Originally posted at Smorgasblurb.

‘Tis the season to display angel trees. I love the spirit of generosity that characterizes Christmastime. But, if our compassion goes awry, we can do more harm than good (like in this instance, when I totally missed the mark). Here are four tips to make your Christmas gift giveaway both compassionate and dignifying to those you serve:

1. Affirm parents as providers

Ensure the giveaway affirms God’s designed role for parents as providers. Children need to view their parents as the gift purchasers and givers. It undermines healthy family dynamics for volunteers to give the gifts directly to the children (unless the children do not have parents). Fight for the dignity of these families.

2. Host a store

A number of innovating churches and ministries, such as Mile High Ministries in Denver, transitioned from person-to-person sponsorship to hosting a “store” for families unable to afford full-cost Christmas gifts for their children. Charge something (even if its highly subsidized) rather than charging nothing as it protects dignity. Finding a “great bargain” resonates deeper than awaiting a handout. Parents experience the joy of shopping (and giving to their kids). Volunteers experience the joy of creating a welcoming, festive and enjoyable environment for the families. Make it fun! Feature live music, gift wrapping stations, hot beverages, and elf-costume-wearing childcare staff.

Christmas Store

3. Avoid “knight on white horse” syndrome 

We give horn-tooting a free pass during this season. Celebrate generosity, but do so with humility. As James reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above.” Our ability to give is not a privilege we have earned; it too is a gift. As givers, we come as friends, not as rescuers, standing firmly on our common ground. This sets the table for our benevolence. Leaders who affirm this will position their gift giveaways for success.

4. Employ sensitivity with pictures and video

How would you want to be portrayed if you were a recipient? Let that be your guide.