Adventures: An Advent Devotional for Women

This time of year can get busy and super crazy with all the Christmas gifts to buy, parties to attend, cookies to bake, kids Christmas performances to attend, and so much more.  Sometimes we can lose focus of the main reason we celebrate Christmas.  That’s why I have written an Advent devotion just for you!

Adventures is a great devotional for you to use this Advent season (and it’s free)! This devotion is geared toward women (but men can read it too).  There is a devotion for each day in Advent (Dec. 3-24, 2017). Each day contains a Scripture reading, devotion, worship song, and an Adventure (something you will do each day, some are fun and some are more reflective).  The worship songs are linked to a YouTube video.  Just click on the name of the song (which is in red) and it will take you to the song.  Also, the Adventure for some days is linked to a website.  Just click the red words for those days and it will take you to the site you need.

To download your free copy of this e-book, all you need to do is subscribe to my blog. You’ll see the subscription box at the bottom of this blog post. Just fill in your email address and you’ll be emailed the devotional link to where you can download your own copy!  (Or you can look on the right hand side of this page and fill out the form.  If you are on a phone or tablet, scroll all the way to the bottom where the Adventures book cover image is located to see the subscription box).

I would love for you to read Adventures during Advent as you wait and prepare for the coming of our Savior.  I hope this new resource I have written will help you keep your focus on Jesus this Advent season.

30 Ideas for a Christ-Centered Family Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Christmas is probably my favorite holiday.  I love the atmosphere that Christmas brings; so much joy and cheer.  I love that the Atlanta Christian Radio station plays Christmas music beginning on Thanksgiving Day.  I love to decorate my house and absolutely love Christmas lights!  Christmas is so much fun!

But sometimes my love for this holiday is focused on the wrong things.  I tend to pay attention more to buying presents, going to parties, making sure all the decorations are hung, baking cookies, and staying very busy.

If you are like me, you want your family’s focus during Christmas to be on the birth of Jesus, which is the whole reason why we celebrate Christmas!  So, what can you do to keep your family’s eyes locked toward the birth of Jesus?

Here are 30 activities you can do to have a Christ-centered family Christmas:

    1. Celebrate Advent
      Advent is a Christian season where we wait and anticipate and prepare our hearts for the birth of the Messiah.  Advent means “coming”, and we are waiting for the coming of the King.  To help families at my church celebrate Advent, I gave out Family Advent Bags so they could keep their focus on Jesus.  To see more about this bag, visit my last blog post:  Family Advent Bags
    2. Help Decorate your Church for Advent
      Volunteer your family to help prepare the church for Advent.  Decorating the church can be a fun family activity!
    3. Set up a Nativity in each room of your home
      Put one in each room if you can.  Use a kid-friendly one (like Fisher-Price) so your kids can play with it.
    4. Hide & Seek with Baby Jesus
      Take the baby Jesus from one of your Nativity scenes and hide Him each day.  Have your kids find Him every morning.
    5. Family Devotion and Prayer Time
      A great time to do this is around the dinner table.  Faith5 makes a great bookmark highlighting ways to have a family devotion.  Implementing these easy ways will help your family keep focused on Christ.  To see this bookmark go to their website:  www.faith5.org
    6. A Stocking for Jesus
      Hang a stocking in your home with Jesus’ name on it.  Fill it with notes of prayers to Him.
    7. Family Pinterest Craft or Baking Night
      Search Pinterest for a fun nativity craft you could make together.  Or try out your favorite Pinterest Christmas cookie recipe.  Hang the craft in your home and deliver the cookies to a neighbor.
    8. Visit a Live Nativity
      Check out your local churches to see who does a live nativity and attend one.  This is a great experience for your kids to see the Nativity story come to life!
    9. Take a Census of your Family
      Talk about what a census is.  Use this as an opportunity to map out your family tree.  Then open your Bible to Matthew 1 and show your kids the family tree of Jesus.
    10. Christmas Card Prayers
      Put the Christmas cards you get in a basket on your table.  Draw out one each morning and each night and pray for that family.
    11. Watch a Charlie Brown Christmas If your kids are able, help them memorize and recite the meaning of Christmas that Linus says in the movie:  Luke 2: 8-14.
    12. Watch a Nativity Story
      This movie would be a good one to watch with your older children.  To see a clip of it go here:  The Nativity Story
    13. Give 3 Gifts to Jesus
      On three sheets of paper, have each family member write down one thing per sheet that they want to give to Jesus or what they want to do for Jesus this year.  Wrap them in three boxes and put them underneath the tree.  Open on Christmas Day and share what everyone wrote.
    14. Write a Personal Christmas Card
      Send a handwritten Christmas card this year to someone sharing your favorite Bible verse and a prayer for them.
    15. Bake a Birthday Cake for Jesus
      For a fun recipe, click here:  Jesus birthday cake.  Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and eat the cake!
    16. Buy Gifts for a Family in Need
      To find a family who needs help for Christmas, check with your pastor or school social worker.
    17. Sing Christmas Hymns and Song
      Break out in song around the piano or put on your favorite Christmas album and sing loud for all to hear!
    18. Read the Nativity story from Luke 2:1-20
    19. Family Blessings                                                                                                                                    Sit around the fire at home, drink hot chocolate and talk about the blessings that God has given your family this year.
    20. Prayer Hearts                                                                                                                                        Cut out hearts for each child in your family.  Write a prayer to God on a heart for each child (and spouses can do one for each other or you can allow everyone to write a prayer on each heart).        Wrap them and place them under the tree and open them on Christmas morning.
    21. Christmas Day Surprise                                                                                                                      Buy a gift for a family and deliver to them on Christmas Day
    22.  Make a Gift for your Pastor                                                                                                             Take time to thank your pastor for all he or she does to lead your church.
    23. Take a Family Hike
      Pretend like you are Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem.  Ask your kids questions about what it must have been like for them as they prepared to have a baby and had to travel a long way.
    24. Jesus Name Tags
      Place a Nativity set on your dinner table.  Buy a set of “Hello My Name Is…” name tags.  Write down one name of Jesus found in Isaiah 9:6 on each name tag (Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel).  Place one name tag on your family table next to baby Jesus each week of Advent as a reminder of Jesus.
    25. Make a Jesse Tree or a Chrismon Tree
      This type of tree is filled with religious symbols:  cross, fish, crown, shepherd’s crook, manger, lamb, angel, star and many more. To see more about a Jesse Tree go to this website: My Jesse Tree.  To read more about a Chrismon tree go here:  Meaning of the Chrismon Tree
    26. Attend a Christmas Eve Service
      This has always been a Christmas tradition in my family.  I love going to church on Christmas Eve and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  If your church doesn’t have one, find a church in your area that does.
    27. Make Nativity Scene out of Play-Doh
      This can be a fun activity for your younger kids.  Have them make all the characters out of the nativity story.  Afterwards discuss each person and their story.
    28. Go Caroling with your Family
      Grab a few other families and go caroling!  This is a fun way to spread the joy of the birth of Jesus to others.
    29. Read Christmas Love Letters from God
      My friend, Glenys Nellist, has written a book called “Christmas Love Letters from God.”  It tells the story of the birth of Jesus and provides a lift-the-flap letter on each page, as well as one at the end of the book that allows the kids to write their love letters to Jesus.  Read one story each night the week before Christmas. To buy a copy of this book, click here:  Christmas Love Letters from God
    30. Use The Shepherd’s Treasure instead of Elf on the Shelf                                                               Don’t like Elf on the Shelf?  Out brand-new this year is The Shepherd’s Treasure.  It’s the same concept of the Elf, but it has religious meaning.  It keeps your children focused on helping the shepherd find baby Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.  I absolutely LOVE this book!  Unfortunately, they are all sold out for this season!  To learn more about this book, visit their website:   The Shepherd’s Treasure

I hope this list will give you some ideas of how to keep your family centered on the birth of Jesus this year!  May your family experience His birth and the celebration in a wonderful way this Christmas season!

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Family Advent Bags

family advent bagsWe are in the season of Advent!  Christians around the world are celebrating this season by preparing their hearts for the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is a season of waiting and anticipating the glorious birthday of our Lord.

At church each Sunday in Advent, we light a candle on the Advent wreath.  There are five candles:  three purple (which represent hope, love, and peace), one pink (which represents joy), and one white (which is the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day).

Sometimes the only place we talk about Advent is at church.  So what can you do to celebrate Advent every day with your family at home?

One great way is through a Family Advent Bag.  This year I gave the families of my church one of these bags.  This bag was filled with many fun things families could do together to keep their focus on Jesus.  I found some of the ideas for the bag on this YouTube video by Shawn Howell:  How to Make Advent To Go Bags for Families and others I created myself.

The bag included the following items.  For a printable list, click here: Family Advent Bag List

Family Advent Calendar:  Each day, between the first Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day, is filled with activities your family can do.  These activities include things like: random act of kindness, taking a trip to look at Christmas lights, baking a birthday cake for Jesus and much more.  (The calendar I created is for 2016, but can easily be done for this year by just following the date and not the day of the week).  To see the calendar I created (for 2016), click here: Advent Calendar for Families
Advent Wreath Magnet:  The most simple Advent wreath I found was magnetic!  Families can stick it on their fridge and place new candles on it every Sunday.  I bought these wreaths on the Living Grace website:  Advent Wreath Magnet
Advent Devotions:  I created four Advent devotions for families to use each Sunday in conjunction with the Advent wreath magnet.  They will read together the devotion and place a candle on the wreath each week.
Christmas Morning Envelope:  I wrote a letter for families to open first thing on Christmas morning.  Before they open any presents, they should open the envelope and read the letter together.  To see a copy of the letter, click here: Christmas Morning Envelope
Craft Ornament:  I included an Oriental Trading Nativity craft in each bag.  To find one for your family, visit their website:  Oriental Trading
Glow Stick:   Inside each bag I put one glow stick.  I told families to break this stick on Christmas Eve and sing Silent Night with their family.  This is a reminder that Jesus is the Light of the world.
Sticky Notes:  I put a pack of sticky notes in each bag for families to use to write encouraging words to each other.
Christmas Prayer Cube:  Living Grace makes a wooden Christmas prayer cube that I bought and put in the bags.  On each colored side of the cube is written a prayer.  Families can roll the cube and read the prayer together before meals.  To see the cube go to this site:  Christmas Prayer Cube
Faith 5 Bookmark:  I wanted to give families a simple idea for a family devotion and I found a bookmark that highlighted a great way to do one.  Faith 5 lists these steps for a family devotion:  share highs and lows, read a Bible verse or story, talk about the Bible verse or story and how it can relate to your highs and lows, pray for one another’s highs and lows, and bless each other.  To see their website and to get a copy of the bookmark, click here:  Faith 5 Bookmark
Jesus’ Birthday Cake:  I have no idea where I got this recipe, but it was given to me back at the beginning of my ministry career.   Each layer of this cake represents something.  To see a copy of this recipe click here:  Jesus Birthday Cake

This Family Advent Bag has been a hit with the kids and their parents at our church!  I love hearing the stories of how their family is excited to celebrate Advent!  Feel free to use the printables from this post to create your own Family Advent bag.

Want more ideas for your family Christmas?  Check out my post on 30 Ideas for a Christ-Centered Family Christmas!

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The Christmas Sprint

I crossed the finish line.  The Christmas finish line that is.  I’ve been sprinting full speed ahead for the past 30 days.  And yes, it’s a sprint and not a marathon that I’ve been running this Christmas season.  That’s what life as a church staff member feels like during Christmas.  You are going and going and going from one activity to the next.  It’s not bad, though.  I really enjoy it, especially since I’m the Children’s Director and get to plan fun activities for kids and their families.

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The Chrismon tree I have in my own home. The ornaments were made by a special family friend when I was younger.

I got ready to run this sprint in November.  I laced up my Nikes, got in the starting blocks, got focused, then listened till I heard that sound all sprinters wait to hear…the starting gun.  It fired off for me on November 23.  That’s when Advent/Christmas festivities began for me at my church.  In the Methodist Church we kick off the season of Advent with a Hanging of the Greens service.  This is a service which helps prepare us for Christ’s coming into the world.  It’s also a service where we decorate the church for Christmas.  We don’t decorate the whole church during that service.  A lot of decorating is already done before the service begins.  During this service we hang greenery, cedar, ivy, holly, wreaths, Chrismon ornaments, and we place the Nativity on the altar.  Everyone is involved, including the children.  This year the kids sang Away in a Manger.  And let me tell you it was hard practicing in the weeks beforehand because they don’t like to sing.  But, they                                                              did an awesome job!

