This week’s guest blogger is Hannah Harwood, Director of Children’s Ministries serving the families of Sam Jones United Methodist Church in Cartersville, Georgia, a suburb of the Greater Atlanta area.

I love out of the box events. My absolute favorite events are when families are invited to gather in community to do something out of the ordinary. I have been at Sam Jones United Methodist Church for little over two years. My first event was actually our Happy Birthday Jesus party when we all went together to see The Star and packed out a movie theater. The next Christmas, we gathered together and made Gingerbread nativities. I was so excited to find The Manger Project for this year.  This event by Dema Kohen was a perfect fit for our church community.

First, I ordered the blueprints and contacted our Building and Grounds Supervisor who is always game for an adventure project. He took the blueprint and purchased enough wood to make thirty kits for thirty families. He packaged the thirty kits into VBS crew bags and included a sandwich bag of the needed nails.

I also contacted a church member who works for Home Depot and asked for donations of their child-size work aprons. I looked into my box of safety goggles for another event and put those to the side as well. Because it would be a very loud event, I also created a sensory friendly room.

In our sensory-friendly room, I purchased Advent posters from Illustrated Ministry and several easy crafts from Hobby Lobby. I set up that room with the posters and lots of brand new colored pencils. New pencils are a source of so much joy!

We have an amazing preschool at our church. We made sure and not only invited our church families, but our preschool families as well.

We intentionally set up fifteen tables in the main room and decorated using plastic tablecloths. We set up all the kits on a long table and displayed the aprons, safety goggles, and extra hammers. Each family was invited to bring their own hammer. For food, each family brought their favorite Christmas snack and we set up a fun hot chocolate bar.

As people arrived, they were encouraged to color a banner and put their food items on the table. It was so fun to see all the families color together and even our Pastor joined in on the fun. Once everyone arrived, we invited each family to pick a table so that two families shared a table. So many of the parents met new friends. Our carpenter explained each part step by step. Next, came the Carol of the Hammers. Be prepared to take lots of pictures as it was so much fun to see each family work together and take turns building their manger. Even the littlest ones got to take a turn hammering. After we finished the project and wrote the date with sharpies, it was time for food and fellowship. The entire event lasted around an hour and a half which was perfect for our families’ busy schedules. Now… what adventure should we go on next year?

Hannah Harwood is a wife, mom, and loves her coffee. Hannah can be contacted by emailing

“and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” Luke 2:7