The Christmas season is a wonderful time to try experiments in loving, serving, and gathering people. It is a season full of opportunities to engage with people in your neighborhoods and communities. Having done a little research, here’s what I have found some fresh expressions have tried.
Six of My Favorite Fresh Expression Holiday Stories
1. Neighborhood Christmas caroling with the local group home
A fresh expression was planning to go Christmas caroling in the neighborhood. However, as it got closer to the gathering, someone had an idea: What if we don’t carol TO the nearby group home, but WITH them? The group home residents were thrilled to participate and brought joy and energy to the Christmas caroling adventure. Afterwards, everyone was invited to an after-party of wassail and cookies; community gave birth to community.
2. Blue Christmas gathering
Are there people you know having a blue Christmas because they have lost a loved one recently? One fresh expressions leader invited a group of people to her home to share some hot tea together and tell stories about the loved ones they were missing during the holiday season. They shared in prayer with one another, and there were lots of healing tears and hugs; compassion gave birth to community.
3. Mission-focused neighborhood party
One neighborhood fresh expression turned a neighborhood Christmas party into a “Baby Shower for Mary.” They invited everyone to come with an unwrapped baby shower gift and then shared in conversations about what it must have been like for a teenager to receive from an angel a message that she was going to give birth to the Messiah. The shower gifts were then given to a local non-profit organization; community gave birth to compassion.
4. Longest Night luminary prayer labyrinth on the beach
One fresh expression leader ventured out to the boardwalk and set up a prayer labyrinth on the beach. The labyrinth was constructed out of luminaries that her fresh expressions community had made. At dusk, she lit the candles and invited people into an opportunity to slow down for prayer and contemplation in the midst of a hectic, sometimes stressful, season; creativity gave birth to communion.
5. Christmas fun run shoe collection
One running community fresh expression hosted an Eggnog Fun Run and invited participants to donate shoes for the local homeless. By the following Christmas, their shoe giveaway had sparked a new initiative—inviting interested homeless individuals into a training program that prepared them to run WITH the running community at the next Eggnog Fun Run; service gave birth to community.
6. Soup suppers
One fresh expression got its start from simple, winter soup suppers in an ordinary home. During the cold winter months, when young adults were isolated in their apartments and homes because it was too cold and dark to get out and about, a fresh expressions leader began weekly soup suppers. Several years later, the table fellowship that started with soup and conversation during a lonely winter has turned into a fresh expression that continues to live out rhythms of its core value of gathering around the table; a kitchen give birth to community.
Adding to the List
There are countless ways you can experiment with fresh expressions ministry during this season. Perhaps these stories of what others have done will spark your own ideas of what you might consider doing in your context. And please share what you are doing so that it can spark ideas in others in their contexts. Let’s add to the list of fresh expressions of the holidays!
Shannon serves as Director of Training, leading our team of mission strategists and trainers in the development and implementation of the Mission Shaped Ministry course through Pioneer Learning Communities. She is also a pastor on staff with Riverside Church in Sterling, VA, a Church that worships in two languages and engages in several Fresh Expressions of Church. In the last several years, Shannon has been involved with the Presbyterian Church’s New Worshiping Communities initiative, and has directed the coaching network that supports pioneer leaders. Shannon lives in Springfield, VA with her husband Patrick and teenage daughters Catherine and Suzanne.