There are a few practical ways you and your church can leverage Thanksgiving as an outreach opportunity in your community.
By Catherine Renfro
Family, friends, gatherings, and gratitude. These are a few of the many words that may come to mind when we think about Thanksgiving. Families and friends will gather, meals will be shared, and many will recognize the things we have to be thankful for. Thanksgiving is a natural time to reflect on our blessings, but it is also an opportunity to be a blessing. Over the next few weeks, discover practical ways you, your family, and your church can celebrate Thanksgiving by giving to others and pointing them to the Giver of all good things.
Here are a few practical ideas to consider:
1. Collect Thanksgiving meal items
Families in our neighborhoods, local schools, and communities do not have the means to cook a special Thanksgiving meal. Jesus can use you and your church to provide groceries for these families to prepare a meal of their own. Include a note with the food items that lets the recipient know Jesus sees and loves them and you are praying for them. Whether you distribute the collected food items at your church or partner with a local ministry in the community, you have an opportunity to feed families physically as Jesus uses your generosity to feed them spiritually.
2. Invite someone to your home on Thanksgiving Day
Many families have a tradition of gathering together on Thanksgiving, while many others have no family to gather with. Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to invite someone into your home to join you for a meal and community.“Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to invite someone into your home to join you for a meal and community.” — @CatherineRenfro Click To Tweet
It is in these moments that you not only welcome people into your house but you welcome them into your life. When people get a glimpse into your life, they have a chance to see the impact Jesus has had on your life. Add extra chairs around the table and invite a college student, a widow, a neighbor, a coworker, or another family in the church or community who does not have plans on Thanksgiving Day.
3. Participate in a community event
There are cities and towns across North America that host events like the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot. Thousands of people will get up early and run a 5k, 10k, or even a marathon. The thought of running makes some of you want to quit reading now, but hear me out. Whether it’s a race or another type of event, these are simple avenues to gather people and build community. People are looking for community. It is what we are desperate for.
I recently heard someone say they grew up in a country where they did not have much, but it felt like they had everything because they had such close community. Here in America, they have everything yet feel like they have nothing at all because they lack that kind of community. Most people want to be part of a group. They want to know people and be known by people. Participate in an event this Thanksgiving, and invite others to come with you. God uses these moments to impact those we are spending time with.
4. Initiate a gratitude challenge
Thanksgiving Day is a common time for people to express thankfulness, but what if our posture of thanksgiving extended beyond a holiday? Colossians 2:6-7 says, “So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude” (CSB).“A posture of gratitude not only opens doors to talk to people about the things we are grateful for, but it can lead to opportunities to share the One whom we are grateful for.” — @CatherineRenfro Click To Tweet
Gratitude is an attitude of the heart. Walking with Jesus leads to realizing the faithfulness of Jesus. And realizing the faithfulness of Jesus leads us to an overflowing sense of gratitude because of Jesus. A posture of gratitude not only opens doors to talk to people about the things we are grateful for, but it can lead to opportunities to share the One whom we are grateful for.
Initiate a challenge to express gratitude in everyday moments during everyday conversations. This will not only have an impact on the person who is expressing gratitude, but it will also have an impact on the person who is listening.
These are just a few practical ways you and your church can leverage Thanksgiving as an outreach opportunity in your community. These ideas are not difficult tasks; they just require a willingness to display hospitality, generosity, and intentionality.
In the days ahead, devise a plan, encourage your family and church to engage in the plan, and watch Jesus do what only He can do as you all give generously, serve graciously, invite intentionally, and reflect the love of Christ consistently.“Watch Jesus do what only He can do as you all give generously, serve graciously, invite intentionally, and reflect the love of Christ consistently.” — @CatherineRenfro Click To Tweet
“Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21, CSB).
Catherine serves as national director of women’s evangelism for the North American Mission Board. Her husband, Chris, pastors Hope Church, a two-year-old church plant in Alpharetta, Ga.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.