The beaming smile, the crinkle of cellophane, the sweet smell of ginger… and perhaps a slight sugar rush.
The whole family welcomed the arrival of the yearly gingerbread house. But it wasn’t me, as the wife and mother of the household, returning home with my gingerbread house. It was my 12 year old son with his ‘Zombie Apocalypse’-themed gingerbread house (which still tasted good).
Church gingerbread events can be a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas and finish the year. We want to invite newcomers to hear afresh the good news that God the Father sent his Son into the world because he loves us and wants to rescue us. And we want to make sure that message doesn’t get lost amidst the icing and lollies!
Here are a few tips for making the most of your church’s gingerbread event:
1. Share the vision for your event
Is everyone on the same page? Sometimes people have different views on what their role is in this evangelistic endeavour. Do they just need to quickly grab the next person they meet and invite them? Most people are not converted because they were randomly invited to a church event, heard a talk and believed. The event or the talk might be the final piece falling into place. But this usually comes after much prayer by friends and many other small steps towards faith. We all have a part to play in sharing the gospel, whether it is inviting, answering questions, cooking a meal or babysitting so another friend can attend or prepare a talk. Has the vision been shared for exactly how the gospel will be shared at this event?
2. Widen the invite
While traditionally in the realm of women’s ministry, gingerbread events can be fantastic opportunities for intergenerational ministry. The youth group might partner with the senior’s club for example or the men’s Bible study groups host the event and construct alongside their kids and invited friends. Or you could just invite the whole church family! There is some part of gingerbread that everyone can enjoy, whether it’s watching the kids sneakily eating the lollies, chatting with friends, introducing school friends to church friends or releasing your creative genius in decorating.
3. Showcase love in community
Seeing Christians love each other across divisions of age, gender, importance and wealth can be a powerful witness to the gospel (see John 13:35). Real community is desired and sought by the world. Let’s show them what we have. This happens naturally when the event is intergenerational and there are already healthy friendships across the ages, but we can also specially invite young people, parents or older members to come in the role of special guest, welcomer, speaker or helper.
4. Offer a genuine welcome
A key part of sharing the love is welcoming well. Visiting a strange new place, let alone a church hall, can be daunting. Walking into a large space alone can be overwhelming, but easily fixed with a friendly smile and warm greeting. Make sure the process of welcoming people as they arrive is well thought through.
5. Make it accessible
It’s the danger of ‘insider knowledge’. We all know what we’re talking about when we speak of prayer, sin or judgement. But unfortunately, sometimes we unwittingly reinforce the sense of being an ‘outsider’ to those we hope to welcome when we don’t think things through from their perspective.
We want to make the most of the opportunity to share the gospel with our friends and family. Let’s make every effort to put no obstacle in the way.
6. Try one of these ideas
Lastly, here are a few thoughts that might spark new ideas to move your gingerbread event from great to fantastic:
- Provide ‘conversation starters’. These might be questions on the program or in a jar at each table, or around the room. It might be prompts from the host or postcards or photos or even a short video.
- Link the event to an established ministry or the collaboration of two groups. This would be easy if the event was a partnership of the youth and the seniors group as suggested above. It also allows for a more natural follow up process of involvement with one of those groups.
- Add some competition! Give prizes for ‘most creative’ or ‘most lollies’. In a youth group or family setting, you might even race the construction process (boys would love that).
- Include a theme for the event. It could even include dressing up if that would appeal to your group. Personally, ‘Zombie Apocalypse’-themed gingerbread doesn’t do it for me but my son had “The best night ever!”, and so did the friends he invited from school.
- Invite a familiar member of the congregation to share a testimony. This can work really well in place of having a guest speaker. And while you might need to put time into helping refine the testimony, a genuine explanation of why Jesus matters in the life of a friend can be powerful.
Let’s be wise as we plan our Christmas celebrations. And whatever you do, whether it involves gingerbread or not, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.