It may only be October, but it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! And with Advent only a month away, we’re already thinking about counting down to Christmas. That’s why I’m excited to share this week’s guest blog post from Courtney Weaver at David C Cook all about 3 simple ways to focus on Advent in your children’s ministry. P.S. Find all the Advent resources you’ll need here!
As a children’s ministry leader, you know that the importance of the Christmas season can easily be drowned out by Christmas trees, presents, music, and other exciting indicators of the season.
That’s why your children’s ministry and the curriculum you teach should prepare hearts for the holiday. We all need to be reminded of the gift of Jesus–kids, families, and leaders alike!
Advent is simply a time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas, which calls attention to Jesus’s birth and second coming. By encouraging kids to reflect on Jesus’s birth, they’ll be able to appreciate Christmas Day for what it really is—a reminder of Jesus’ coming for us.
Let’s look at three ways your children’s ministry can focus on Advent this Christmas season:
1. Explain Advent: As the end of the year gets closer, recognize that some kids in your children’s ministry might not be familiar with Advent. Maybe your church has never celebrated Advent formally, and that’s totally okay! Kick off the season by explaining Advent and what it means to celebrate the season. Consider using the following lesson ideas:
- Jesus’s family line: Although it may be tempting to skip over the long chapters of chronology in the Bible, these verses are important to Scripture! According to Wonder Ink, pointing Bible stories back to the bigger picture of what God was (and is) doing helps bring the Bible to life for kids. Make a connection between what God was doing through the generations and the story of Jesus’s birth, showing kids that the long lists of chronology in the Bible are indicators of God’s plan.
- Prophecies about Jesus’s coming: Show how the world prepared for Jesus’s first coming by highlighting prophets like Isaiah and Micah, who foretold Jesus’s miraculous birth before it happened. This will also help prepare kids to understand the importance of Advent candles, should you choose to incorporate that tradition into your celebration.
- The meaning of Jesus’s second coming: In a world littered with media warning that “the end is near,” it’s up to church leaders to steer kids in the right direction! Explain what Jesus’s second coming really means and why we, as Christians, look forward to that day.
By giving kids the background to understand why this season should be celebrated, you’ll set them up to start anticipating more than just the presents underneath the tree. Then, their participation in other Christmas-related activities (such as children’s Christmas productions and school parties) will remind them of the true meaning of the season.
2. Light Candles: Candle lighting is one Advent tradition that starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. You can light these candles with your children’s group or practice the tradition in front of the entire congregation, allowing kids to treasure the meaning of the Advent season with their families. If you don’t want to worry about flames around children, consider a digital Advent wreath for your children’s ministry. Either way, you’ll light a new candle each Sunday that represents a different idea or theme for the season:
- The first candle represents hope. During this week, you should focus on the Old Testament prophets’ hopeful awaiting of the Messiah’s arrival. This is sometimes called the “prophet’s candle.”
- The second candle represents faith. This week should be centered around Mary and Joseph’s act of faith in their journey to Bethlehem, which is why the candle is also sometimes called “Bethlehem’s candle.”
- The third candle represents joy. Use this time to reflect on the shepherds’ joyful anticipation of Jesus’s coming. This is also called “the shepherd’s candle.”
- The fourth candle represents peace. This candle, also called “the angel’s candle,” celebrates the angels’ proclamations that Jesus was coming to bring peace on earth.
An optional fifth candle is sometimes lit on Christmas Day, representing purity and light. This candle, also called Christ’s candle, symbolizes the arrival of the “Light of the World,” Jesus. If you don’t meet on Christmas Day, maybe encourage families to light this candle at home!
Your children’s curriculum might highlight the meaning of these candles and cover each representation thoroughly throughout the Advent season. And if not, there are many resources out there to help you through this season!
3. Gather on Christmas Eve: Although not a bad thing, the closer we get to Christmas morning, the more excited kids will be about opening presents. That’s why the end of the Advent season is such a crucial time to get kids’ attention!
It’s so important to remember why we give and receive.
Hosting a Christmas Eve service is a great way to conclude the Advent season with one final reminder of the meaning of Christmas. To keep Christ as the focus, you can use a Christmas Eve service to remind everyone of why Jesus came. Services should be:
- Prayerful: Encourage prayer during a Christmas Eve service by leading the congregation in prayer together and then taking a moment of silence to allow others to pray privately. Before the service, you can prepare kids for the opportunity to pray by encouraging them to thank God for their blessings, pray for people who don’t get to celebrate Christmas, or anything else that’s on their hearts. If they’re feeling up to it, you might invite kids to take turns leading the congregation in prayer over each Advent lesson.
- Biblically-based: Just as you teach from a Bible-based children’s curriculum, these services should always focus on the Bible and encourage children to remember what they’ve learned from Scripture during the Advent season.
- Inclusive: The children who attend your Christmas Eve service should feel included rather than just dragged along by their parents. Make sure to incorporate the lessons they’ve been learning into the service and make it easy for them to understand. You could also invite some of the kids to read Scripture or even light the final Advent candle to involve them more.
At the end of the service, leave kids and families with an actionable call to spend Christmas Day mindful of God’s greatest blessing: the gift of His Son. You can even schedule an end-of-year meeting with the children’s group and ask how everyone spent Christmas Day!
If you’re unable to meet in person, you might also reach out by sending a digital holiday card to parents’ email addresses or send a text reminding us all to live in the light of the meaning of Christmas. As families start the new year, they’ll be equipped with the understanding of God’s greatest blessing and our hope for Jesus’s second coming.
The Advent traditions you choose to incorporate into your children’s ministry and curriculum will ultimately depend on your church’s unique priorities.
Not only should this season prepare kids for the way they’ll think about Christmas, but it should also launch them into a new year equipped with their understanding of the Word and help prepare their hearts for Jesus’s second coming.
Find all the Advent resources you’ll need here.
Author Bio: Courtney Weaver has a deep passion to share the beautiful grace of Jesus with others. She currently serves in her local church as the worship leader and believes engaging kids in a relationship with God is meant for every day. With a degree in public relations and a minor in biblical studies, she serves at David C Cook as the Content Marketing Manager for curriculum resources like Wonder Ink and Ministry Spark. She’s a wife and mama of two little ones. Courtney is a dreamer, designer, and writer who still loves sprinkles on her ice cream.