As Christmas rolls around, how will you be teaching the story of Jesus’ birth? Christmas assemblies and special events like gingerbread decorating can be great, but they are not possible in all contexts.
To help you get ready for the festive season, here are some creative and easy Christmas games and activities that can be used in your SRE class or regular children’s ministry programs:
Pass the parcel
A Christmas version of this classic birthday party game can be a great way to remind children about the truths of Jesus’ birth.
To turn this game into a teaching opportunity, include a message inside each layer that progresses as you unwrap more. For younger children, you can include a picture from the Christmas story, and for older children, you can include a Bible verse for them to look up or a phrase that has to be put together in the right order.
And what about the gift in the middle? I’d recommend a package that contains small gifts for everyone (such as bookmarks or stickers), or it could be a book about the Christmas story.
This is a more active game that works with a group of any size. In the original version, the leader calls out commands such as, “Captain’s coming” or “Scrub the deck” and the group needs to do the matching action as quickly as possible. Those too slow or who get the wrong action are out and the game continues until one winner is left.
A Christmas version could be played after some discussion about the Christmas story, encouraging the children to reflect on the people (the shepherds, angels, and so on), their role in the biblical account, and what words and actions can match. You might choose to prepare a few actions in advance, but allowing the children to actively participate in creating the game is part of its value.
Nativity sets and Lego nativity
Nativity sets are a helpful way to illustrate the Christmas story for children. They are also becoming less familiar within modern Australian culture, so some children may never have seen one before.
For a practical lesson, individually wrap the pieces in a nativity set and get volunteers to unwrap them, sharing ideas about who that figure is and their role in the Christmas story. Older groups can also read the Bible to find out more about each character.
Lego is a great alternative if you want to try a more creative approach. Allow the children to make their own nativity and encourage them to present to the class what they’ve created and why. Activities like this are a great opportunity to reinforce learning through the process of making their own version of the scene. If you don’t have Lego, there are also nativity paper cut-outs and stickers available online that can be used in similar ways.
Word searches and chatterboxes
The students in my SRE class love word searches but it’s important to ensure they are also a meaningful teaching activity. Here are a few ideas:
Include the words from your memory verse, asking the children to recall what they need to find and to write the words again at the end once all are found
Use Christmas words that are then used to fill in the blanks in a printed Bible passage
Include a secret message that can only be found once all the words are found and the leftover letters are written out
This can also be done with a chatterbox , using pictures, words, or questions related to the Christmas story. This helps the children to participate in both asking and answering questions about Christmas, and you can use it an opportunity to build their knowledge by asking deep thinking questions (such as, “Why were the angels celebrating?”) instead of simple comprehension questions.
The ‘right’ Christmas story
Many children in our groups at church and in SRE have heard the Christmas story before and are bursting to show you how much they know. It’s great to harness this energy and enthusiasm!
Bring a Christmas picture book and tell the group you are going to read them the story, allowing some discussion of what they remember. Begin reading without letting the children see the words or pictures and make an obvious mistake within the first few sentences, perhaps saying “Amanda” instead of “Mary”. If they do not pick up your mistake, ask a question or two to prompt them, such as “Actually, I think her name started with an M…Does anyone remember?”
Then, depending on the age and ability of your group, put the correct Bible passage up on the screen or hand out copies. Tell the children that your version of the story might be wrong so you need to check what the Bible says, as it is always our authority. Continuing through the story, make small mistakes, allowing the children to correct you. If you have a big group you might use thumbs up or thumbs down to allow all the kids to participate.
The value of this activity is it allows for active engagement with a familiar story and encourages the children to check what they are hearing with the Bible itself. But ensure your ‘errors’ are specific and appropriately identifiable so that children don’t get confused.
Christmas time is a great opportunity to celebrate God’s goodness and kindness in sending his Son. Let’s bring that joy and thankfulness into all our teaching times, games and activities this year.