Giving With Dignity at Christmas (and Beyond!)

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Many churches are already on their way to their yearly Christmas giving projects. But it’s never too late to evaluate and reconsider why, if, and how we participate this Christmas.  

Recently the Faith in Action bi-national diaconal group discussed how to give with dignity, particularly over the holidays. Becky Vanderzee, Director of Community Development at Kingdom Causes Bellflower (in Bellflower, CA), shared her story of how Kingdom Causes Bellflower and three partner churches share Christmas giving with dignity. 

For the last 14 years, Kingdom Causes Bellflower has been holding a Christmas Toy Store. This idea came out of a partnership between Rosewood Church in Bellflower, Kingdom Causes Bellflower, and Bellflower Unified School District (BUSD).

Parents were coming to them and saying that they wanted their kids to have gifts, but they didn't have the resources and didn't want the gifts for free. They wanted dignity in shopping for gifts for their children. The families that participate are referred by the BUSD case managers, participating churches, and Kingdom Causes Bellflower case managers.

Around 700 new gifts (for 200 to 250 children of all ages) are donated and then sold for approximately 90 percent off at Christmas Stores located at three churches in the Bellflower community. Parents wrap gifts together with volunteers and share Christmas treats.

This giving opportunity gives parents the dignity of being able to purchase Christmas gifts, and builds relationships between congregational members and families. Proceeds of the sales goes back into two areas: 50 percent goes back into making the Christmas store happen again the following year, and then families vote on how they want to use the other 50 percent as a way of giving back to another need! Last year they gave to families who were affected by hurricanes in Honduras. 

You, too, can move in the direction of dignity this Christmas! Before you put your finishing touches on those Christmas projects, please take some time to consider the why, if, and how of giving. 

Ask some questions:

  1. Who is asking for this? Who is in control?

  2. Why are we doing this? To feel good or to really help?

  3. What is the impact? (on the environment, on people)

  4. Where is the money going (to build a strong community, fuel local economy)?

  5. What message are we sending? What does this type of giving say about God and our faith?

  6. Is it culturally appropriate?

  7. Who are we already engaged with and how can we deepen that relationship?

  8. Is an organization that has long-term relationships with people already engaged? How are we coordinating?

  9. Is this giving long-term versus one-time? 

  10. Is there a way for anyone to be the giver/sharer? How can we build mutual giving?

Think about alternatives to Christmas presents:

  • Host meals. One church did a Friends-giving for the Recovering community. Another made pre-cooked meals every week.

  • Giving money. Many trusted organizations need the financial support to continue their good work.

  • Do acts of kindness. A local teenager made a goal to get to know neighbors and be available to help.

  • Give the gift of regular volunteering.

  • Give the gift of visiting. This is particularly important for those who feel socially isolated.

  • Learn about food insecurity and decide to give to regular, sustainable efforts.

  • Develop a relationship with the organization or families you supported in December and ask what is needed in January.

  • Understand the structural reasons for poverty and inequality. Advocate and support policies that work to eradicate it.

To dig deeper, check out these helpful resources: 

Articles:

Webinars:

Please share your stories of how your church moved from giving TO people to walking alongside people.

Contact Jodi Koeman, World Renew, [email protected]new.net, or Diaconal Ministries Canada, for more information and ideas on helping without harming. 

To attend the next Faith in Action meeting, please contact Jodi. We would love you to join us as we talk about mercy and justice topics, such as food insecurity, partnering well, and others.

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