Christmas Traditions for Ministry – Pt. 1

Graham Cracker House

One of my favorite Christmas Traditions for Ministry is the Graham Cracker House! Much like the traditional “Gingerbread” House, Graham Cracker Houses are decorated works of art you display at Christmas, minus the gingerbread.

A number of years ago, my wife and had the idea of Christmas Family Night where families would gather at the church for some Christmas fun and build Graham Cracker House. It’s really a simple activity to pull off, and a whole lot of fun for the entire family. Let me break down how we would celebrate the tradition of the Graham Cracker House.

1. Set the Date: Obviously. We chose to do our Graham Cracker Houses on a Friday evening, usually the first or second weekend in Advent. Hosting it on the first Friday is a fun way to kick off the Christmas season. But personally, I think the second Friday is the best. It’s not immediately after Thanksgiving, but not too, close to Christmas itself. We have had the most success on the second Friday.

2. Time: When it comes to families, I like to consider the family with the younger children and early bedtimes. We would host our Graham Cracker night from 6:00 to 8:00. Early enough to bedtimes but late enough that parents can get home from work.

3. What About Dinner?: Anytime you do an event in the evening the question of dinner will need to be addressed. We answered that question by asking each family to bring an appetizer to share. There usually isn’t a shortage of food when everyone brings a little something. Drinks would be provided by the youth group; water, punch, juices, hot chocolate, and of course coffee and tea for the parents.

4. Programming: The first 30 minutes of the evening is given for eating and fellowship. This also gives some time for late comers to arrive and get settled without missing the fun! Once everyone has had something to eat, we begin the build. Allow another 30 to 45 minutes for building. You do need to monitor the time because it will get away from you if you are not careful. With the remaining time, we would gather all the children for a kid-sized telling of the Christmas Story. Through the years, we have used a couple different resources for this, but usually it includes nativity figurines or a storybook. It’s the perfect way to wrap up the night and reemphasis why we celebrate Christmas.

5. Building the Houses: Now I’m not against gingerbread, but graham crackers are a great alternative building product. They inexpensive, easy to work with, and require no baking. I also use melting chocolate as mortar. As long as you’re careful with the hot chocolate, it works great because it only takes a few minutes for it to harden. The chocolate is provided by the church or Christian Education Committee or the youth group. You can usually get melting chocolate from a local baking store. It’s cheaper there because you can buy a big bag of it.

For the base, I collect boxes and cut them down to 12″ by 12″ squares. The candy comes from the families. Along with the appetizer to share, we ask each family to bring a bag or two of their favorite treats. The amount has never been a problem for us. More times than not, we have had leftover candy.

The graham crackers can be done a couple of ways. You can ask each family to bring a box, you can ask for donations of boxes, or someone can sponsor the event and provide the crackers. We put up a sign up two weeks before the event and ask families planning to attend to sign up so we can know about how many to expect. When we do this, the church provides the graham crackers. If you do it this way, be sure to buy a couple extra boxes for the families who show up without notice.

All in all you need- 1 box of crackers per family, candies, melting chocolate, ziplock bags for the melted chocolate, and cardboard.

Documentation: The last thing you want to be sure to have is a camera. This is an event you will want to photograph. Get the photos developed and be sure to post them on a bulletin board as soon as possible!

Why is this a great event?
In all the years of doing this event, I am still amazed to watch as fathers really get into this activity. When interaction between father and child(ren) is often lacking, this event is a great way to get dad to slow down and spend sometime with his children. I think it’s the “building” part of the graham cracker houses that really helps them to connect.

The other thing that I have done to keep this an event that draws families is to do it every other year. This helps keep the interest without it becoming something too regular.

So I think I have shared everything. I hope it becomes a wonderful tradition for you and your ministry!

Merry Christmas!

– jay

PS…Like this idea? Want to add it to your files for next Christmas? Then visit our resource page at www.jayhigham.com and print or download a copy for FREE! Merry Christmas!

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