit the nursing home and spend some time with the resident.

    Thanks for sharing this list with us! I plan to feature it in this weeks “Links I Love” post!

  7. We limit the gift-giving among our family members – and, yes, try to focus on fair-trade items there – but always give many times more to the orphanage that our church supports.

  8. Thanks for this post! It is a very timely reminder to all of us and there are SO many ways to stretch our giving impact this time of year. Our ministry does a program each December called Ornaments4Orphans. We sell fair trade African Christmas ornaments and the proceeds go back into our work with children in Uganda. http://www.ornaments4orphans.org

  9. This post is chock full of great ideas! I had no idea you could customize an Operation Christmas Child box online! We usually do a Christmas box. My post today talks about some different ways of serving with little ones. I will admit–I’ve had a hard time with it since becoming a mom. I think once the kids are older, it will be so much fun to take them with me to the soup kitchen, etc., but, for now, my 3 and 1-year-old like to run away from me whenever we go! My 3-year-old and I will be making some treats for our neighbors as well.

  10. This year our family is starting the tradition of sending a package to our World Vision child. We’re going to shop for her together. I think it is a tangible way for them to give to someone that is in need.

  11. Each year my family has adopted a child through our church’s program and also an elderly member of a local nursing home. My husband and I have always kept Christmas to one gift for each other, and try to make it a want instead of a need to make it special. After our son was born, we decided on two gifts for him and a stocking full of necessities (socks, mittens, etc). For our extended family I work on homemade gifts throughout the year, and that frees up some extra money in December to focus on others instead of ourselves. Thank you Stephanie for some or the other global ideas. We already sponsor a child, but maybe our family can incorporate one into next year.