The Christmas season is an excellent opportunity for church ministries to show the congregation that the holiday season is more about giving than receiving. There are countless ways to make a difference for others in need, and with some creativity and kindness, your church can establish new charitable traditions right away. 

Here are 10 outreach ideas that will help your ministry give back to the community this season.

1. Host a blanket-making party

Donating blankets is a wonderful way to ensure no one in your community is cold this winter, and hosting a blanket-making party at your church will get people invested in giving back. Donating a homemade blanket is especially rewarding. Tied fleece blankets are easy for kids and teenagers to make and no sewing is required (you can find the pattern here for the No Sew Fleece Blanket). Adults can make more complicated quilts or collect new blankets to donate. Project Linus can provide more ideas and information.

2. Put up a giving tree

A great way to interact directly with the needs of people in your community is to set up a giving tree at your church. A giving tree is a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments that have names of families who need extra help this season. On the back of each family’s ornament is a list of necessities they would like donated to them. As members of your church leave service, encourage them to collect an ornament and create a care package based on that family’s needs. Think of it as a charitable secret Santa!

You can find families in need by connecting with local shelters or partnering with a less privileged church in your area. Some families may wish to be listed anonymously, with simply the family members’ ages and needs listed. Your church service coordinator can collect donations and ensure they get to the right families.

3. Serve your seniors

Never forget about the important senior citizens in your community. The holidays can often be a lonely time for them, and it’s so easy to encourage your church to do something to help. You can host a dinner, have children make cards, or have volunteers visit retirement homes for a meal or board game night. Having visitors can be a huge deal and receiving a small card can go a long way. For the elderly still living in a house or apartment, decorating for the holidays can be a tremendous burden. Arranging for church members to help set up Christmas trees or lights for these seniors can reduce accidents and ensure they have a festive home for the holidays.

4. Stockings for Soldiers

Bring your church together to give back to the people who make great sacrifices for our country. Creating a stocking full of personalized gifts for a U.S. soldier is easy and fun for people all ages. Stockings for Soldiers provides more information about donating stockings to soldiers who aren’t home for the holidays. Stockings can include small candies, packaged hot chocolate or ramen, wool socks, paperback books, or letters. Stockings can also be made for K9 soldiers abroad!

5. Donate food for Thanksgiving

This one is a bit obvious, but during Thanksgiving, it’s important to think of the people who go without meals on a regular basis. Many families struggle to afford food, and healthy meals are not a common occurrence. Donating food and money to Feeding America or your local food bank is a fantastic way to show gratitude and give back to those who are less fortunate. Getting your church involved is a humbling experience, as many people don’t realize that there are people starving in our country. Volunteering at food banks or collecting nonperishable foods can help those in need enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving.

6. Hold a holiday market

Kick-off the holiday season with a church market full of baked goods and gifts! Encourage members of your church to showcase their talents by selling handmade goods and treats at your church market. Invite the whole community to attend and make purchases that contribute to your programs or an outside charity. Markets are a great way to draw new people to your church and to raise funds for the new year.

7. Donate coats

Nothing is worse than being cold and on the streets. One Warm Coat accepts donations of new and used coats for people who can’t afford their own. The U.S. homeless population is often exposed to extremely cold weather for prolonged periods of time. Donating one or two coats you don’t wear anymore can be a big help! One Warm Coat accepts coats for adults and children, and they have many collection locations across the country. Even American  who are not homeless can benefit from this organization because often parents with many kids can only afford cheap coats that are not warm enough.

8. Set up a hot chocolate stand

Hot chocolate can warm the heart and soul this time of year. Setting up a stand on a street corner can bring joy to many members of your community! Simply buy hot cocoa packets in bulk and bring a hot water dispenser to set on a folding table. You can have kids decorate disposable cups and have older members of your church take shifts giving away drinks. Be sure to bring lots of marshmallows, candy canes, and whipped cream. It can also add an air of festivity to play some holiday tunes. This is an affordable way to brighten someone’s day!

9. Give to underprivileged kids

Donating toys and necessities to children in need is always a good thing to do around the holidays. Operation Christmas Child is a popular organization that collects shoeboxes full of goodies to send to children for Christmas. They are always in need of packed shoeboxes that include stuffed animals, small toys, crafts, school supplies, personal hygiene items, and clothing. Another organization, Toys for Tots, was created by the U.S. Marine Corps to provide kids with new toys, stocking stuffers, and books for Christmas. These gifts are collected across the country and distributed to children in need. Getting your church involved in one of these popular charities can make a big difference for kids waking up on Christmas morning.

10. Have a holiday lock-in

There are plenty of kids at your church who could benefit from an opportunity to grow closer to their peers. A holiday lock-in is a perfect way to make sure the younger people at your church have a great time getting to know each other. Lock-ins are a prime opportunity for kids or teens to get in the holiday spirit and make lasting friendships within the church. You don’t have to do anything special to make the lock-in a memorable event. Most kids are excited enough by the concept of a massive sleepover with no bedtime. They could watch a movie in their sleeping bags, make gingerbread houses, play games, or do holiday crafts throughout the night. Recruiting young volunteers to lead the lock-in is a great way to build a sense of community at your church, and the kids will be thrilled to have the church all to themselves!

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