Less Academics, More Ministry
Now that my nine children are grown, I often hear remarks from friends complimenting my adult children’s servant-heartedness. I love that, and as I reflect back to the many years I homeschooled my children, I realize that a large part of why they are that way today is probably due to the many community and ministry opportunities they took part in while growing up. The holidays bring many more opportunities for ministry than at other times of the year. Having said that, be aware that nursing homes are inundated with requests for visiting opportunities in December but not so much in the following months of the year. (Of course, I am talking about pre-COVID times when visiting restrictions were not in place.) The following suggestions may, or may not, be doable depending on COVID restrictions. If it is not possible to convene together with a large group, getting together with one additional family (and it could be a relation) would make ministering together fun!
In addition to volunteering for various organizations that need help over the holidays (opportunities listed below), consider organizing a Christmas unit study! We did this one year, and not only was it a lot of fun, the students were immersed in ministry opportunities and loved it. We met once a week at someone’s home, and one parent read a Christmas story aloud. (A partial list of books and stories that have a message conducive to holiday ministry is included below.) Before (or after) the book reading, we would sing a Christmas song or two. One parent was responsible for choosing the songs for that week, and before singing the song, that parent (or one of the students) shared the background of the song writer and the situation that led to the writing of the song. When possible, the songs were tied to the books or stories being read. For instance, instead of a book, one could read the story of how all went silent during WWI. Not only was the song penned on Christmas Eve, but there is also a fact-based TV movie that was made in 2002 called Silent Night that depicts another true story of Germans and Americans in WWII who befriend one another at Christmas. The week prior to co-op, one parent would assign a Bible verse for the students to learn and then, at co-op, that parent would review the verse, perhaps rewarding the students who memorized the verse. Students were also encouraged to give a short presentation that related to that week’s theme. This could be done by individual students or together with siblings (or friends). After all of that was finished, we often did a craft, perhaps making as a gift to share with others. Before leaving the home for the ministry opportunity, we would have refreshments provided by a parent or, when possible, made by the students that day at co-op (making extra to share with others). The last part of the co-op was taking part in a ministry opportunity! We began the co-op the week after Thanksgiving (having ended our fall co-op before Thanksgiving) and met together the next 4 weeks.
Even if you do not organize and/or participate in a Christmas co-op, you could do the above mentioned activities as a family! Limitations caused by COVID precautions may limit (or prevent) incorporating some of these ideas this year.
- Collect items for Angel Tree (children whose parents are in jail)
- Volunteer to deliver the Angel Tree gifts to the children
- Volunteer to help sort food donations at the Salvation Army (or another similar ministry)
- Volunteer to sort donations given specifically as Christmas gifts
- Volunteer to ring the Salvation Army bell
- Visit local orphans, children’s ministries, nursing homes, and hospitals, taking along gifts and goodies when permitted
- Offer to help an elderly neighbor by doing yard work or decorating for Christmas
- Go Christmas caroling together
- Offer to babysit children so parents can go Christmas shopping (or out on a date)
- Collect food for those in need or volunteer to work at a food bank
- Volunteer to help prepare and serve a Christmas meal for those in need
- Put together small packages to hand out to the homeless
- Send Christmas cards to veterans and shut-ins
- Invite international students who can’t go home to join you for a meal or two
If you have more ideas to add to this list of ministry opportunities, let me know!
Suggested books and stories:
- Jacob’s Gift
- The Crippled Lamb
- The Trees of the Dancing Goats
- The Legend of the Candy Cane
- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
- Room for a Little One
- Calico the Wonder Horse, or The Saga of Stewy Stinker
- The Spider Who Saved Christmas
- The Miracle of St. Nicholas
- The Legend of the Christmas Tree
- A Christmas Miracle
- An Invisible Thread Christmas Story
- Jenny and the Christmas Stocking
- The Story behind the Christmas Carol Silent Night
- From First Shot to Silence of Peace: Timeline of WWI
- The Christmas Miracle during the Battle of the Bulge (WWII)
- The History Behind 5 Great Christmas Carols
- Shortbread with raspberry or strawberry jam in the middle
- Rice crispy treats cut out with a Christmas tree cookie cutter
- Sugar cookies decorated
- Gingerbread cookies
- No bake cookies (because they are easy and yummy)
- Peppermint bark (crush candy canes and stir into melted white chocolate)
- Popcorn sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with white chocolate
- Pretzels dipped in white or milk chocolate
Celebrating Christmas with music, stories, food, crafts, gifts, and ministry opportunities is a great way to enrich your holiday. Anything that helps turn your children’s eyes from catalogs and tv commercials filled with toys and trinkets to an opportunity to fellowship that includes serving others is a win/win. Merry Christmas!
Pat Wesolowski is an author, speaker, and homeschooling mother of 9 who is now the Homeschool Specialist at Bryan College in Dayton, TN. After homeschooling her 9 children for the past 32 years, she is finally finished! Pat has a heart for helping parents find joy in their homeschooling experience and, for that reason, loves teaching workshops in order to encourage and equip parents for a fun and successful homeschool experience. Pat is the host of a podcast entitled “Homeschooling Co-op Style,” writes a blog, and has authored numerous unit studies for homeschooled students. Pat has also written a free eResource to help parents plan for a successful high school experience. It is available to download at this link: www.bryan.edu/ebook.