The Holiday Spirit

Melissa Bogdany

Serve with Christmas House, and bring smiles to children – and parents

As Buddy in the movie “Elf” says, “Smiling’s my favorite.” With Christmas just around the corner, Northland has the perfect opportunity for you to help others do just that.

Northland’s fourth Christmas House is happening December 11. This is a fun and festive Christmas shopping experience for parents experiencing financial difficulty. The event empowers them to give Christmas presents they would not otherwise be able to provide for their children, as well as connects them with our church and leaders.

It also provides you with the opportunity to practice the generosity we have been learning about in recent weeks. There are two ways you can help: by donating gifts and giving your time.

How to Give
For Christmas House to happen, we need gifts. Lots of them. All sizes and costs. If you want to help, simply remove an information card (or cards) from the Christmas House display in the Longwood foyer beginning November 17 and purchase the appropriate gifts. Small gifts (costing less than $10), medium gifts (about $10 to $20) and large gifts (more than $20) are all needed. You can donate any amount. Larger gifts, such as bikes, are also welcome; each family is allowed to get one of these, if available, in place of a large gift.

Then drop off unwrapped gifts at the Christmas House display, inside the main foyer, by December 5.

“We just ask for gifts, and we never know how much is gonna come in. God just provides,” shares Matthew Shiles, Northland’s Local Missions director.

We also need many volunteers to help with setup December 10 and at the Christmas House on December 11. Northland will pair volunteers with shoppers, and together they have 30 minutes to shop.

“I’m always amazed when the volunteers come back,” says Shiles. “They’re just beaming. Connections have been made.”

Other volunteers help with registration, sorting and restocking gifts, serving refreshments, wrapping gifts and cleaning up.

Families shopping are invited to help wrap their gifts and can also volunteer to wrap gifts for others. One shopper stayed and wrapped gifts for three hours, Shiles recalls.

“I was blown away,” he says. “She stayed so long that it allowed me to get to know her better.”

It’s About Empowering People
Christmas House is a response to the principles in the book “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett: learning how to help those in need without hurting by empowering them, to walk with others in humble relationships rather than giving handouts, to effectively help people in need, moving beyond good intentions to lasting change.

To that end, the shoppers pay a small fee—$5 per child—and select one large gift one medium gift and two small gifts per child. Then they are invited to join volunteers to help wrap those gifts before they leave, all while enjoying refreshments.

“We’re not giving the toys; they’re earning the toys—with time invested in orientation and money,” Shiles says. The parents feel a sense of dignity and pride knowing they have been able to buy gifts for their children.

Before the shopping event, the shoppers are required to go through orientation. There the shoppers sit around tables and talk about traditions—“How does your family celebrate Christmas Eve? What traditions does your family have? It breaks down that giver-receiver relationship and makes us equals,” Shiles says. “Every time we share about the gospel, every one of them has heard about Jesus. The importance is a refocusing, remembering what the true meaning is all about.”

The shoppers tour the church and learn about its classes, ministries, small groups and community relationships.

“They see the whole church and understand that they belong in the whole church, not just the Care Center,” Shiles shares. “Every year the goal is to tweak it a little more and make sure it’s an empowering process.”

Touching Lives, Christmas and Beyond
Parents have come to Christmas House who are on disability, out of work and facing expenses from illnesses, among other things. Whatever the reason, they have expressed their gratefulness. Some have commented to us that they loved the experience and feeling connected to people as much as the opportunity to purchase gifts.

One applicant to the Christmas House this year said, “I appreciate y’all even offering such assistance. I like that rather than just a handout and sending people on, you offer classes in hopes of helping us enhance our future rather than just in the moment.

“Thank you all so much for your blessings!”

Two years ago, Shiles sat at a table at orientation with a mom with whom he shared that he had a nutcracker collection.

“The next year during the shopping season, I got a gift from the same mom,” he remembers. “It was a small nutcracker. It was so touching.”

After Christmas House is over, Northland follows up with the shoppers with personalized cards with words of encouragement and asks how the church can join them in prayer. Shoppers are encouraged to get connected in the church and continue to help themselves, such as by attending small groups and getting involved in other ministries—taking the next step in their journey.

If you are interested in donating gifts for Christmas House and/or giving the gift of time, while creating smiles this Christmas, visit for more information.

Christmas House Facts

When: December 11, 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Served each year: About 80 families with 250 children

How to get gift suggestions: Go to Christmas House display, Longwood foyer, starting November 17

Deadline to donate gifts: December 5

Volunteers needed: 60

Sign up to volunteer: