Thanksgiving and Thanks Sharing: Engage your church with gratitude
By Laurens Glass*
It is a spiritual practice of many religions and a hallmark of Christianity: gratitude, giving thanks, showing appreciation for all that we have and the wonderful world God gave us. Gratitude journals and lists are all the rage in popular culture, but how often do we plan thankfulness as an activity of the church? Here are several ideas for bringing people together in the joyous practice of gratitude.
Use your church’s Facebook page to post what your church is thankful for. A custodian? The choir? Your soup kitchen volunteers? An historic sanctuary? The new parking lot? Post daily Bible verses about giving thanks or mindfulness – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Ask Facebook friends to add a word or photo every day of the month or week. Create a web page of members’ thankful thoughts and share a little more grace on your church’s website.
Tweet Your Thanks
Use your own Twitter account to post what you are thankful for. Your staff? Your conference? Your child? The Beatles? It is a great way to spread a spirit of gratefulness and for others to get to know you a little better. Challenge pastor friends, staff members or others to Tweet Thanks as well. Tag them in a note of appreciation.
Out of the mouths of babes
Children’s perspectives are so honest and unique they provide excellent food-for-thought for adults and kids alike. As a Sunday school project, have children draw pictures of things (people or pets) for which they are thankful. Ask them to bring photos or images cut from a magazine of things they appreciate and ask them why they are grateful. Their ideas will no doubt amuse and inspire.
Sometimes when adults get together, we can focus on the problems, oops, challenges we have. It is easy to complain about what is not going well; what if you started a meeting by asking everyone to share something that is going right? Perhaps plan a meeting or Sunday School class around gratitude – only. If you host dinner clubs or small groups, ask each member to share what they appreciate most in life in place of saying grace. Let gratitude be your prayer.
Not everyone is on Facebook. Well, OK, my mother’s not on Facebook, but as an added visual for your office, why not clear a bulletin board or put up a presentation board for Thank You Notes. Just write, “What are you thankful for?” at the top, put out lots of large sticky notes and some pens and see what happens.
Thanks for a soldier or shut-in
Churches are often a main connection to community for members who cannot be physically present in your congregation. Visits or phone calls are wonderful, but why not send also a note expressing that you are thankful for them? Everyone needs to feel needed. Someone who is ill or not able to be there to lend a hand will know their membership, prayers, and support are still needed and appreciated.
Give thank you cards to your staff
Have you told them lately that you love them? Make it official with a card. And, no, I don’t work for Hallmark.
Let us thank Him
Gratitude is an amazing lens with which to view the world. When we look at what we have, we tend to be happier. When we realize how much we possess, we tend to be more thoughtful of those who have less. When we talk about the good together, we tend to appreciate each other more.
Being grateful is really about being more mindful. Perhaps this mindfulness will help us all to focus on the abundance in our lives and how we can share it with others. This November, engage in gratitude. And, remember, it only takes about 30 days for a new practice to become a habit. Thanks be to God!
*Laurens Glass is a writer and managing editor for UMCOM.org, a service of United Methodist Communications. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-742-5405.