by Steve Sjogren
During the holiday season, people in neighborhoods, stores, malls and elsewhere can get a taste of God's love through "giving" outreaches. At little cost, your church group can plan to stock up and give away items such as:
>Christmas cards, candy canes, poinsettias or wreaths
>Hot chocolate or cookies
>Firewood, kindling or pinecone fire starters
>Gift boxes, bows, transparent tape or tissue paper
>Large shopping bags with handles
>Free photos taken with an instant-picture camera
>Christmas tree disposal bags
>Batteries for smoke detectors, remote controls and toys
Serving Your Way Into Hearts
Here's a brief sampling of the types of service projects you can plan for the Christmas season.
>Wrap gifts at the local mall or department store. If your church is just getting started in servant evangelism, consider starting with just a day or two of wrapping.
>Offer a coat-check service to shoppers at the mall
>Feed parking meters for area shoppers. Leave a card on the cars briefly explaining what you have done. Ours says, "Your parking meter looked hungry so we fed it!" Include your churches phone number and service times, and a map for shoppers who want to look you up.
>Offer to dispose of used Christmas trees. A day or two after Christmas rent a grinder any simply go door to door asking people if they'd like you to take care of their old trees.
>Spread salt and sand on porches and walkways in snowy weather, or offer to shovel snow.
>Set up a child care service at the church for parents who need to do Christmas shopping.
>Rent a community room in the mall and hold a "movie hour" for children while their parents shop. (Be sure to define the parameters of your childcare.)
>Help carry packages for shoppers from the stores to their cars.
Helping Those in Need
I call these outreaches "mercy projects" because they're meant to offer practical help to those in physical need, particularly in urban areas. Perhaps these ideas will spark your own projects based on the particular needs in your city.
>Help parent of needy children make gifts for their own kids, or "adopt a family" and provide Christmas gifts.
>Collect coats, hats, gloves or long underwear and five them away. Most suburbanites won't appreciate long underwear, but the homeless are thrilled to receive such a gift in cold weather.
>Provide a "Lamb's Lunch" by taking provisions for an entire hot meal into a park or homeless shelter. Typically, those present are receptive to conversation and prayer.
>Give away Christmas trees. A day or two before Christmas owners of tree lots often five away trees that haven't sold. Pick up a few trees and some ornaments, and start knocking on doors in a hurting part of town.
>Collect used bikes, fix them up and give them to needy families.
Steve Sjogren is pastor of Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati. He offers more ideas on servant evangelism in his book Conspiracy of Kindness (Vine Books) or at servantevangelism.com.
Do you have servant evangelism ideas for the holiday season?