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Thinking Outside the Shoebox

The unseen costs of Christmas shoebox ministries, and what we can do instead.

This is an excerpt from Rachel Kettle's Medium blog post. To read the full article, click here.

Have you ever filled a shoebox full of toys and hygiene items, to send to a child halfway around the world? I have. Like millions of American Christians, I have participated in Christmas shoebox ministries like Operation Christmas Child. I distinctly remember how great it felt to use my own money and fill my box with lots of goodies from my local Target, for a child in need.

But if you asked me today, as a follower of Jesus and an international development professional with a decade of global aid experience, I would encourage you not to do this. Despite the good intentions, the shoebox model, today, comes with significant costs.

Maya Angelou once said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

As the Church, we have been doing the best we can to show mercy and evangelize with the information we have. Participating in and even working for shoebox ministries comes from hearts that want to share the gospel, give to others, and engage our children in giving.

But the costs of continuing to this model must be seriously considered, particularly the spiritual and opportunity costs. I hope to shed light on these issues and show better ways for the church to be merciful, steward resources, and share the gospel.

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 8:7 gives us some encouragement as we approach this topic, in his instructions to the Corinthian church to give: “But since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in love, we have kindled in you — see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

How can we also excel in the grace of giving, loving, and bringing the truth of Jesus to children?


About Rachel

Rachel C. Kettle consults in the humanitarian & international development space and study at RTS DC. She is now exploring how beliefs shape practices, and how practices unveil underlying beliefs.

Rachel is interested in shifting the narrative in Christian development / missions / aid to be more dignifying, equitable, realistic, and ultimately orthodox. She also a wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend. She's lived in five countries, been an immigrant, loves an immigrant, and has walked through both broken and joyful seasons. She also sometimes writes about this and her daily, lived out faith experience.

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