I recently heard about someone who has all her Christmas shopping done.
I’m not that person.
Maybe you aren’t that person either. Maybe you are just now thinking to yourself, “How might I give presents that support my family’s spiritual growth? Is there a way to do that?”
Yes. Yes, there is.
It is easier if your children/grandchildren/godchildren are small. Many small children accept presents more uncritically, I have found, than larger children do. (How do I know? I now have large children.)
I am not one of those bloggers who has compiled an exhaustive gift guide for you. Instead, I am one of those bloggers who has made a list of ideas that you might find helpful, and is definitely hoping you add your own ideas in the comments. (Some of these are affiliate links, which means you don’t pay any more but a portion of your purchase through the link supports this blog. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk*.)
There is a fair amount of “If only my children were little again, I would give them this!” in this list. Please forgive the nostalgia. Do you have any ideas for tweens and teens? I’d love them.
Tell the Story
Got preschoolers or younger elementary aged children? Ben Irwin’s book The Story of King Jesus* should be in every little child’s home. It tells the whole story of salvation in one beautiful picture book.
The Path Family Storybook is the next step up in complexity, a great read-aloud for an older child. New this year from Forward Movement, it puts the reader into the story of Scripture with creative yet faithful retelling of the sacred texts and full color illustrations.
For advanced middle schoolers and above, The Path: A Journey through the Bible is the actual Bible text, excerpted and made one coherent single story. It’s designed to help people engage the real Bible without being intimidated by it. It’s appropriate for anyone with a high school reading level.
Play the Story
Did you know that in this world exists a Lego-compatible nativity set? I don’t have any personal experience with this brand but the price point ($35, for 50 Pieces plus 8 Figures and 4 Animals) seems reasonable.
This is the nativity set we bought* when our children were very little, and I’ve never regretted it. It was easy to play with and always child-friendly. It’s definitely more expensive but it’s something we’ll have forever.
Color the Story
You could celebrate the twelve days of Christmas with your family by coloring a banner celebrating Christ’s birth*.
You could also give a coloring gift with staying power; Pathways of Faith is an all-ages coloring book tied to Forward Movement’s The Path (as seen above). It offers a reflective way to engage with Scripture.
Either of these would be great paired with erasable markers* (yes, they now exist)…
A nice bundle might be The Path Family Storybook plus Pathways of Faith plus erasable markers*. That definitely has the feel of “we’re going to read these stories and color these illustrations together!” A great gift for a family with elementary schoolers.
Teen and Tween Gifts
I think this age is more challenging for gift-giving, but maybe it’s just me. I’d love to hear your additions for this category!
Call on Me is a good fit for a middle or high schooler who isn’t quite ready to embrace the entire Book of Common Prayer, but has grown out of children’s Bibles and prayerbooks. It combines instruction about prayer with actual prayers for specific times and events, both from our prayerbook and beyond. It’s softcover, friendly, and focused on the real life events of teenagers, with prayers for youth milestones.
Got a responsible high schooler, a young person who (mostly) makes good decisions while left on their own? You could wrap up information about the Episcopal Youth Event, happening this summer in Oklahoma. Your teen might be happy to consider attending an event with upwards of one thousand other international Episcopal youth, especially if they’re the only Episcopalian in their high school. (But don’t try to send a teenager who doesn’t want to go – it will backfire. Check with your diocesan office first to see how competitive the spots are, and with your church to see if scholarships are available.)
And if you have a crafty teen or young adult, Jerusalem Greer’s A Homemade Year* will provide plenty of ideas to celebrate the Christian liturgical year in simple and heartfelt style.
The DK Illustrated Bible Story by Story* is the sort of book that in our house, Santa brings for the whole family. Then it gets casually placed on the coffee table. Someday, a bored child will wander by the coffee table and decide it is worth picking up. When that happens, the scholarly background and context for Holy Scripture will be instantly available. The child won’t even realize it was mom’s idea. (I learned this practice from author and Catholic homeschooling mom Melissa Wiley, who calls it “strewing.”)
Religious art is another family gift that can provide a good influence for young souls. One of our regular Grow Christians authors, Heather Sleightholm, is a contemporary Christian artist whose work can be found in her Etsy shop. A beautiful madonna somewhere in the living room helps center a family’s life.
And for the adults in your life…
If you have a family member or friend who is trying to figure out this Christian faith in parenting stuff alongside you, there are two books especially worth sharing. Maybe you could read one together in 2017? Bundle up a book, some tea or chocolate, and an invitation to start a little book group, and you’ve got a cosy winter planned.
Don’t wait for your church to make this happen for you! Just make it happen for yourself. (But you might want to mention it to your priest, especially if you want a group bigger than two – your priest probably knows at least one more person to invite.)
Then, read these:
Derek Olsen’s new Inwardly Digest is a fabulous, faithful and clear summary of the teachings of the church about the liturgical year and our heritage of common prayer…
Wendy Claire Barrie’s new Faith at Home: A Guide for Cautiously Christian Parents* is an engaging, relevant welcome to actually practicing faith in your family life.
However you celebrate and whatever you give, find a way to integrate the practice of faith into the celebration. After all, that’s the whole point of Christmas.
What gift ideas can you share?