As a family, we enjoy many Christmas traditions. Decorating the house might be my husband’s least favorite one, but the kids and I love the twinkling lights and the smell of pine (even if it is piped through an air freshener!). We all look forward to reading our favorite advent devotions, like “The Greatest Gift” by Ann VosKamp and “The Expected One” by Scott James, every morning at breakfast and every evening at dinner. These sweet times help all of us to stop all month long amidst the crazy rush of the holidays in order to focus our hearts on what is really important.
But our family’s favorite tradition for the holidays revolves around four mason jars full of money! A few years ago, David and I began praying about how we, as a family, could give more intentionally during the holidays. We decided to involve the kids in this discussion and came up with a plan to encourage the kids to give and serve in a special way that reflects the gospel at Christmas.
This is how it works at our house: at the beginning of December, we put a jar out for all four of the children. The entire month of December, they have the opportunity to earn money for their jars by helping out extra around the house (with and without being asked), doing extra chores, serving each other, and looking for opportunities to be kind and helpful. They can’t ask us for money after they’ve done something in particular, but as we see them serving, we dole out $1, $5, $10, and sometimes even $20 to put in their beloved jars! (We use money that has been set aside, within our Christmas budget, specifically for this purpose.)
It is so much fun to see the kids' excitement as we start this at the beginning of each December. Every year they think of new ways to add more money to their jars. Many times, as family members or friends have asked what they would like for Christmas, they have requested money for their “giving jars” instead of a gift. This year, all the older children were eager to start filling their jars full and added money from their own allowance that has been collected throughout the year. As people have come into our home for the holidays and the children have explained the purpose of their jars, guests have joined in the fun and given too. There are really endless possibilities and creative ways for them to earn money. Whether it’s selling baked goods at church or in the neighborhood (opening doors to share the gospel with neighbors!), or making ornaments as a family and selling them, the possibilities are endless.
Our “mason jar fun” ends on December 24th when we gather together as a family on Christmas Eve, count up all the money that has been raised, and start shopping! The kids think through how they can support missionaries through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. They also look at Christmas-giving catalogues like Baptist Global Response, Compassion, or Samaritan’s Purse. The kids typically check out various things they want to “buy” all month long, so they have an idea of what they would like to give. Depending on how much money they have raised, they decide how to give to support missionaries, and they shop to provide Bibles, cows, goats, chickens, bicycles, medical care, mosquito nets, and much more to those in need. It’s such a blessing to see how excited they get, knowing that they have the opportunity to bless someone else, particularly children and their families in far away places, many of whom have never heard the gospel. It’s been a wonderful way to teach our children how to be the hands and feet of Christ in a small and simple way. After they finish spending all their money, we pray over the gifts that will be given, asking the Lord to use them for the spread of the gospel among the nations.
All of this may be a relatively small amount of money in light of the massive needs around the world. However, it’s a really big deal to four children who are learning how to love and serve each other better, all while giving so that others might know God’s grace and love in Christ. As David and I carry out what has now become a fun family tradition, we hope and pray that God will use it to spark similar traditions in our children's families in the future, that the gospel might be known and spread through our family for many generations to come (or until Jesus comes back!).
Heather Platt is the wife of David Platt, president of IMB and founder of Radical. She is David's biggest supporter, a homeschool teacher, and mom to Caleb, Joshua, Mara Ruth, and Isaiah.