Home. For me, just hearing the word brings back memories and feelings of belonging, particularly during the Christmas season. There’s nothing like walking into my parents’ home during the holidays and seeing the decorations from my childhood—the angel on the Christmas tree, ornaments that my baby brother crafted, and, of course, the ceramic manger scene in front of the window.
What gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling when I think about home? It isn’t the finger painting on the wall or the antique upright piano; it’s knowing that Dad played that piano as he led everyone in carols each year, and that my little brother was thinking of me that day when he prepared to create his masterpiece. These tangible objects are only reminders of relationships. That’s what touches our lives, and home is where it all begins.
Maybe for you, “home” wasn’t where your parents lived, but the church where you first met Jesus and was taken in with open arms. Or maybe home was your neighbor’s house, where you found more love than your biological family could give.
Home is more than a place to stay; it’s a haven, a refuge, a sanctuary where one can be loved despite all that we are. This is something that everyone in the world longs for. As Christians, we have the ability to give this kind of unconditional love through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us. And our homes can be a tool to introduce Him to those around us, especially during Christmas.
Sharing Christ in a meaningful way
Cru, FamilyLife’s parent organization, has dedicated an entire ministry to the cause of reaching out through the home at Christmas. Joyce Bademan, founder and national director of the ministry called Christmas Gatherings, wrote in her resource manual, “Christmas is a wonderful season to share Christ’s message in a meaningful way. People’s hearts are unusually open and warm to spiritual thoughts and to being together. They feel honored to be invited to a party in a home where there will be others they know or would like to know.”
“I think it’s the best way to share your faith because home has such a warm atmosphere, and all the barriers are broken down,” says Kit Coons, who has used Bademan’s method to organize dozens of these Christmas events since 1983. Kit says she has seen 80-100 people indicate decisions to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord through these gatherings.
Kit centers her events on two major elements—a cookie exchange and a speaker. The women come with batches of cookies made, and exchange them for others. “You can invite your neighbors, other soccer moms, couples from work, just about any group of people that you are associated with,” Kit says. “I have a friend who has done one of these for a youth group.”
When the cookie exchange is over, everyone settles down to hear a message from a special speaker. The message can be anything about Christmas—the meaning of Christmas, the blessings of Christmas, etc., but it always ends with a presentation of the gospel and an invitation to trust in Christ as Lord and Savior.
How did Kit attract people to an event where the gospel is presented? By simply organizing it and inviting them to come. But she warns that people should not be tricked into coming; the invitation should explain that someone will be speaking about their faith in God. “This will help build their trust in you,” Kit says.
Kit loves this kind of evangelism because it’s easy to teach. She has trained dozens of other women how to duplicate these events. “Once there were seven other women in our area hosting these parties, and they were all women I had trained. I’ll never forget when one of those women told me about ladies in her gathering who had indicated a decision to put their trust in Christ. It showed me how our faith can mushroom and multiply to so many others.”
Bill and Sue Truax have also used their home to share the gospel. For the last 20 years, Sue and Bill have invited friends, family, and neighbors to hear a reading of the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.
The story begins with the Herdmans, a hoodlum group of siblings who hear the story of Christ’s birth for the first time when they star in a church Christmas play. “The story is funny and warm, but most of all it gives you a fresh look at the Christmas story, through the eyes of these tough kids,” Sue says. “The Herdmans start out so horribly, and in the end, they are honoring the Lord.”
Adults and children alike listen and laugh while they snuggle together in the small house, drinking cider and snacking on Christmas goodies. In order to help the children listen, Bill announces that there will be questions at the end and prizes for the children who can answer correctly. “It works!” Sue says.
As many as 75 people have flooded the Truaxes’ house to hear Bill read this story. To compensate for the growth, they have set up speakers around the house so the people who spill over into different rooms can hear.
Because this idea is such a hit with everyone who participates, the readings are spreading. Both of Bill and Sue’s sons have taken this idea with them to the military, where they are starting their own readings. And a close friend, Mary Donovan, took the idea to Arkansas when she and her husband, Dan, joined staff with FamilyLife.
“The thing I like best about this gathering is that it slows the holidays down,” Mary says. “We’re able to laugh together and just enjoy the company.”
This year the Donovans are inviting their own neighbors to a reading, and in a small way, they are touching the world. Their immediate neighbors include families from Switzerland, China, Vietnam, Korea, and Africa.
“It’s all about building relationships,” Mary says. “We’re just using it as an opportunity to love our neighbors and to get them to start opening up to us and to one another.”
Tips for hosting your own Christmas gathering
Here are a few guidelines gathered from the experiences of the women I’ve described:
Keep it simple. These gatherings don’t have to be elaborate, and undo expectations of yourself only make it more difficult to get motivated.
Create a neighborhood phone list. Gather the names, addresses, and phone numbers of each neighbor and print enough of them to pass out. The neighbors will appreciate it, and it helps bring unity to the neighborhood.
Ask for help. Use other women who have a desire to reach out. They will be very helpful in putting everything together, and at the same time, they will be training to host one of their own.
If you have someone speak at your event, it’s best to use someone other than yourself. That way if someone is offended by what is said, the offense will not be directly taken from you, and the relationship can continue to build.
Involve your kids. If they’re old enough, kids can be great assets for helping. This also allows them to watch their parent(s) be a living example for Christ and to learn why it’s important to reach out.
Use response cards. These are printed on half sheets of paper and should gather information about the attendees. Pass them out at the end to get feedback about your event. Ask for their name, phone number, e-mail address, and give them a list to check that includes, wanting to know more about Christ, decision to trust in Christ, and not interested. This will allow you to follow up with those who check one of the first two choices.
Plan a strategy for follow up. Before your gathering, select a Bible study for new believers. Wait about a week, and then call those who indicated a decision to trust Christ and those who are interested in knowing more. Invite them to join you once a week for four or five weeks, but not longer. Start with a study that teaches the basics of Christian living, and when the study is over, make sure to give them resources that will help them continue to grow. Include information about local churches, websites, ministries, and books on spiritual growth. Kit uses FamilyLife’s HomeBuilders® Couple Series* in her follow-ups. This is a small-group Bible study that teaches practical tools for living from a Christian perspective.
*The FamilyLife’s HomeBuilders® Couple Series is now The Art of Marriage® Connect Series.
Copyright © 2001 by Tim Kimmel. All rights reserved. Used with permission.