Youth Ministry Basics: More than Dirty Santa

The countdown to Christmas is on! Whether you’re a full-time, part-time, or volunteer youth worker, the schedule from Thanksgiving to Christmas gets perceptibly busier with Advent services, Christmas programs, and Christmas parties, and it’s even busier for the teens and their families. With all the normal holiday hustle and bustle, how do you help teens step outside of their schedules and selves to reach out to others? I’ve compiled a list of national organizations and have some other tips/ideas for service projects during the Christmas Season. It is by no means extensive, so please add more in the comments:


1)      Advent Conspiracy ( Last year, the advent conspiracy’s video on YouTube had nearly 1 million views. What is the advent conspiracy? It’s a movement that encourages people to use money spent on presents to help end world poverty. For ideas on how to create your own “advent conspiracy,” check out the website.

2)      Toys for Tots ( This Marine-led organization began after World War 2 to help families by purchasing gifts for those who couldn’t afford them. Check with your local Toys for Tots affiliate to adopt a family, or have youth help organize a toy drive. The organization also collects toys/gifts for teens (one year our group collected $10 Best Buy gift cards).

3)      Angel Tree ( The Angel Tree foundation works with families who are in need. Similar to the Toys for Tots program, groups or individuals can adopt families to purchase presents and food items for the family.

4)      Lutheran World Relief ( While Lutheran World Relief isn’t Christmas-Specific, there are a lot of great programs offered that youth can connect with. Students could collect items to complete school kits, health kits, or layettes to help those in poverty overseas.

5)      World Vision: ( World Vision is most well-known for its adopt a child program, but they also have a gift catalog of one time monetary donations that help purchase chickens, goats, ducks, clothing, and education for children overseas and in the USA.

6)       Meals on Wheels ( Meals on Wheels provides meals to seniors, the disabled, or shut-ins throughout the country. Groups or individuals can either donate money or help provide meals to those in need.

7)      Charity: Water ( Charity: Water is one of many different organizations that helps provide much needed water to those in countries where clean water is not readily available.



1)      Collect hats, coats, and gloves and donate them to a local homeless shelter.

2)      Work with a church with a lower socioeconomic status to help purchase food items for a Christmas meal for a needy family.

3)      Get connected with your local Catholic Charities on ways to help serve the needy in your community.

4)      Serve at a homeless shelter.

5)      Get a list of shut-ins at your church and go caroling, or go caroling at a nursing home.

6)      Adopt a local school and spend a day helping paint classrooms, cleaning the playground, or whatever else is needed.

7)      Bake Cookies for college students away from home and studying for finals.


What other ideas do you have? Let’s hear them!
Published December 2009

Published December 3, 2009

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