How To Host A Church Christmas Gift Exchange

by Kristen Gilles

in Exhortations And Musings,Worship Leading

One of the tables of gifts at the Sojourn Women's Christmas Gift Exchange

Church leaders, give your people a chance to display their creativity and generosity

The women in my church family have an annual tradition of celebrating the Christmas and Advent season through a huge gift exchange. Not only have I had the privilege of serving my sisters in leading worship at the events, I’ve also participated in the exchanges and each year taken home six unique gifts that remind me of the Greatest Gift of All: the lavish grace of God poured out for all of us undeserving sinners through the perfect life, death and death-defeating resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ on our behalf.

If your church is interested in hosting a Christmas/Advent gift exchange like this, I’m happy to share with you the logistical details of the Sojourn Women’s Gift Exchanges:

In order to participate in the gift exchange, each woman must bring six similar unwrapped gifts. They can be handmade, homemade baked goods or inexpensive store-bought items. For example, one year I brought six loaves of homemade pumpkin-cranberry spice bread. I saw other women bringing things like:

  • six different pairs of hand-crafted earrings
  • six hand-crocheted scarves
  • six types of candles
  • six sets of handmade greeting cards, etc.
We also seek to give to our communities as we gather to celebrate Advent. Each woman is invited to bring a $5 gift card to an area retailer to be donated to several local charities sponsored by each campus. For example, our Midtown campus donates gift cards to Scarlet Hope, a local outreach to women struggling to break free from the sex industry. Our New Albany campus will be donating Kroger gift cards and/or children’s items to the local Boys and Girls Club.

It’s a great opportunity for women to share their skills/talents with each other in giving unique gifts. Some women love to bake. Some love to make. Some love to buy. Women are free to bring whatever they’re inspired to make, bake or buy.

As the women arrive with their gifts, several volunteers work to organize the gifts (keeping like-gifts together) on tables spread throughout a large room while the women are free to “table” shop, perusing the goods before we start the exchange. Last year at our Midtown location, there were over 1,000 gifts in the exchange — outrageous!

Sojourn Women's Gift Exchange baked goods with recipe

I love it when women include recipes on their baked-goods gifts

Each woman is also given a name tag with a colored dot to indicate which color group she is in. Once all the women have arrived and have partaken of the delicious spread of homemade eats (also brought in by volunteers), we gather for a brief time of worship together and reflect on our Savior’s first Advent along with His life, death and resurrection, all with growing longing for His promised return to deliver us from our broken bodies and this beautiful, broken world.

I love this time together especially because the women of my church all sing out with all of their hearts. I told Bobby that it’s the easiest song-leading I do because everyone gathered is an eager participant. The sound is SO sweet.

We continue our time of worship together by participating in the gift exchange, which illustrates God’s outrageous, immeasurable grace continuously poured out to us. Our moderator in the gathering room, with stopwatch in hand and her volunteers with radios and headsets ready in the gift room, begins the exchange by calling each color group one at a time and giving them one minute to shop the gift room.

Chaos ensues as women gleefully race to the gift room and try to make their 1 out of 1,000 gifts choice in 60 seconds before the next group comes in. The volunteers in the gift room help remind the ladies of the ticking clock and they communicate with the moderator as the room clears out so she knows to send in the next group. Every color group gets the same amount of chances to shop, but they won’t necessarily shop in the same order each round (we gotta be fair, people!).

In an effort to keep to the announced ending time of the exchange, the moderator may choose to do only four or five rounds (instead of six), with one or two rounds allowing for the ladies to select two gifts at a time. Either way, everyone who brought six similar gifts leaves with six different gifts.

Women with name tags participating at Sojourn Women's Christmas Gift Exchange

Make sure you have name-tags, to help newcomers & guests.

We have such a fun time continuing our fellowship together as we shop and eat and talk and laugh and eat and shop and laugh and talk. And all while we remember and celebrate the Advent of our long-awaited Savior, Christ Jesus—the Greatest Gift of All.

This year I’m excited to lead worship at two Sojourn Christmas gift exchanges at two of our four campuses, including our most recently launched New Albany campus. I’m not only looking forward to sharing food, fellowship and gifts with my sisters, but I’m eager to participate in sharing the gospel for the encouragement of my church family and any unbelievers who will visit and participate in our gift exchange with a friend or family member.

My prayer is that everyone who attends all of the gift exchanges this year will come to know and love and appreciate the greatest gift, Jesus Christ, more than ever.

  • I pray that believers would be reminded of God’s great love for His children as demonstrated in every good and perfect gift that He gives.
  • I pray that the gospel would be unveiled to unbelievers and that their hearts would experience the transforming grace of Christ as they are showered with thoughtful, homemade, handmade or store-bought gifts from other women.
  • I pray that they would see and hear Christ, the greatest gift of all, calling them to put their faith and hope in His saving name because of His great love for them.
  • And I pray that they would come and find rest for their souls in the comforting, strong arms of our perfect Redeemer.

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