Make copies of the bookmarks below on cardstock. Use the bookmarks to help you memorize these Scriptures and hold your place in your favorite book or Bible.
By Kimba Capbell
I remember years ago, several of my friends talking about their “word” for the year. One of my friends chose the word “peace” and another friend chose the word “family.” I didn’t have a word. I wanted a word for the year, but I didn’t know exactly what to choose. I think I chose something that year, but honestly by February that word was long forgotten.
It was New Year’s 2019. I sat down with my Bible and notebook to think about my New Year’s goals. God gave me the word “Surrender” as I sat on my couch that day. He then led me to the verse found in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I began to think about the word “Surrender” and thought about what that word truly meant. To me, it meant giving it all to Him. Not trying to run on my own strength, but to be completely dependent and obedient to Him. The year before had been a challenging year. I had goals and dreams, but realized I had tried to accomplish them on my own. God was gently teaching me that I needed to “Surrender” my plans to His – to let go and let Him lead me. I was waving the white flag and clinging to my Creator and Savior. God brought that word to my heart over and over again in the year 2019. It was a pivotal season in my life, and I am grateful God gave me that word during that season.
Do you have a word as we begin 2021? Maybe it is not a word. Maybe it is a Scripture that God is pressing on your heart for a new year. What is He wanting to teach you during this season? Are you listening? Are you willing to sit at His feet and allow Him to speak life and truth into you? What about the ministry that you lead? What is God preparing you for this next year? Think about your family, your friends, your community. How might God want to use you in 2021? Are you ready?
This year, why not help kids start the new year off developing the discipline of daily Bible reading!
One of the easiest ways to help kids develop the spiritual discipline of Bible reading is to allow them to create a Bible Reading Journal. Check out the instructions below, as well as the Bible Reading Prompts PDF.
Christmas is finally here – a warm and welcome sight in a year where the ‘weary world’ is truly ready to usher in the season with eager and open hearts. Because this year has been so difficult for many of us for various reasons, it might be tempting to tilt our focus on things that don’t point to why we celebrate Christmas. We might want to buy even MORE toys for our kids, put up MORE lights around the house and yard, and bake even MORE cookies to devour while watching even MORE Christmas movies! While I am wrestling with doing more of these inevitable traditions, I want to share some ideas for how families can wrap around favorite traditions to truly help celebrate our Savior, Jesus—now more than ever.
- Celebrate with scripture: Many families read the “Christmas story” from one of the gospels on Christmas eve or morning. While this is a beautiful tradition, let me encourage you to maximize it by reading scripture each day leading up to the BIG day! This can be done through an Advent reading plan or by creating a Jesse tree that highlights stories throughout scripture that have prophecies and promises of the Savior to come. A quick google or pinterest search will lead you to numerous choices for these kinds of reading plans. My family has enjoyed making a Jesse tree for many years by coloring simple ornaments that represent each story and hanging them on a tree made with sticks in a flower vase!
- Celebrate with symbols: Help children of all ages learn about Jesus by calling attention to the Christmas symbols that surround us during the season. Here are a few ideas:
- Hot chocolate with candy canes: As you enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, add a candy cane treat to stir up the goodness! Candy canes represent the shepherds who came to visit Jesus who, no doubt, carried a staff. Even better, they represent that Jesus is our shepherd and we are his sheep. The red represents his blood shed for us and white reflects how he washes our sins away.
- Decorating the tree: Most of us put up Christmas trees (either a real one carefully chosen at a farm or tree lot; or an artificial one put together each year). As your family places ornaments on the tree, talk about the meaning of an evergreen tree (even if yours is artificial!) and focus on how Jesus gives us everlasting life. Place a star on top or as an ornament and talk about not only the star of Bethlehem that guided the wise men, but also how Jesus is the light of the world!
- Three gifts: Some families choose to give their children three gifts that represent the three kings who brought Jesus gold, frankincense and Myrrh. While the wise men brought Jesus gifts, Jesus himself is the ultimate gift to us! Don’t miss the opportunity to talk about the gift of salvation this season as you unwrap gifts under the tree.
- Celebrate with service: Jesus came to seek and save the lost, heal the sick, and serve the poor. His last command to us was, “go make disciples.” Christmas is a wonderful time to be the hands and feet of Jesus through serving others. Help your family find ways to serve in the community around you such as gathering items for a food bank, donating to a homeless shelter or writing letters to those in nursing homes. Even though it may be difficult to serve in person this year, we can still show the love of Jesus through our resources, talents and prayers.
Though many of these traditions are nothing new to us, perhaps this is the year we slow down and truly rest in the simple things in order to prepare our hearts for celebrating Jesus in all that we do for Christmas. Let this be the year we don’t miss a single opportunity to count every blessing and every trial as pure joy. Afterall, this unspeakable joy comes from Jesus himself.
Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 1 Peter 1:8 KJV
Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. Or is it?
When you’re a kid, it can quickly become the hardest time of the year. Lists are made, hopes are high, sugar is abundant, sleep is scarce, nerves are on edge, and meltdowns abound.
We want the very best for our kids. Sadly though, in an attempt to give our kids the very best, we can unintentionally teach that Christmas revolves around them. Greediness and selfishness can creep their ugly heads into the sweetest of hearts.
There is no better time than right now to remind kids, and ourselves, of what Christmas is all about – what God demonstrated that first Christmas – giving the purest of love with an unselfish heart that can never be matched.
