Small groups are a good avenue for expressing thanks in tangible ways. Here are two practical ideas for celebrating Thanksgiving as a group.
By Lynn Pryor
Culture often treats Thanksgiving as the starting gun for Christmas. Once the Halloween candy gets marked down at the grocery store, everyone’s thoughts turn to Christmas. Yet sandwiched between fall festivals and Christmas Eve candlelight services is a holiday that deserves greater attention.
Thanksgiving is the most popular holiday in the United States. For most people, it provides a four-day weekend allowing people to travel home, stuff themselves silly with food, debate who has the best stuffing, and kick off the Christmas shopping season. And somewhere in the midst of all that, we take a moment to give thanks.
Gratitude should be a key marker in the life of any believer. Consider how frequently thanks appear in the Psalms. For grace and salvation alone, we should be eternally grateful. But in His grace, God has showered us with so much more. Let’s do more than say we’re thankful; let’s find ways to express it.“Gratitude should be a key marker in the life of any believer." — @lynnpryor Click To Tweet
Small groups are a good avenue for expressing thanks in tangible ways. Let me offer two practical approaches to engaging in thankfulness as a group.
1. Thank you cards
OK, this one’s easy. Grab some blank cards and write this open-ended statement at the top: “I thank God for you because…” Option one is for each member of your group to write their name on the front of the card. Pass the cards around the group, and each person writes why they are thankful for that person. Everyone then goes home with a card of thanks that serves as notes of encouragement from their fellow group members.
Option two is to invite the group members to fill out a card to those whom God has used to encourage their faith and walk with Christ. Do this with a card, not simply an email or text. We live in a throwaway world of digital messaging—so much so that physical cards are now a valued gift. A card is more likely to stick around and even receive a coveted spot stuck to the refrigerator with a magnet.
2. Share a meal
This may seem obvious; after all, a given at Thanksgiving is that we’ll eat. But do this with a twist. When your group meets to share a Thanksgiving dinner, invite others outside your group to join you. Consider those who might not get to share a Thanksgiving meal with others: single adults, college students away from home, senior adults who live alone, or neighbors who live near where your group meets.
In serving a meal to others, don’t just provide a meal. We think we’re doing them a great honor by providing the meal and serving them, but take it further. More than the food itself, what they will treasure is your presence, your company. Share the meal with your guests. Sit with them. Talk with them. Ask them questions. Get to know them. Learn their stories.“It’s easier to just provide the food, but we miss out on so much if we stop there.” — @lynnpryor Click To Tweet
It’s easier to just provide the food, but we miss out on so much if we stop there. For example, at sit-down dinners served to homeless men, I found the greater joy was sitting and eating with the men. I heard some sad stories, for sure, but I heard some wonderful stories as well. And the men felt valued because someone invested the time to get to know them.
Think back to some memorable meals you’ve been a part of. What made those meals so memorable? I venture that it was memorable not because of the food, but because of the people you were with.
Your group can make a meal Thanksgiving memorable for those you invite and serve. Guests may soon forget what you served, but they will not forget how you made them feel. Your group’s service will motivate them to a spirit of thankfulness both to you and to God who brought your group into their lives.
Cultivating hearts of gratitude
But such actions don’t just generate a heart of gratitude in others. Gratitude wells up in our own hearts as well. There’s something about serving others that gets us thinking of all God has done for us. We express our thanks for God’s work by “paying it forward” and being a blessing to others, even as He has been a blessing to us.“We express our thanks for God’s work by ‘paying it forward’ and being a blessing to others, even as He has been a blessing to us.” — @lynnpryor Click To Tweet
When we serve others in this way, we are getting our minds off ourselves. Gratitude rises to the top. There’s a joy inherent in serving and loving others. If your group is anything like mine, you’ll hear them say, “Let’s do this again!”
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, CSB).
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.