At Christmastime, many churches remember the needy in their communities, giving out meals and other necessities — and making sure every child in the community receives a Christmas present. Some churches are taking a new approach to the idea of giving gifts to children who otherwise might not find much waiting under a tree or in a stocking on Christmas morning. Rather than just give the gifts, these churches are giving the gift of giving and helping parents or guardians to pick and give their own presents to their children.
This year, Holmeswood Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo, will run its Christmas Store for the second year. For years Holmeswood had an “Adopt-A-Family” program where Sunday School classes or individuals adopted a local family or unaccompanied youth from the Center School District and bought gifts.
Christmas Store at the church. The parents of the families who would have in the past been “adopted” in the gift program were instead invited to come to the store and purchase gifts for their children at substantially-reduced rates. Kids still receive presents, but now parents receive the opportunity to give to those presents.Last year Holmeswood tried a new model. They invited their classes and individual members to donate gifts to set up a
“The Mission Council at Holmeswood started thinking more deeply about the process of our mission projects, not just the outcome,” explained Anna Holladay, pastor of missions and communication at Holmeswood. “In both the Adopt-A-Family and Christmas Store models, the outcome is the same: Children whose families are struggling financially get Christmas presents. The process, however, is very different.”
“By inviting parents to our Christmas Store to shop for their child’s gifts, we showed that we were concerned with their flourishing. Their feelings matter. Their ability to pay a discounted price for the gifts matters,” she added.
Second Baptist Church in Liberty, Mo., will run a similar Christmas Store this year, as they have for several years. Members donate unwrapped new toys and other gifts in the range of $10-30. Members also volunteer to manage the store or take care of children. Last year, the church’s Christmas Store served 86 families and 250 children. They are expecting more this year.
Parents or guardians referred to the church by school counselors, social workers or community organizations can come to the Christmas Store. After reserving a time, parents arrive at the store and are greeted by volunteers, holiday music in the air, festive decorations all around and refreshments. And free childcare is provided as children enjoy snacks, games and a Christmas movie. Then, for five dollars per child, parents can choose two gifts and fill a stocking.
Karri George, chair of Second Baptist’s Christmas Store, called it an effort by the church’s missions committee “to turn Christmas upside down.”
“The Store provides more than just gifts,” she added in a blog on the church’s website. “It gives families a sense of pride, respect and joy that they are involved in the gift choosing and giving. As the parents leave with their gifts they are full of smiles, joy and excitement that they have chosen just the right gift for each of their children.”
“For the past three years, a grandma has been so moved by what her daughter experienced at the store that she delivers bags and bags of toys so that others can receive the same joy as her family,” George added. “Each year while shopping at the store, there are also several parents who become so excited with what the store is doing that they stay to help wrap presents for other shoppers.”
Both the Christmas Store at Holmeswood and Second Liberty this year are open December 13-15, 2018 for invited families.