Preparing Students for Advent Season
For the world, the Christmas season is about preparing for family fun, good food, and gifts. For Christians, the Advent season is about preparing our hearts and minds for the celebration of the birth of Christ. The traditional steps of preparation include praying and fasting, along with times of worship and reading of the biblical story of Christ’s coming.
As modern-day Christians living in the western world, we need to be intentional about Advent because the season around Christmas can tend to be more about the family, food, and gifts than about humbling our hearts in anticipation of Christ’s coming. Missing out on the real wondrous gift of Jesus can make us greedy and shallow, leaving us with the emptiness that always comes from materialism.
As youth workers, this is always a challenge: How do we make Christmas great with our students while still teaching them the importance of the Advent season?
Here are six ideas on how to make Advent happen in your youth ministry.
1. Teach on Advent
There is amazing beauty in preparing for Christ’s birth. John the Baptist said prepare the way, and his very words encourage us to prepare our hearts to meet the newborn savior. The distractions around Christmas are unbelievable, student schedules are busy, and the thought of getting and giving gifts is overwhelming. We can have a full Christmas season and miss the birth of Jesus Christ.
Teach students about preparing their hearts to meet Jesus this Advent season. Have them imagine meeting him for the very first time. Call them to a depth in their relationship with him that they have never had before through prayer and Bible study. If we don’t challenge students to prepare for Christ’s birth, my fear is that they will just see it as another holiday.
2. Focus on God’s gift vs. earthly gifts
Gift giving is such a big part of Christmas, and it should be! God gave us the greatest gift possible when he gave us his son Jesus Christ. The gift wasn’t just a chance to meet him; the gift was a chance for us to imitate his life. And Jesus just kept on giving us gifts beyond salvation. He gives us the gifts of peace, joy, sanctification, and love. These are some of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. When we teach about Jesus as a gift of the Father, I believe students can understand the abundant love of God in that gift.
3. Create Christmas serve
When Jesus came to earth, he came to serve us. It just makes sense that Christmas is a great season for us to serve other people. So many people in our churches need a kind hand during the Christmas season. What a great opportunity for our students to serve. Use the Advent season to plan a special service event where your students can reach out to people that are in need at your church. I know the holidays can be a busy time, but it is surely a great time to serve.
4. Challenge students to a day of fasting
From the time of the early church, the Advent season has been a time of fasting and praying. I know it’s wild to think that we could challenge our students to fast, but one creative idea you could use during Advent is to make one day that you meet for programming during the week into a fasting day. Use that day to draw students’ attention to Jesus Christ and to share with their friends why they’re fasting. Break the fast together at youth group. Share a meal and talk about the experience. This kind of event could really change students’ thinking about Advent.
5. Create a worship experience about preparing through repentance
Traditionally at Christmas time we don’t spend a lot of energy talking about repentance, but it makes total sense. Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life, sacrificed himself for us by dying on the cross, and brought us new life through his resurrection. It all started at Advent. What a great time to call our students to repentance. Offer a great worship experience where students are given the chance to focus directly on what Christ has done for them, call them to repentance, and give them a chance to respond to what Christ has done for them. Bringing a focus on repentance may drive a lot of spiritual renewal in the lives of your students.
6. Give your students an Advent Journal
At LeaderTreks we produce an Advent journal every year, and The Wondrous Gift is our Advent journal for students this year. It’s a 25-day journal that allows them to focus on preparing their hearts for the visitation of Christ on this earth and in their lives. With this tool you can even debrief with students at the end of each week to increase their learning and to mentor them in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
There are so many things we can do in the Advent season to help our students prepare for Christ. My challenge to you is not to let the Christmas season go by without challenging your students to prepare their hearts for Jesus Christ. There are so many great things going on: dramas, choirs, family events, and special services at church. All these things are great corporate events, but we want our students to have a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. The Advent season is a wonderful time to see that happen.
May you all grow deeper in Christ as we anticipate his coming.
About the Author
Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners who never leave their side. Doug grew up in… Read More