8 December 2022

Christmas present appeals: What's the added value the Army can bring?

Simon Hope

A photo of a Salvation Army volunteer wearing a Santa hat and holding a pile of donated toys in a warehouse full of toys

Simon Hope learns how to develop ongoing relationships through this year’s Christmas Present Appeal.

Every year, thousands of children up and down the territory receive a Christmas present, thanks to the dedication of Salvationists, friends and volunteers. The Christmas Present Appeal is a ministry that exemplifies the Army’s mission to serve others without discrimination.

But, while this core aspect of the appeal is thriving, the trap of complacency is right there for us to fall into. In all the busyness – and sometimes the frustrations – of the appeal, it is easy to lose sight of the people who will ultimately be blessed by the gifts that are given. That’s why the Family Ministries and Community Services Units are calling for everyone to pause a moment, take stock and consider what’s next.

Deputy Director of Family Ministries Liz Hall and Family Ministries Outreach Mission Partner Rachel Gotobed emphasise that this appeal isn’t about practical assistance alone. In fact, it’s perfectly placed to become a tool for relational ministry.

‘Lots of charities run Christmas present appeals,’ Liz points out. ‘What’s the added value The Salvation Army can bring?’

Rachel adds: ‘Even if we give out a thousand toys, there will be one or two families we can journey with going forward. We need to keep asking ourselves how we can develop these relationships throughout the year.’

Liz and Rachel are keen to add that we can’t do any of this alone: ‘It’s easy for anyone running the appeal in local settings to feel overwhelmed by numbers, with little time to even consider starting a conversation. That’s why it’s so important for congregations and worshipping communities to know the context of their donations at the toy service and realise how they can extend their generosity to the ongoing process – the job doesn’t finish when they give a gift at the toy service.’

How else can you help? Who else could help? Simply volunteering some time to help behind the scenes could free up time for your corps officer or leader to build a new relationship. Or why not offer to help think ahead in planning the ‘what’s next’ idea?

The Christmas Present Appeal is a wonderful social resource, but it could be the beginning of something more. Let’s approach this year with fresh hearts and minds, and maybe we can discover what’s next together.

Six practical tips to build relationships

It’s not always easy to know how to move our one-off interactions to the next level, so I spoke to Community Co-ordinator Ann Humes (Gateshead) and Divisional Mission Enabler Major Ruth Gray (North London) to put together some practical tips.

They showed me how the appeal can be a ministry of being, rather than doing. Ruth tells me it’s about being relationally driven, rather than needs driven, and Ann describes it as the extravagant love of Jesus!

1. Invite them in

Whether they’re a single mum or a social worker, make time to hear their story. Most people can’t say no to an Army cup of tea!

2. Let them choose

If possible, allow them to pick a gift themselves. A sense of ownership makes all the difference.

3. Normalise it

Treat the whole process as normal. They may feel embarrassed, when in reality there’s no need. Start simple Giving them a copy of War Cry, Kids Alive! or info about corps activities could easily lead to something more. This might be the first time they’ve heard about what happens at the corps during the week.

4. Take them further

They may be looking for more than toys and practical help. Consider sharing your corps contact details with them so they can keep in touch if they choose.

5. Learn from them

They have as much to teach us as we have to give. Be careful not to overlook their ministry to you.

Written by

A photo of Stevie Hope.

Simon Hope

Editorial Assistant

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Christmas Present Appeal Resources

All the resources you need to Be a Star and promote a local Christmas Present Appeal.

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