This Christmas will look different to any that have gone before. We may be frustrated that we cannot host our annual Christmas party with our youth group, or gather together to share food and presents as we would like. But there are still many ways that we can celebrate together, even from a distance, and so here are 12 ideas of things you can do with the young people you work with, even within the different restrictions that may be in place in your area.
1. Zoom Christmas party
Even if Zoom gatherings with your young people have trickled to a halt over the past few months, resurrecting them to host an epic Christmas party could be incentive enough to engage your group again. Encourage everyone to wear their ugliest Christmas jumper, ask them to make festive hats out of decorative bits and pieces they can find around their house, play ridiculous Christmas games (e.g. hum the Christmas tune, guess the Christmas film from a short clip, Christmas Articulate, guess the Christmas object that is held distortedly close to the camera etc), and make space to focus upon the reason for the season.
2. £1 secret Santa
Privately give each young person the name of another young person within the group, and ask them to find a Secret Santa gift for that person for £1 or less. Encourage them to be really creative with what they give, and to think outside the box in order to find a gift that the other person would like. Set a date when you will go and collect each of the Secret Santa gifts and deliver them to the person they are for, and then open them all together over Zoom or another online platform. Do encourage the young people to use hand sanitiser before wrapping or unwrapping their gifts, just to be safe!
3. Read the Christmas story
Over the period of Advent, send the young people a daily verse from the Christmas story in the Bible to read at home (Matthew 1 & 2, Luke 1 & 2). You can also include reflection questions to ponder, an encouraging thought, or some prayer points. If your organisation’s Safeguarding Policy permits a group messaging chat of some kind within which the young people can feedback and have discussion around what they have read, then encourage this.
4. Christmas window art
For those young people who are artistic, ask them to create some kind of art piece (paint a picture, make a collage, creatively write a Bible verse etc) around a Christmas theme to stick in their front window. Encourage them to make it large enough so that their neighbours can see it and it spreads some festive cheer (and maybe even shares their faith). If they would like to, they could take a photograph of it and post it on social media too.
5. Gratitude social media posts
Encourage the young people to post a photograph on social media of something they are thankful for and why each day during Advent. It has been a challenging year, but having an attitude of gratitude for the things we do have helps our perspectives. If your organisation also has a social media account, encourage the young people to tag it in their posts, and repost a few of the most encouraging ones.
6. Doorstep carol singing
If you, any of the other youth workers within your team, or anyone in your family are not completely tone deaf, then arrange to do some appropriately socially distanced carol singing. You could even take your children along! Visit the young people’s doorsteps and serenade them all with a carol or two. Even if it isn’t the most tuneful, it will at least bring a smile to their faces.
7. Virtual nativity
This may require a bit more organisation than some of the other ideas, but if you are willing to do so then this could be a huge hit! Write a little script based upon the Christmas story, assign roles to the young people, and ask them to put together their own costumes from bits and pieces they have lying around their house. Using Zoom or another online platform, ask the young people to act out their parts to the camera. It will probably work best if you cast yourself as the narrator so you can hold it all together, and encourage the young people to improvise and be as dramatic as possible. This will only work if everyone is willing to let go of their inhibitions, get into character, and go a bit over the top. But if they all are, then it will be a lot of fun!
8. Encouraging Christmas cards
Write a Christmas card for each of the young people, and include a personal and encouraging message in each one. This is a great opportunity to affirm them and point out different things you have noticed about how they have grown over the past year. It is also a space where you can speak prophetically into gifts you believe they have, and encourage them to use them over the upcoming year.
9. Advent prayer tag
Each day over the period of Advent, give each of the young people a different name of another young person within the group to pray for. You could also include a variety of prayer topics around things that may be happening within your local area, or other people in their lives.
10. December quiz
Throughout the entire month of December, give the young people silly challenges that they can do at home each day. This could be anything from eating as many mince pies as possible in one minute, to wearing a Santa hat to the supermarket, to saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone they see when they walk down the street, to singing a Christmas carol backwards. Ask the young people to record themselves doing their daily challenge and to either send it to you or to post it on social media and tag your organisation. Each day announce a winner for the best video, and at the end of December announce two overall winners (and give prizes) for the person who completed the most challenges, and the person who was the most entertaining overall.
11. Christmas song music video
Ask each of the young people to film a music video to their favourite Christmas song using their phone. Encourage them to include the people they live with in this video, particularly any siblings, and to have as much fun with it as possible. They need to send the video to you to compete for the title of the best one, and do make sure there is a prize available.
12. Christmas Eve communion
It may be that the young people choose to go to a church service of some kind (either in person if the area restrictions allow this, or online) on Christmas Eve with their family. But if they do not have any plans to do this, then arrange a virtual Christmas Eve service where you can all join together to celebrate Jesus’ birth. You can include whatever you like within this service, but the unifying act of sharing Communion together could be a really powerful addition at this time. Ask the young people to find some bread and some red juice at home (if they do not have either of these, let them know that it is fine to improvise with whatever they do have), and reminding them what the sacrament represents, lead them in sharing Communion together. If you would like to use some liturgy, or to lead this as may be done within a church service, there are plenty of resources online. The Church of England has an entire section on their website dedicated to the order of Holy Communion. This is a great way to encourage the young people to focus on Jesus as they head into Christmas Day, and to get them all together to wish them a ‘Happy Christmas’!
The festivity doesn't stop there...along with the Satellites Event team, Youthscape is running a '12 Days of Christmas' event on social media: 12 days of fun Christmas ideas for your youth group. Make sure you're following both accounts to catch them all! Check out Day 1 below: