Thanksgiving is tomorrow and many of you have probably spent hours cleaning your home for company, preparing the perfect turkey, planning a dozen side dishes, setting a beautiful table or traveling across country to grandma and grandpa’s house. But, have you spent any time planning how your family is going to worship God during your Thanksgiving day.
Here are eight practical ideas requiring little to no preparation to help your family have a purposeful holiday as you thank God for the blessings he has given you.
1. Anticipated Thanksgivings
This is one our staff loves to do together each year. Look back at your year and reflect on three to five things you are thankful for. Next, create a list of 3-5 anticipated thanksgivings—specific things you are committing to praying for over the coming year with the hope that next Thanksgiving, you can praise God for the answered prayers. Be sure to capture everyone’s answers (possibly in a journal or create a small booklet) so you can be reminded to pray throughout the year and down the road you can look back to see the evidences of God’s grace in your family’s life over the years.
2. Verses of Praise
Have your children create place cards for each person coming to Thanksgiving. On the back, have them write out a verse of praise for each guest to read during the meal. Great Thanksgiving verses to start with include: 1 Chronicles 16:8-9; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 79:13; Psalm 86:12-13; Psalm 100:4-5; Psalm 106:1; Acts 17:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 3:15-17; and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
3. Hymn Sing
Close dinner with a short hymn sing. A newer favorite by Keith and Kristyn Getty is My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness or sing For the Beauty of the Earth, a classic hymn by Folliot Pierpoint and Conrad Kocher.
4. Look Deeper
When thinking of what we are thankful for, it is easy to focus on the practical—family, friends, a warm home, good food or fun toys. While these are all wonderful things we can thank God for providing, take time to help your children think deeper to what they have been learning about God in family devotions or Sunday school. Encourage your children to think of an attribute of God, name of God, promise God has given us, Bible story or other truth they have learned that they are thankful for. Or, have your children recite Bible verses they are thankful to have treasured in their hearts.
5. Centered on Thanks
While you are waiting for the turkey to bake, work as a family to create a special centerpiece focused on thanks. If you have a pumpkin, take turns writing what you are thankful for on the pumpkin with a sharpie (a gold sharpie looks great on a white pumpkin). Or, cut out tags or leaves to write on and hang them on a garland or small tree. If you have a kids table at your family celebration, cover it with paper and supply the kids with markers or crayons to color pictures of what they are thankful for.
6. Nature Walk
After dinner, go for a family nature walk and look for things in creation that show the greatness of God. Thank God for creating the items you find from the biggest and most beautiful to the smallest or most simple.
7. Read the Easter Story
No, I did not get my holidays mixed up. The greatest gift we have ever been offered is the gift of salvation. Spend time reading about the crucifixion from the Bible or a children’s story book. Thank Jesus for taking the sacrifice for our sins and giving us the gift of eternal life.
8. Plan a Family Service Project for Christmas
As your family spends the day reflecting on all of the blessings you are thankful for, think about how you can share the overflow of your blessing with others during the upcoming Christmas season. Spend time as a family discussing a service project you could do together to help people in need. Here are some ideas for blessing friends, neighbors and those in need: go caroling at a local nursing home, volunteer at a local ministry, donate supplies to a crisis pregnancy center or food shelf, make a meal for new parents, include international students or someone with no local family into your Christmas plans, shovel your neighbors sidewalks, bake cookies for friends who need some extra encouragement or decide to set aside money from your family’s gift budget and donate it to a missionary family or international ministry.
Do you have any family traditions that help you focus on the goodness of the Lord in your lives? How do you share your thanksgivings? We would love to have you share those in the comments below.