Building Community


Within your small group or Sunday school class, invite people to join in an anonymous gift exchange. Participants receive the name of another person who signed up and then buy that person inexpensive gifts. If possible arrange the pairings so participants receive the names of people they don’t know already – discovering what another person likes or enjoys is part of the community-building process.

Agree on both a number of gifts to be exchanged (three works well) and dates on which those gifts will be exchanged anonymously. For example, perhaps an adult Sunday school class would pick three Sundays between Thanksgiving and Epiphany on which to bring wrapped presents to a classroom at church. At the end of class, the gifts would be distributed to recipients so they can be opened in a group setting.

An encouragement: Keep the pairing of recipients the same throughout the gift exchange. It prompts deeper discovery when Jack has to find out enough about Ralph to provide three presents instead of just one. For instance, Jack may already know Ralph likes coffee – he shows up to class with a cup each Sunday. But since Jack can’t give Ralph three coffee mugs, Jack needs to ask around until he discovers Ralph’s also a woodworker (who can always use more nails) and he enjoys model railroads.

It’s that investment in gleaning information that builds community – not the gifts themselves.

If you do a gift exchange, it’s important that givers and receivers eventually meet and get to know each other…. that’s what launches the friendships.

Finally, a caution: It’s awkward if only 14 of the 25 members of an adult Sunday school class participate. Keeping the spending limit low – even $5 to $10, total, for three gifts – can make it affordable for everyone.

Remember, the point isn’t getting – or even giving – gifts. The point is to focus attention on others and to invest in knowing and encouraging those people.

That’s when we build memories and bonds that become community.

“Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. So that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” - Matthew 6:3-4

Group's "Body-Building Guide to COMMUNITY"
-Pg. 65 (Final Thoughts About...An Alternative)