Friday, December 16, 2011

The Good Deed Manger = Loving & Serving Others

Does Santa and the presents and all the parties distract your kids from the real meaning of Christmas?

Does the longer than usual to-do list distract you (like it does me) from the real meaning of Christmas?

If we want to make Christmas meaningful for our children (and us!), we need to be intentional. It take time and planning to keep Jesus in Christmas.

Last year I shared some ideas to help us be intentional about teaching our kids the real reason for Christmas. If you weren't around last year, you may want to check out:
BUT I wanted to share some NEW ideas this year! You blog readers sent me some ideas I have never heard of.

Below is one fun Christmas idea that helps impart to our kids an awareness of others and helps them look for opportunities to serve and love others.

Molly and her kids (ages 7, 6, and 3) are doing a good deeds manger this year which is an idea taken from Audrey Nickel of St Luke's Episcopal Church in Durham, NC.

Molly created a manger by wrapping a shoe box with wrapping paper. If you wanted it to look like a real manger, you could wrap the shoe box with brown construction paper and then use markers to make the paper look like slats of wood (draw lines, knot holes, etc.)

And then beside the manger, there is a bowl of hay/straw. Or if that is too messy for you, you could have a bowl of brown or yellow pipe cleaners (to represent straw).

Every evening at dinner, Molly and her family talk about the good deeds they've done during the day. For every good deed done, a person gets to place a handful of straw (or a few pipe cleaners) in the manger.

This reminds me of how Rob often announces at dinner, "Tomorrow at dinner, we are going to go around the table and answer the question: How did you make Jesus smile today? And you need to come with an answer." Letting your kids know you are gonna ask that question helps them be aware of opportunities to serve and love up on others thruout the day. Mom and Dad have to answer the question too come the following evening.

Same with the straw. . .the kids knowing that they get to put straw in the manger for each good deed they do helps them be aware of opportunities to serve and love up on others. (simple things like saying "Yes, Mam" or clearing the table and putting the dishes in the dishwasher without Mom asking count!!)

One day, Molly and her kids got intentional (there's my word) about this thing and went out looking for ways to love people. They paid for people's coke:

And paid for people's car vacuum:

They returned shopping carts in parking lots:

They picked up trash at the park:

And Molly's little daughter really wanted to buy the Salvation Army man a coke. Molly emailed me and said:

This good deed manger is such a fun and memorable way to seal the business of "doing love" into my children's hearts. The good deed manger has been great this year and we will be doing this every year from now on. This is such an effective tool for putting structure around "love in action".

And then on Christmas Eve, Molly and her kids place baby Jesus in the manger. The soft bed they have built with their good deeds is their gift to Jesus.

Now do not get all bummed that you did not start something like this on Dec 1. You can still do it!! You can do it this week leading up to Christmas. Or me. . .I am just going to wait until school is out and do it Thurs and Friday. Or if this is too much this year, how about pinning it for next year (sidenote: if you need an invite to Pinterest, email me and I will send you one).

We intentional women know that having an imperfect plan in better than having no plan. It is totally ok that we did not start Dec 1. What matters is that we are intentional about sowing truth in our kids' hearts. . that we make Christmas mean something more than just Santa, presents, and parties. . .that we teach our kids how to think of others.

Make sure you come back tomorrow for ANOTHER idea like this that helps impart to our kids an awareness of others and helps them look for opportunities to serve and love others. This post was getting a little long. . so come back tomorrow when I'll share another blog reader's idea.


  1. Sorry for the ultra-late reply, but I just found this entry while Googling my mom's name. I'm Audrey Nickel's daughter, Anna, and both my parents and I think it's AWESOME that you made this post!

    The Good Deeds Manger is actually an old Maravian (not sure if I spelled that right) tradition, believe it or not. It's something my family did every year when I was a kid. (One of my most distinct Christmas memories was putting long pine needles into the manger, in fact--we'd use those in place of straw or pipe cleaners sometimes, since they were so abundant!)

    We moved to California in 1999, but it's so great that my mom's old posts are making the rounds! Thank you so much for crediting her.


    1. Hi Anna-

      So glad you found this post. Thanks for taking the time to leave a oomment. If your mom (and you) have any other Christmas traditions you want to share . I'd love to hear them and share them on my blog! Your mom could be a guest blogger here at The Intentional Home :)

  2. Hi Su...Audrey Nickel here!

    It's funny how a quick search on one's name can turn up things you never thought of! I'm so glad others are enjoying our twist on the Moravian tradition of the Good Deeds Manger! We published several Advent traditions for children on the old St. Luke's page...if you're interested in them, I'd be happy to share them.

    1. Hi Ms. Nickel- how fun you stopped by!! I would love to read thru the Advent traditions you published. Yes. . please share.


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