Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all of the blessings in our lives. We all have many things to be grateful for, and these seven Thanksgiving service ideas will help your church members celebrate and find ways to give back to others.
In a world that can be divisive, critical, and argumentative, this holiday season is a time for coming together and remembering all that we have in common and how much we have to be thankful for.
What better way to do that than through serving others and worshiping together? So let’s dive into these seven Thanksgiving service ideas to bring your church community together.
Table of contents
- Should Your Church Celebrate Thanksgiving?
- 7 Ideas for Thanksgiving Services
- Thanksgiving Ideas for Your Church
Should Your Church Celebrate Thanksgiving?
Some might point out that Thanksgiving is not technically a biblical or liturgical holiday. We also have to remember that this is a North American holiday that was celebrated by colonies and states starting in the 1600s – it’s not celebrated everywhere around the world.
According to History.com, George Washington first issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in 1789. But it wasn’t until 1863 that Abraham Lincoln designated Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday.
In his proclamation, Lincoln called on Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.”
Although we’re not currently in the midst of a civil war, we still have many people in need in our own nation and abroad.
We can also clearly see that God has a lot to say about praise, gratitude, and giving thanks.
Throughout the Psalms and other parts of the Bible, there are continual reminders to be thankful, praise God, and rest in faith.
The Thanksgiving holiday is about more than turkey, football, and Black Friday shopping. The church has an opportunity to glorify Christ and spread a message of hope as we express thankfulness during this season.
7 Ideas for Thanksgiving Services
Here are seven Thanksgiving service ideas to help you create a heartfelt and memorable holiday both within your church and out in the local community. Let’s start with some examples of how you can reach out and be a blessing to others.
1. Thanksgiving Service Project
First of all, Thanksgiving is the perfect time to focus on others in need. Organize your church to come together and work on a big service project. Or, your congregation can get involved in a variety of service projects all month long.
Simple service project examples include:
- Cleaning up a local park or school
- Doing home repairs or errands for those who are homebound
- Working at a local shelter or soup kitchen
- Random acts of kindness like paying for a stranger’s coffee or lunch in the drive through
The fact is, you have people both inside and outside your church who have needs. Think of ways to get every person involved.
Having the kids help also sets a great example for them! Whether volunteers choose an act of service for neighbors, serve with a small group, or join a larger church project event, they can find key ways to make a difference.
2. Donation Drive or Charity Fundraiser
Another service idea is to focus on giving back to those in need. This could be in the form of a donation drive for a local charity, online giving campaign, or food drive, among other Thanksgiving ideas.
Consider collecting donations or wish list items for
- A homeless shelter
- A boys and girls club
- Local or international missionaries
- Canned goods for the local food bank
- A women’s shelter
- Pies and desserts for teachers or nurses
Think of ways you can be creative and serve community members and neighbors.
In order to have a successful donation drive or fundraiser, you need to talk it up for the entire month. And maybe communicate even further in advance! But also realize that November is a key giving month. November and December are typically the highest giving months in the year.
Since giving is on everyone’s mind in November, remind people that even a small gift can make a big impact. It’s not the amount that matters. Scripture tells us that a generous giver will be rewarded because God looks at the heart.
For example, in the story of the poor widow with two coins, Jesus points out to His disciples that she gave the best gift of all because she offered what she had.
You could also do a special Thanksgiving offering at your church service with the money going to a local cause or charity organization.
3. Thanksgiving feast for the Homeless or a Nursing Home
Thanksgiving is a time when many people gather around a table with family and friends to feast on turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.
But not everyone has that opportunity. So other Thanksgiving ideas would be to focus on those who are alone or don’t have anyone to celebrate with.
Your church could begin to cook Thanksgiving meals and deliver them to people who are homeless in your area. Or you could host a Thanksgiving dinner at a local nursing home. This would be a great opportunity to bring some life and cheer into the lives of those who may not have many visitors.
4. Gratitude Board
A gratitude board or Thanksgiving tree is a great way to get your church members into a thankful spirit.
You could set up a board where people can write down what they are thankful for. Or you could design a Thanksgiving tree where people can hang leaves with things they are grateful for written on them.
People could add pictures, artwork, or other mementos. This is also a fun project for kids. It’s helpful for families to have a visual example of what thankfulness looks like.
This serves as a visual reminder of the blessings we have. Seeing the way church members have experienced God’s goodness can also build bonds and bring people closer together.
5. Family Thanksgiving Service
When it’s time for your church service, another idea to build a stronger bond in your congregation is to have families worship together, including the kids. Church members may also have guests who would be willing to visit your church for the first time this weekend.
Although children may have a great service of their own every week, this could be a special event within the year when family members can be together. And staying together might make guests and visitors feel more comfortable.
Your pastor can focus on preaching a Bible message that will appeal to kids. You may also want to incorporate more singing and interactive creative service elements and story telling to appeal to children and adults alike.
6. Sharing an Annual Gratitude Testimony
Your congregation might establish a Thanksgiving tradition that encourages people to share their testimonies and highlights every year in November.
Church members can share the testimony in writing, read aloud from the stage, or record it on video. You could potentially share these stories on your website, social media, or as part of a church service.
When you hear personal stories, it’s always an amazing reminder of the ways God is working in our lives–even when we don’t realize it at the moment! Testimonies encourage people, help spread the gospel, and share the hope of life change.
7. Letter Writing and Care Package Delivery
We have many workers in our communities who deserve our gratitude (and have to work holidays). You could honor them and express your thankfulness with handwritten notes, gifts, or a care package.
Consider taking time to express how thankful you are for
- Active military and veterans
- First responders
- Doctors and nurses
- Foster families
- Workers at local shelters and charity organizations
Begin to brainstorm Thanksgiving ideas for ways to honor those who are actively serving others (you might even include your pastor or church leaders in this category). Providing support and showing a little appreciation goes a long way to encourage others!
Thanksgiving Ideas for Your Church
Thanksgiving is a time when many people reflect on the things they are grateful for. It’s also a time when churches come together to celebrate and worship God.
We have poor and needy people around us. If you have a member who is alone or in need during the holidays, pay them a visit or make sure a small group adopts them during this time.
Whether you choose to do a special offering, Thanksgiving worship service, or write letters and deliver care packages to those who serve others, there are plenty of ways for your church to praise God and serve others during this holiday season!