Every year around the end of October or first of November, my family takes an afternoon to go shopping. This shopping trip is always for a very specific purpose and must be strategic. As we shop for people that we’ve never met and probably never will meet, we try to think of things that they may like and will bring a smile to their faces. Oh, and it all must fit into a shoebox!
This past week, I had the opportunity to do something that brought all those years of packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child to full circle. I boarded a plane with 70 people I had never met before and took a little trip to Ibarra, Ecuador to hand out Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
To say this was a highlight of my life is an understatement!
This past year alone over 11 million shoeboxes were packed and sent to countries around the world. These shoeboxes were used as an outreach of local churches in those countries to reach kids with the gospel and invite them to a 12- week discipleship exploration called “The Greatest Journey.” What I saw and experienced in my short time in the beautiful country of Ecuador is going on all over the world. Each shoebox is truly a gospel opportunity.
And that’s where you as young adult ministry leaders come into the conversation. I’m convinced that young adults could be even more involved with this ministry that makes a significant difference not only in the lives of these kids, but also in the lives of many parents who will hear the gospel during these shoebox distributions.
I know it’s February, but let’s consider some ways your young adult ministry can be a part of Operation Christmas Child.
1. Develop an Operation Christmas Child team.
Assemble a team of young adults in your ministry that can lead out throughout the year. Give them the opportunity to develop some creative ways to raise awareness of Operation Christmas Child.
2. Volunteer with Operation Christmas Child.
Operation Christmas Child relies upon thousands of volunteers throughout the year all over the world. Challenge your young adults in your group to volunteer with OCC for several key roles within your church or in your region.
3. Plan a trip to serve in a regional packing center or host a drop-off site in your community.
Once boxes are packed there is a need for churches to host drop-off sites in local communities. Enlist your young adults to be the team that hosts this event on a weekend. Make that drop off site the biggest celebration you can have when boxes are brought to the church. Or plan a volunteer service trip to a regional packing center. It takes a lot of hands to get the boxes ready to be distributed. Young adults love the opportunity to have some real hands-on experience with the boxes before they are shipped.
4. Host an OCC Packing Party in the summer.
It’s never too early to pack Christmas Shoeboxes! Have a Christmas in July party (maybe around the pool) with your young adult group, complete with decorations and Christmas cookies. Have them bring some items to pack shoeboxes. Take the time to tell some stories of how the shoeboxes are making an impact around the world.
Each box is an incredible gospel opportunity. Let’s give young adults the chance to lead out on the OCC opportunities in our churches. After what I experienced in Ecuador with those beautiful kids – I can tell you it’s making a true difference all over the world!
For more information on Operation Christmas Child click here.
Mark Whitt is the Collegiate and Young Adult Specialist at Lifeway Christian Resources. Before joining Lifeway, he spent many years on the campus of Murray State University as a campus minister. Connect with Mark via Twitter.