How can your church intentionally engage with families this Advent season? This is already a high-volume, overly scheduled time of year. Even so, I would argue that the need for community relationships has never been greater.

Here are a few ideas to leverage the opportunities and relationships you have with families toward a richer, more joyful season.

During your Sunday services, encourage families to spend some time together each week doing something that will take them outside of the commercial craziness of Christmas preparations and more deeply into the Advent journey as a family. This might include participating in an activity each week that corresponds to the weekly themes of the candles in the Advent wreath.

Week One: Bake Up Some Hope

The candle we light in the first week of Advent is sometimes called the Prophets’ candle, and it symbolizes hope. As a family, bake some cookies and bring them to your local elder care facility or fire station. Instead of just dropping off the cookies, go inside and take the cookies around to the residents or firefighters, sharing love and hope with those you encounter. You could even make them handmade Christmas cards if you have time.

Week Two: Focus on Faith

Faith is the focus of the second candle, the Bethlehem candle. Your church might encourage families to spend time together asking each other conversation starters you can include in the bulletin or website.

Some starters might include:

  • What is the hardest part of waiting for you when it comes to your Christian life?
  • What is God doing in your life or in our community right now?
  • What is one way you can reach out to someone in need this Christmas?

Week Three: Find Joy in Time Together

The Shepherds’ candle in week three of Advent points us to joy. There are so many things you can encourage families to do that bring joy!

Place brown bags (one per family plus extras for visitors) in the narthex. Inside each bag, include a slip of paper with an idea of something their family families can do to experience joy. Each bag should be different, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Make eggnog
  • Make snow angels
  • Watch your favorite Christmas movie with popcorn and cider
  • Have a fancy dress night one night that week
  • Surprise a neighbor with candy canes and hot chocolate
  • Make homemade Christmas ornaments

Ask your pastor to announce that each family should take a bag home, complete the activity inside, and take a photo of themselves when they’re finished! If they feel comfortable, invite them to share that photo with the church. Consider putting all of the photos in a slideshow during your offering—it will remind all who see it that the joy of ministry is a daily experience and we are thankful to God for it!

Week Four: Pray for Peace

The last candle—sometimes called the Angels’ candle—symbolizes peace. With our world showing anything but peace these days, consider asking families to pray peace over seven different areas during the week:

  1. Military
  2. Homeless and poor
  3. Those who are sick
  4. Those who are grieving
  5. People who don’t walk in faith with Jesus yet
  6. Pastors and all who serve in churches (and their families)
  7. Our world

Be sure to tie these prayers into worship and in daily emails or social media posts from the church. Engagement and reminders are key when working to help others adopt new behaviors! Leverage the relationships you have with your families to encourage greater dependence on God especially during this Advent season.

Can I offer you one last encouragement? God will show up whether you do these things or not. He alone will save and rescue and encourage and grow us! He chooses to utilize the Church to model this faith-filled life, and that means we get to be part of what He is doing! What a blessing and honor! Let’s focus our own Advent thoughts and plans around what God is doing and rejoice in the opportunities it allows us to have with the people within our faith communities! Blessings to you this Advent!

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