shepherds pouches

I like starting new traditions.

Last year we started the Jesse Tree and we love it!  Our church has even made a list of readings for Advent from The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name
and ornament suggestions for the Jesse Tree.

The year before that, we started eating birthday cake for breakfast on Christmas morning for Jesus!

Yesterday I introduced my kids to shepherds pouches. (This idea was found on several blogs through Noel Piper’s book Treasuring God in Our Traditions

In place of where their stockings normally hang, there are 3 “shepherds pouches” hanging from December 1st-December 24th.  The actual pouches
aren’t particularly significant except that they represent simpleness and not drawing attention to themselves.  (As in not serving other people to get praise.)

I started off talking about whose birthday was coming up.


What do you do on birthdays?

We give presents!

How do we give presents to Jesus who is invisible?  How do we give to the King?

Blank stares.

I bring out the Bible and read Matthew 25:40:  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

This is how we give to the King.  We love and care for others.  Sacrifice. Service.  Chores without grumbling.  Servant’s hearts.  Loving attitudes.

“During the month of December, anytime daddy or I see you guys serving each other or others, doing chores with a happy heart, serving others at school (yes, James is writing an e-mail to Rilyn and Ella’s teachers asking them to e-mail us if they see our daughters serving), we will put money in your shepherds pouch.”  (I went to the bank earlier this week and got out 30 one dollar bills and $20 in quarters.)

On December 24th, we will count up all the money in their shepherds pouches.  We will then go to Compassion’s gift catalog and pick something to give to someone in need with all the money they made.  They browsed the catalog last night and were so excited that they could give a goat to a village!  🙂

Cultivating a spirit of self-sacrifice is hard for us – harder still for children during this season and in this consumeristic culture, who are marketed to constantly.  We hope the visual reminder of the shepherd’s pouch being in view, front and center, during these weeks helps us to maintain focus.

And so…imperfectly, we remind ourselves that the magnificent event we celebrate on December 25 began with Someone’s fierce and determined desire to love a faraway people.  

*I painted the canvas in the picture as another visual reminder of why there are pouches instead of stockings hanging over the fireplace. I used burlap for the word “King” from the extra pouches that came with the ones I ordered.  I decoupaged the letters to the canvas and sprinkled some glitter over the burlap to give it an extra emphasis.

**When the kids wake up on December 25th, the pouches will be replaced by their stockings full of fun little goodies!  Time to celebrate!

***This was the outcome from shepherds pouches 2011:   They made $18 in December in their shepherd’s pouches.  My favorite part was their public school teachers e-mailing us throughout the month with actions they saw at school that showed a servant’s heart from my girls. Both teachers really got into it, and I loved that we could share this experience with them! Sadly, the girls didn’t have enough money to buy a goat this year, but they had enough to buy a chicken!  Maybe next year!

46 Responses to “shepherds pouches”

  1. 1 Kristy
    December 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Cool ideas! I love getting inspiration from you and we (Drake and I) are already planning our special birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas morning for breakfast. . . I think we finally decided on rainbow chip:)

  2. 2 jvanvleet
    December 3, 2011 at 9:00 am

    This is just wonderful!!! And on a separate note, it brought me joy to see the little angel ornament hanging from your tree in the previous blog pictures that we had given you guys a few years back 🙂 I miss you guys!!!

  3. 3 Jessi
    December 7, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you for sharing your families Christmas traditions and inspiring people to keep Jesus as the main focus. I love the shepherds pouches and I’ve put it on my list of traditions to start when my kiddos are older, maybe next year. Would you mind emailing the list of readings for Advent from The Jesus Storybook Bible that your church provided? The link in your blog post is not working for me. Thanks


  4. 4 Kristie
    December 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Saw your post on Tip Junkie. Wow. Thank you for sharing this tradition. I’ve never heard of anything remotely close. My DS is too young to understand this now, but this will definitely be implemented next year. I pinned this so I’ll not forget.

  5. 5 Jen
    December 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I saw this via pinterest and I love it! We also do a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Eve and a Jesse Tree, I plan on adding this as well. What an amazing way to keep Christmas centered on Christ!!!

  6. December 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    thank you for sharing such a wonderful tradition. Next year will be a perfect year to start this. This year is the birthday cake for Jesus.

