Why I Don’t Do White Elephant Exchanges

I don’t do White Elephant Exchanges. Or Dirty Santa Games.

I don’t want to steal someone else’s gift.

I’d rather not be the butt of someone’s joke.

Why I don't do White Elephant Exchanges

I’m not sure the when or how these games made the cross-over from Christmas office parties to Sunday school fellowships, Youth Group parties, and Women’s Ministry events, but I wish they never had.

I readily admit I participated in my fair share when I belonged to a mommy group (not church-related) back in the day.

I saw grown women cry over gifts that were “stolen” from them.

I watched women whimper when a gift they really wanted was taken away.

I’ve seen moms want to die of embarrassment.

Friendships were tested.

And it broke my heart and made me ashamed to have been a part of it.

Our churches should not be a place of embarrassment.

Or intentional hurt.

It’s just not worth it for a few laughs.

No gift is worth making someone feel worthless.

Whether the goal is stealing gifts to get the best gift or trying to end up with the best of the gag gifts, neither feels very Christ-like.

Games that undermine the unity of our groups or hurt the feelings of our women have no place in our ministries.

Games that undermine the unity of our groups or hurt the feelings of our women have no place in our ministries


God’s given us a great opportunity at Christmas to love others.

Consider one of these alternative ideas and promote unity and good will amongst your women:

  1. Host a Favorite Things Party – Pinterest is loaded with ideas. I like the way Bri did this with the women at her church.
  2. Give gifts to your Homebound Members/Local Nursing Home/Women’s Shelter
  3. Ask everyone to bring a $5 gift and play Bingo with the gifts as the prizes (make sure everyone gets a gift before going home)
  4. Ask everyone to bring a $5 ornament and have an ornament exchange
  5. Have an Operation Christmas Child Packing Party
  6. Give the gift of time and volunteer together at a local food pantry, shelter, or Ronald McDonald House.
  7. Decorate Christmas cookies or cupcakes to take to the local hospital for the nurses
  8. Plan a Christmas party for your local Women’s shelter or children’s home and give them each a bag filled with toiletries and treats.
  9. Adopt children in need from a local school. Spend the wrapping their gifts and writing our Christmas cards for them.
  10. Send packages overseas to men and women serving in the military.

May God bless your event however you decide to celebrate the birth of Christ in your ministry this season!

You may also want to check out:

31 Christmas Fellowship Ideas
10 Tips for Your Christmas Coffee
Icebreaker: Christmas Connection
Christmas Roll & Poll
Icebreaker: The Great Christmas Candy Pass
Christmas Icebreaker: Pick-a-Side

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  1. My post was not about whether or not a group can “handle” a dirty Santa or white elephant gift exchange, it was to point out that taking (stealing really) gifts or giving gifts that might embarrass the recipient is not Christ-like.
    There are so many other ways (some of which I’ve listed above) to exchange gifts or give gifts that can be fun, encouraging, and loving.

    I’d hate for anyone to go home after a church event hurt or upset (even if they hid it well)…

  2. Well I don’t know what kind of people you have around if the gift exchange has been manipulated so distastefully. Our youth group has always done this game and none of our very loving and considerate members ever cried or felt undermined. The trick is we set a budget. Everyones gift should be around $10, too high or too low doesn’t get counted. Why? because it keeps each gift fair. & they are mature enough to understand that that is how the game works, rules are set from the get-go. I guess if you know your group can’t handle that then completely discarding the game is fine but it isn’t fair to make it look like everyone would be so mean and malicious in a fun group game.

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