We often hear that the church calendar is too full at Christmas and “We simply can’t do The Manger Build because we already do a Christmas musical for the kids.” OK, I get it. And I’m not going to tell you not to do the musical but here’s an itemized (and admittedly biased) analysis of the two options.

The Manger Build® creates a great opportunity to reach the community. The Children’s Musical is really about and for kids in the church.

The Manger BuildTraditional Children's Musical
It creates a great opportunity for you to engage families (especially dads) who are not connected to your church.Let’s face it, this is really for and about children and families who are already connected to your church.
The Manger Build is a one time event. It does require planning and preparation by a group of men but it’s a one day event for the kids and their dads. Participation in the children’s musical requires the family to bring the kids for practice multiple times.
The Manger Build is active, noisy and hands on. It’s really appealing to boys. The Christmas musical typically requires much standing around and singing. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with this but it’s not often attractive to young boys.
When dad and the kids finish The Manger Build they have a life-sized manger to bring home and incorporate into the family’s Christmas decorations. At the conclusion of the Christmas musical, you might have a few photos or a video to share with grandma or friends; perhaps even on Facebook.
The Manger Build is designed to help dad lead the family spiritually. Information, instructions and encouragement for 7 active family devotions are part of the participant’s guide. At the conclusion of the Christmas program the family has great memories and the kids have hopefully memorized some new songs about Jesus.
Having a manger in the house creates conversation and opportunity to talk with others and especially for the kids to share their joy of building a manger for Jesus. Participation in the Christmas program may generate a few new photos on mom and dad’s phone but it’s not likely something that the kids are going to tell everyone about.
The Manger Build is a Tool For Building Men. It is specifically designed to get some men in the church involved in praying, planning and preparing to invite other men to build mangers with their kids. Typically, there will only be a few men, if any, involved in the Children’s musical.
It's pretty easy to invite a friend, neighbor or coworker to bring the kids to a 2-hour activity where they get to actually build something with a hammer and nails at church. Even if you have refreshments afterward (generally red punch and Christmas cookies) it’s a hard sell to get your friend, neighbor or coworker to bring his family to watch your kids and 40 others sing.

OK, so there you have it. Clearly a biased evaluation of a head-to-head comparison of a traditional children’s Christmas musical program and creating a new tradition of hosting The Manger Build. Now, I absolutely see the value in both offerings. But here’s the deal, I often have churches asking questions about how to engage men and families; they sincerely want to see new families connect with their churches in a meaningful way. From my perspective, a Christmas Musical program for children will likely serve folks who are already plugged in, not folks who need an entry point.

For more info, visit themangerbuild.org.