Christmas Traditions for Ministry – Pt. 3

The Great Gift Exchange

I came across this Christmas game many, many years ago. And since then, I have made it my own with various adaptations and tweaks making it fun and exciting every year. The Great Gift Exchange is a game that requires a clear explanation of the rules, a way to keep track of the trades, and the readiness to have some fun.

So here is how I play, The GREAT Gift Exchange!

Start off by setting up a staging area for the gifts. A table or stage works well. If you are segregating the gifts as, “For a Guy” or “For a Girl,” make sure you make it clear in your staging.

Decide how you will distribute the gifts; by number, by name, by ticket, by color. Have whatever materials, pens, strips of paper, numbered cards, ready to go. Again. knowing how you will distributes the gifts is important and will help in making for a smoother game.

For me, I keep things simple. As students come in to the party, they hand over their gift and we record a number for later.

When the time comes to play the game, we have our students sit in a circle. The circle is the best way for everyone to see what is being opened. This is important as students will have know where gifts are and whether they want to steal them when the time comes. Once everyone is seated, a leader will go around with a bowl so our students can pick a piece of paper with a number on it.

Then comes the rules of play.

1. Gifts will be chosen according to numeric order. Number one picks first, Two picks second, Three picks third, and so on and so on.

2. Number one will pick first. He has the opportunity to choose from all the gifts on the table. Once the gift is chosen, number one must open the gift in front of everyone in the circle.

3. Number two now has the opportunity to either open a new gift or “steal” the gift already opened. If number two decides to open a new gift, he should do the same as number one: choose a gift and open it for all to see. If he chooses to “steal” the gift from number one, number one must give up the gift without hesitation. Now number one will have to go to pile of gifts and choose a new gift to be opened.

4. Number three is given the same option as number two. They may steal one of the opened gifts, or choose a new gift to open. If number four chooses to open a new gift, they do so so everyone to see. If they choose to “steal,” they may steal any opened gift.

If a gift is stolen, that person now has the choose to steal another gift or open a new gift.

The rest of the game goes on just like that, with each new number the choice is the same, steal a gift or open a new gift.

5. Guidelines for Stealing. If you are not careful, gifts being stolen can turn into a circle of disaster. To avoid this circle, it is important that you set a few guidelines for how gifts are stolen. Here is what I do. I limit the gift stealing to three steals. Once a gift has been stole three times, that gift is no longer able to be stolen. Like wise, if your gift is stolen, you are not allowed to steal it back in that round. You must wait for the next round to begin with starts when a new number is given the choose to steal or open a new gift.

Those are the basic rules. As you play the game, you find it helpful to amend or change or add a few of the rules so that the game fits with the context of your group and ministry. Through the many years of playing the game, I have made a number of rule changes including how many times a gift can be stolen, and how the gifts are chosen, so feel free to make changes.

The only other suggestion I have is to make sure you have a few extra gifts on hand just in case a student shows up without a gift. Nothing ruins this game faster than having a student or students miss the fun because they don’t have a gift.

That’s about it. The Great Gift Exchange is a lot of fun as long as YOU know what you’re doing and can orchestrate the game smoothly. To the first time player, it may sound a bit confusing, so keeping track is really important.

Have fun!

Merry Christmas!

– jay

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