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This is me wrapped up for our Wrapping Paper Night at KidVenture!

My next activity was at our KidVenture program on Sunday nights.  This year I am writing the curriculum for this program.  I am loving writing it!  However, this does take a little more time, especially when you have to write 4 different lessons each week (3’s/Pre-K, K/1st, 2nd/3rd, 4th/5th).  We only meet one Sunday night in December due to other things going on, so our focus this night was on the whole story of the birth of Jesus.  The classes did different activities centered around this story such as Find the Nativity, Our Gifts to Jesus, and activities that go with our memory verse like Pass the Gift and Memory Verse Trees.  Oh, and it was also Wrapping Paper Night and we all came decked out in wrapping paper.  We had a fun night at KidVenture!

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The backdrop for our Family Nativity Photo Booth

Next up was our annual family event.  This year we decided to do a Birthday Party for Jesus.  The hard part about this year’s event was that I was not going to be there.  My cousin was getting married that weekend in New Orleans so I went to spend the weekend celebrating her marriage.  All of you who are Children’s Ministers know that it’s harder to plan events when you aren’t going to be there! Lots of details to plan and then to pass along all the info to volunteers who will be running the event.  My 3 friends who helped me out this year did an excellent job!  I so appreciate their help so that I could be away with family.

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One of our families in the Nativity Photo Booth. I love that the parents are animals!

Our Birthday Party for Jesus this year was fun for the whole family!  We began with families gathering in our Sanctuary singing Christmas songs and then brought in the cake to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.  After that, families could venture throughout the activities as they pleased.  We had food, games, and crafts for the kids.  We incorporated several Christmas Minute-To-Win-It games, Pin Baby Jesus in the Manger, a Jesus Birthday ornament, and Christmas card making to Nursing Home residents.  My favorite had to be the Family Nativity Photo Booth.  I decorated a wall in one of our rooms with a stable backdrop.  Families then were able to come to our photo booth, pick out a Nativity costume, and get their picture made.  Our photographer collected email addresses and emailed them to the families after the event was over.  I hate to have missed it, but I know it was a fun event for families that came.

For Christmas Eve services, our church always does a family-friendly service.  For the past 2 years the children have dressed as different parts of the Nativity story and helped share the story during the service.  This year we decided to do something different.  The kids came dressed in their pajamas.  At the end of the service, I invited the kids to the front and we all sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.  I then brought out a big box wrapped in Christmas paper.  I had one of the kids unwrap the present.  Inside were glow sticks which they gave out to each person in the congregation and we ended by breaking the glow sticks and singing Silent Night.  However, that activity didn’t go quite like I thought it would.  As soon as the boy unwrapped the gift, I had kids swarming all around me grabbing into the box and pulling out handfuls of glow sticks!!  It was chaotic to say the least!  I was thankful when a friend came up to help me pull away the box so we could hand the glow sticks to each child instead of them running over the other kids to get to the box.  It was crazy!  Who knew a box of glow sticks would excite the kids so much! The kids got all the glow sticks passed out and everything turned out beautiful as we dimmed the lights and sang Silent Night.  Such a peaceful moment as we remembered the birth of our Lord and Savior.

I must also mention that all throughout November and December my sprint included leading Kidz Church every Sunday morning.  I lead the large group worship time and then our volunteers do small group activities with each age group.  Love telling the different parts of the birth of Jesus each week!

Even though I have finished all my activities with the kids and crossed the Christmas finish line, the church still celebrates!  We begin the season with Advent advent wreathas we prepare for Christ’s birth.  After Christmas Day, we celebrate Christmas for 12 days ending with Epiphany, which is about the coming of the wise men.  The church always celebrates Epiphany the Sunday before it (which this year is January 4th).

This is just my sprint I do in the church.  I do have a family and it’s filled with many activities, too.  So many things to do during the Christmas season with church and family and I cherish every moment.  I love the sprint I do every year in Advent/Christmas in the church.  I love telling children about the birth of Jesus.  I love seeing their faces light up as we celebrate Him.  I love watching as my own 2 children really understand the true meaning of Christmas.  It warms my heart to watch them grow in their faith.  Nothing better as a parent than to see your own children give their lives to Jesus.  And there’s nothing better as a Children’s Minister than to watch the kids in your church give their lives to Jesus and be excited about celebrating his birth.

