What if finding Christ in Christmas doesn’t have to be an uphill battle?

crossmasI saw something recently via a friend of a friend that you’ll now be able to see in our church building. It’s called a CROSS-mas Tree.”

When I saw it, I thought, “That’s awesome… one more way to remind us what Christmas is all about. I must get my hands on that so others can see Jesus through it.”

It turned out that I was able to go one step further. I was so intrigued by the idea that I connected with its creator, Darren Howard, and his wife Karley to understand what went into it.

What was the inspiration for this?

D: I just kind of wanted something for my family and household to remember Jesus more specifically. The normal Christmas tree is a very symbolic thing for many people, but when I look at by itself I don’t get what it represents. When Jesus was born for us, He wasn’t just some special kid – He was our Savior. I wanted something Christmas-like that symbolized this, so I thought I’d make a cross-shaped tree as it would be more visually engaging. I had a lot of prodding of the Spirit to work on this. It was a real God thing.

How did that play out, from idea to making your first one?

D: I first had the idea about four year ago, right around Christmas. A whole year went by, and then the next year I got kidney stones and was not able to work for a week. God slowed me down and stopped me, reminding me of the idea. So I used that time to create the first prototype and used it at my house. I got married and things got busy again, but then I finally buckled down this year and realized it was time to make a hard push to get more of these out there. That came from people who saw it who kept asking me how much I saved doing it myself, and then i realized that there wasn’t anything of this size or nature out there. So we have a patent on its design and are hoping to serve churches and households with it.

20141130_124107What have been some of those comments? 

K: We have a lot of friends over all the time, and it gives us another way of opening up to share Christ’s love with them as they come into the house. Not all of them are believers. It’s a great way to share the Gospel with them.

D: I also have a niece and a nephew who come over and I’ve never had anything that would visually draw them into Jesus and who He is. Everything is so visual in their generation. So it’s cool when they see a CROSS-Mas tree and have their own takeaways from it. They’ve asked questions about why it’s shaped like that, which then helps us help them to think about what Christ’s birth meant… what gift giving real represents… it’s not just about the presents. This pushes them into why do we give presents. It’s more of a visual aid as to why we do that.

I personally like how this can help our church focus in on Jesus. I imagine that will help countless people hone in on Him that much more as they sit in service.

D: There does seem to be a lot more Christians who magically pop up around Church. It helps the nominal Christian to transition into Christmas more. They see crosses and they get more serious. It engages them to challenge people more to considre the symbolism. I don’t think a lot of people realize the history of the evergreens, either… their needles are resistant to fire in ways other trees aren’t, They have the hardest of bark. They hold up against almost anything. In the old testament, they put pine branches in the Tabernacle. It’s such a great symbol of eternal, non-dying life. That symbolism wrapped up in a cross represents Christ. That’s stuff I never really realized until I did research


This is so simple, and yet so profound.

What do you think of it?

Would you want one for your church or youth room?

Right now Simply Youth Ministry is giving away a ton of really great Christmas stuff during their 12 Days of Freebies. Free gifts are everywhere so you can pick up some great stuff like motion backgrounds, mission trip guides, and more. Head there immediatley and push their bandwidth bill up!

Also I just saw that YouthMinistry360 is giving away from great stuff as well, with the promise of more on the way soon. Go download crazy this week!


Today only another Simply Youth Ministry Deal of the Day: Get the LIVE Curriculum Holiday Edition for half price! Get access to Easter messages, Christmas series and other great holiday stuff, too! $59.00 $29.50 but today only!


Messin With Santa #1 from Wildside Junior High on Vimeo.

Messin With Santa #2 from Wildside Junior High on Vimeo.

Messin With Santa #3 from Wildside Junior High on Vimeo.

A series of fun videos that our team helped create for our Wildside (junior high) ministry. A tribute to Messin’ with Sasquatch commercials. Fun.


Weekend Teaching Series: Christmas Weekend (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: A student-run service of songs, teaching and Christmas fun.

Service Length: 76 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend was all about Christmas – it was a 1-off celebration of the birth of Jesus. Students ran the entire service from top to bottom. Bryce got up first to introduce the subject for the weekend and the heart behind Christmas. He emphasied the true meaning of Christmas amid the lights, sounds and presents of the season. After a few songs AJ spoke about Jesus being the humble King and after another song Julia got up to speak about God’s holiness. They all had verses and Scripture when Ryan got up to teach he used a clip from The Guardian to bring home the idea of Jesus the Rescuer. We rounded out the program with a few more songs and an invitation at the end.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend was a ton of fun with HSM’s new Christmas music video and hot chocolate and cookies after every service. Lots of energy and fun for the last high school services of 2011!

Music Playlist: Mary Did You Know, Silent Night, Born is the King, You Hold the World in Your Hands, O Holy Night, Savior of the World, Go/Joy to the World, Drummer Boy

Favorite Moment: See students basically run the entire service is so incredible. I love being taught by and being led in worship by students. My heart was so full after this weekend, that’s for sure!

Up next: No HSM services — Christmas services in big church!

Christmas Rap from HSM on Vimeo.

Another epic Christmas music video from AC, Chris and even a litle hook sung by yours truly. So fun!


This weekend, we don’t have youth services. In fact, we don’t have any services at all! How awesome/bold/crazy is this idea: no services, but use that time to serve in the community, in your neighborhood or to your actual neighbor! You can read more about it on Kurt’s blog, and here’s some of the language that Saddleback is using to help people BE the church this coming weekend!

Did you know that serving those in need is an act of worship to God? Join us on the weekend of December 10th and 11th for “Good Neighbor Weekend” where, in place of our church services, Saddleback Church will be going out to show compassion to our neighbors as our act of worship. Since your small group is currently completing Bill Hybels’ “Just Walk Across the Room” curriculum, this will be a great opportunity to put it into action!

Here is how you can be a part of Good Neighbor Weekend:

Serve YOUR Neighbor – you and your family or small group can follow these 3 easy steps:

Step 1: See a Need – Talk together about how you could serve your direct neighbor, a co-worker, or someone else in need. You can discuss how you can serve them by meeting their physical, spiritual, or relational needs.

Step 2: “Step Across the Room/Street/Office” – Connect with the neighbor you have identified to let them know you would like to serve them in this way and schedule a time on the weekend of December 10-11.

Step 3: Serve – Gather with your family, small group, or some friends and go serve your neighbor.

Serving OUR Neighbors – We have also created several opportunities for you to help serve the neighbors of Saddleback Church. Do you have a heart for kids, seniors, the homeless, or the military? Join us at one of our “Good Neighbor Project” on December 10th or 11th.


The gang over at Youth Ministry 360 are giving away a free Christmas lesson for your youth ministry. Here’s a description, head over there to pick it up!

The arrival of the Christmas season is hard to ignore. The rush to let people know “it’s that time of year” is ushered in with decorations, seasonal commercials, a blitz of specialty products, and that shopper’s nirvana known as Black Friday. Your students know the drill when it comes to Christmas. The “spiritual” part is the Bible stories, and church musicals and the “commercial” part is the wish lists and the tinsel. This year don’t let your students pass off the birth of Christ as just a story from the Bible. Lead students to see that the idea of a giving spirit is one of the keys to finding the real meaning of Christmas. This lesson will help you do just that.