This year, let’s commit to help our kids follow God’s example. Let’s bring it all back to His intent—to show love. Here are a few ideas to get you started on this path.
- Bring joy to someone who has had a tough year. (That shouldn’t be too hard this year!) Make cards and handmade ornaments to give to neighbors, people living in nursing homes, and others who might feel forgotten.
- Encourage kids to shop for a child who might not otherwise receive gifts. As you shop, challenge your child not to point out things that he wants. If this happens, and it probably will, steer your child back onto the path of giving.
- Let your child do chores to earn money to buy gifts. She’ll discover the joy of giving from her own money can be even greater than receiving!
- Take your child grocery shopping for food to donate to a food pantry or to take to a family in need.
- Challenge your child to secretly do good deeds for family members during the month of December (and beyond)! Teach them that the truest gifts of love are done without praise or the expectation of receiving something in return.
Enjoy this time teaching your kids and reminding yourself about what makes this truly “the most wonderful time of year!”
Blessings my friends!
This quick and easy gift is a great way to show volunteers how much you appreciate them this Christmas season. If your church is not meeting in person, you can also drop this fun gift off on a volunteer’s porch.
By Ravin McKelvy
For many of us, we have found ourselves having to get creative with our Christmas traditions. With COVID numbers rising and the weather getting cooler, it can be difficult to find new ways to connect with our kids. While there are many things that may not happen, we can still make this a special time filled with good memories. One way your ministry can do this is by having a front porch Secret Santa.
You may not be able to do an in-person Secret Santa, so this is the perfect way to let your kids know you’re thinking of them. Here’s how you do it:
Pull together some fun, small gifts. These can be stuffed animals, fidget spinners, etc. You could also include a pocket Bible or meaningful book.
Wrap your gifts and include a note that says something like, “Merry Christmas from your Secret Santa at [insert church/ministry name].” It may be fun to also add a memory verse or the verse from that week’s sunday school lesson.
Drop the gifts on the front porch of the kids in your class. Be sure not to be seen when you’re dropping them off. You can ring the doorbell or simply leave the gift on the porch to be found.
Although this season may not look like what we’re used to, we can still create special memories for our kids ministries. Have fun with this front porch Secret Santa and reminding kids about the true gift of this season.
by Alyssa Jones
As I worked from the table in the formal-dining-room-turned-pandemic-home-office, I spied my daughter tiptoe into the kitchen. She had paper, glue sticks, and safety scissors we picked up from her preschool teacher in a drive-through procession, and the 2020 Walmart toy catalog. Nearly an hour later, she came to me.
“Mommy, I want these. All of them,” she said, presenting three pages of pictures she cut out from products related to animals, the color pink, and/or baby dolls.
As the weather cools and leaves change, my 4- and 6-year-olds have both had Christmas on their minds. They frequently tell me what they want on their wish lists.
“Hey, you guys,” I stopped them one day. “Christmas isn’t all about presents. Do you remember why we celebrate Christmas?”
My first-grade son stared at me blankly. My daughter shouted, “No! It is about PRESENTS!”
OK, this is not looking good for someone who has spent the last decade writing resources for teaching children about Jesus. In my defense, they are not ignorant to the story of the nativity. Every year since they were born, we’ve talked about the true meaning of Christmas. But this important message is easily lost in a materialistic world. Here’s how I’m planning to help reorient my own kids this year. Maybe these ideas will help you too.
- Use repetition.
Kids learn best from repetition. If my kids see a commercial for a toy, they decide they want it—even more so if they see it multiple times. The world is sending them messages about what is most important, so I want to guide and point them to the most important message of all: Jesus saves sinners. God came into the world as a baby. He is the reason we celebrate. We will talk about this as we make dinner, as we pick up toys, as we get ready for bed. I want them to know that Jesus is my greatest treasure, and I hope they will come to know Him as theirs as well.
- Observe Advent.
Waiting is hard for kids, but we use LifeWay Kids’ Advent Guide leading up to Christmas as a daily reminder of why we celebrate. We prepare our home and our hearts to remember Jesus’ birth and its glorious implications for our lives. We have a small paper Advent tree for hanging ornaments and set aside a special time after dinner for reading the Bible, answering our kids’ questions, and anticipating Christmas.
When my daughter finished her three-page wish list, my husband gently suggested, “Wow, those are some neat toys. Do you see any on there we could buy to give to someone else? What gifts do you think your cousins would like?” We talk a lot in our house about thinking of others. “Why are you fighting with your sister? Are you thinking of her or yourself right now?” Every person’s natural bent as a sinner is an inward one, and selflessness must be practiced and learned. We readily see it in our children, but it’s a struggle for us as adults too. Make generosity a family priority and remind kids of our generous God who sent His Son for us.
We give good gifts to our children, remembering that God has given us the greatest gift in Jesus. We will intentionally talk with our kids about the meaning of Christmas in a materialistic world that tells them Christmas is all about family, presents, food, or decorations. At just the right time, God sent His Son into the world. (See Galatians 4:4.) This is good news of peace and joy for a world that so desperately needs it. I’m praying for your kids—and my own—to hear about, remember, and treasure Jesus above all else. He is God with us.
Alyssa Jones worships and serves with her husband at Refuge Franklin, a church plant outside of Nashville, Tennessee. They have three children.
Use the tags below to add a little touch of Christmas cheer to all your presents. Download and print on card stock, then attach to gifts using twine or ribbon. Merry Christmas! Download tags here.