  7. 7 Cindy W
    December 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    love the ideas – will happily pass them on… btw – the fiat advertisement at the bottom doesn’t seem “mesh” with your blog –

  8. December 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I totally just saw your top picture on Pinterest and said, that MUST be Julie’s blog, I know those kids names 🙂

  9. December 23, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    That’s a wonderful idea; one that I will keep in mind for next year!

  10. December 24, 2011 at 11:01 pm

    That really is a wonderful, wonderful idea! Thanks so much for sharing. I would love to do this next year!

  11. December 27, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Now this could be the tradition that blows the elf OFF the shelf! Such a real purpose in turning our focus to The One Whom is the Real Reason for this season!

    Thank you for sharing this! I wanted something to deepen the meaning of Christmas for my family…we also do the Jesse Tree (along with Ann Voskamp’s Cradle to Cross Wreath) and Jesus’ Birthday Cake (a tradition MY parents started with us when I was a child). We also choose gifts from the World Vision, TOMS, and Compassion catalogues. Next year, we will be adding Shepherd’s Pouches to our traditions to make a family gift to one such organization.

  12. December 27, 2011 at 11:03 am

    You know? I just had a thought. I don’t have to wait until next December to start this! Technically, it’s still the Christmas season…with the 12 days of Christmas, we have 11 days left (until January 6th, the day of Epiphany). We are going to start it now!!

  13. December 29, 2011 at 12:49 am

    I LOVE it! A lovely way to train our children to remember and to give.

  14. December 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    What a great idea! My daughter is grown now, but I was never comfortable with stockings so we’ve never hung them…like to keep the focus where it should be!

  15. December 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Love the shepherds’ pouches idea. Began a similar tradition this year that was inspired by the same verse. Love it!

  16. January 1, 2012 at 9:35 am

    Love this! What a great way to teach about giving and serving and to put Jesus in the spotlight during Christmas.

  17. January 1, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Such an inspiration, even though I didn’t find this till after Christmas this year. I decided to make it year round to help our kids develop the character of servanthood and take the focus off themselves. Thanks

  18. 19 kendi
    May 1, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Just saw this on Pinterest and had to say my family had that exact Nativity when I was growing up. I’ve never seen another like it. 😀

  19. 20 Kim
    July 25, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Wow! What an amazing idea! Found this on Pinterest and I canNOT wait to start this tradition with my family!

  20. 21 jlchupp
    September 29, 2012 at 9:36 am

    So lovely and inspirational. My family will be doing this in December. Thank you so much for sharing!

  21. October 7, 2012 at 12:42 am

    I am SO in love with this idea it’s brilliant! I’m so glad to see families trying to keep the true Christmas meaning in the fact that its about CHRIST. I will keep this in mind for when my little one gets a bit older. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  22. 23 Sarah
    November 3, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    What a fabulous idea!!! Thank you for sharing this tradition! Praying you and your family enjoy another *wonderful* celebration this year!

  23. 24 Adrianne
    November 11, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Can you email me the list of reading from the Jesus Story book Bible as well. I couldn’t get the link to work and would love to use them during December with my 4 and 5 year old Community Bible Study Class. Thanks Adrianne My email is adriannenagy@gmail.com

  24. 25 Ellen
    November 17, 2012 at 8:28 am

    My children are pretty little and haven’t learned about money denominations yet. I’m thinking of putting a jar near the kitchen table, and putting plastic coins in there when I see them serving each other. That would get the same idea across without having to hunt up burlap bags this year.

  25. 26 Sandy J.
    November 23, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I love your tradition…would like to see more families start a Godly tradition…We need to get away from all the comercialism…and back to the true meaning of Christmas! Thank you for sharing and May God Bless your efforts in all you do!

  26. 27 Jennifer
    November 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    I’m so excited to be trying your idea this year! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  27. 28 Lindsay
    December 5, 2012 at 10:45 am

    My husband and I LOVE this idea…. I hate how CHRISTmas these days are so commercialized… It seems so hard to teach our kids what Christmas is all about when Santa and new toys are shoved down their throats on TV and in school! THANKS so much for this idea…..I know what I’ll be doing this evening!!!

  28. August 28, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I love this and I’m definitely pinning it on Pinterest!!

  29. 30 Patty
    November 17, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    Made me a little teary! Thanks for sharing!!

  30. December 20, 2013 at 12:57 am

    Hi, I featured your shepherd bags at


    Merry Christmas,

    Ila from He Has MS

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December 2011

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