The Christmas sprint is over, I’m a little tired, but this is not the end.  My job as a Children’s Minster or a parent is never over.  I must keep on teaching, keep on leading, keep on sharing, keep on telling that Jesus Christ is Lord!

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Our older elementary kids made Memory Verse Trees at KidVenture

What was your favorite activity you did this Advent/Christmas season with the kids in your church?

 

The Last Supper Lesson for Kids

I love telling the Bible stories in ways that the kids at church will see the story come to life.  When I am preparing to teach the kids I think, “How will they remember this story?  What is the best way for this story to stick?”   The best way I know how to do that is by having them be “inside” the story.  Bringing the story to life using props or better yet, creating your environment  so they are actually inside the story.

This past Sunday I did the lesson on The Last Supper for our elementary kids who come to Kidz Church on Sunday mornings.  Our Kidz Church is set up so that they do small groups first, then a large group worship time in our Fellowship Hall, then they go back to their small groups.  I lead the large group worship time.  For this lesson, I wanted them to really feel like they were at the Last Supper.  I decided that I would turn our Fellowship Hall into the Upper Room.  We would share a meal together that morning.  Our meal would consist of bread (packaged rolls that I bought), grape juice, and cheese cubes (no, they didn’t have cheese at the Last Supper, but I thought it would be a good addition to our meal),   Beforehand I sat up all the tables and chairs in long rows.  I decorated the tables with white tablecloths and laid palm branches in the middle for decoration.  I also set each table with plates, cups, and napkins.

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One of the tables I used for our Last Supper meal.

I had a main table set up in the front of the room that I covered in a white tablecloth and palm branches, too.  On it I had a really big basket draped in purple cloth with the rolls in it.  I had 2 clear glass pitchers with grape juice and 4 chalices (used just as a prop and decoration).   I also had the instrumental music from the Passion of the Christ playing in the background.

In Bible times when guests entered someone’s home they removed their sandals and had their feet washed by the servants.  Before the kids could enter our Fellowship Hall, I made them take off their shoes. Then they took a place at one of our tables.  They were all so excited because the room was set up different than normal and when they saw the plates and cups they knew they were getting some food to eat!  Nothing excites kids more than food and candy!

I began by explaining to them why they took their shoes off.  I also explained how Jesus wanted to show and teach us about humility by washing his disciples feet before they ate.  Prior to this, I picked out 3 of our adult leaders whose feet I would wash.  Those 3 adults came to the front as I washed their feet, all the while, explaining to the kids what I was doing and why.  Some kids wanted their feet washed and some did not, but due to the large number of kids and time constraints, we just let them watch as I washed the adults feet.

After this I began telling the story of the Last Supper.  How Jesus wanted his disciples to remember him with the bread and wine.  How Jesus broke the bread (I actually broke bread) and how he poured the wine into the cup (I poured some grape juice into one of our chalices).  I also told them how Jesus said that the one who dips his hand into the bowl with him would be the one to betray him (that being Judas).  Then I told them that we were going to share a meal, just like Jesus did with his disciples.  Our small group leaders helped pass out the bread, cheese and juice to the kids.  Once all the kids were served, I had one of our kids (who happened to be my youngest daughter) lead us in saying a blessing.  She chose for us to say the “God is Great” blessing.  All the kids joined in with her to say this prayer.  After that, they dug in to their simple meal.    I think each child had at least 2 servings of everything!  They LOVED it!

I really enjoyed this lesson with our kids.  I think it really helped bring the story to life for them.  They got to pretend like they were one of the disciples eating in the Upper Room for one more meal with Jesus.  I pray that every time they hear this story, they will remember the time that we all shared a meal together.

Any time you can bring the story to life for the children at your church, I pray that you do that.  I understand that not everyone can due to lack of space, budget money, or time constraints.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but the simplest thing can be the one thing that the children in your ministry remember.  Have fun with the stories, use your creativity, and help the Bible stories stick to your kids!

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