Thanksgiving is upon us, fall is in full swing, kids are back to school, the leaves are changing along with the weather. While it may seem that Thanksgiving church services are easy to plan because the theme is so obvious, focused and well known, it may be more limiting or difficult that one might think. Especially year after year, trying to keep each Thanksgiving service fresh and relevent. Here are 5 important tips to ensure you have an amazing Thanksgiving service!
It has been nearly 400 years since the very first Thanksgiving in the United States. The actual date of the celebration shifted around throughout the years before finally resting on the last Thursday of November, but the spirit of the celebration remains the same. This was set in motion by President Abraham Lincoln on Thanksgiving Day October 20, 1864. President Lincoln stated:
“Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe.”
It is through thankfulness to God that our faith is reinforced and strongholds are broken in our lives. Be sure to check out our Top 30 Bible Verses for Thanksgiving to be further encouraged to live a life of thanksgiving and praise towards God!
5 Important Tips for an Amazing Thanksgiving Service
As you know, it’s always most important to seek God and His guidance from start to finish. Ask God how He would have you proceed and ask for ideas on how to honor Him and bless His people. In the weeks leading up to your service, it is important to have your church pray for God’s blessing and for success in all your endeavors. At the actual event have certain people pray a public, faith-filled prayer of Thanksgiving on everyone’s behalf.
The build-up to Thanksgiving begins weeks in advance. Let people know the date you have chosen for your event(s) in your church bulletin. Present harvest-themed brochures, presentation backgrounds and worship loops with Bible verses about praise and thanksgiving, reminders of God’s faithfulness and His goodness.
Announce opportunities to serve ahead of time, and where and when to sign-up. Have your small group leaders spread the word and remind them to build expectation and participation. Ask them to recommend people who might give testimonies about God’s faithfulness. Also, ask them if they are aware of others who have suffered hardship so the church can bless them by fulfilling a need.
Participation is huge. Get your congregation excited about your Thanksgiving Service; let them know they are needed and passivity is not an option. Delegation is key so that a very few don’t end up doing all the work. You will build a sense of excitement and community by inviting as much participation as possible. Designate people to take the lead in particular areas of service based on their interest, aptitude, and gifting.
God gives to us so that we might give to others. Encourage people to also serve in their communities, irrespective of any formal church event. If you are a smaller church, look for a worthy charity to support. If you are a larger church, set up a committee well in advance to plan an event for outreach. Some ideas to consider in and around the day of your Thanksgiving service are: visiting shut-ins; making Thanksgiving dinner for the poor; having a potluck dinner in your community and inviting the neighbors –and for a different twist, try serving something other than turkey (in case people are sick of that), try serving chili, stew or have a taco party. Have your parishioners bring non-perishables (canned goods) for a food drive, or visit a retirement home. These are just a few practical suggestions to reach out to your community.
Choose songs that really celebrate God’s goodness and invite participation. We have provided a list of 30 Thanksgiving worship songs that you can use throughout the entire month of November leading up to your Thanksgiving service that will help you with your worship and praise.
Congregational singing is a wonderful way to direct our gaze heavenward and also to promote a sense of community and unity in the body of Christ. Depending upon the demographics of your church, you may want to use both contemporary songs and traditional hymns. If you have a choir or gifted soloist, you could also have a special music performance after the congregational worship time. Find a contemporary song that really expresses your Thanksgiving theme, or choose a hymn like, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” to bless your church and your invited guests.
Whether you or your minister enjoys teaching a topical message, having testimonies or preaching an expository sermon from a biblical text, the Thanksgiving message should be one that inspires. You may want to combine aspects of these oratory styles; mix it up a little for a fresh perspective.
Being thankful is as much about focusing on who God is, as it is about what God has done. Be mindful that while some members of your congregation may have had a year full of blessings, others may have suffered loss –loss of jobs, homes, or even loved ones. You may want to give a message reminding the church that God is still in control and that He is always good no matter how things appear! Give a message that fixes people’s eyes on the Lord, not on their circumstances. Thank God for the heavenly treasures “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20).
It is wise to remember all that God has done. For decades after the exodus, God continued to identify Himself by proclaiming “I AM the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” We should follow that pattern and remember all the things God has done for us. He is the Lord who saves us, provides for us, heals us, equips us, etc… choose a theme or a passage from the Bible that really inspires gratefulness. Psalm 107, for example, recounts the overwhelming reasons God’s people have for giving thanks. Encourage your congregation to not only review scriptures for corporate reflection but also rehearse their own milestones of remembrance.
Consider doing a shorter message and use the extra time to have a few people share testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the past year. Have them prepare something in advance and read from cue cards to help them keep their testimonies brief but amazing.
Even if you attend a modern church that doesn’t usually have a liturgy, Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to use a Psalm as a framework and have a someone read aloud, for example, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good” Congregational response: “His love endures forever!”
A great sermon idea to cultivate gratefulness is to teach on “Where are the other nine?” This passage from Luke’s Gospel (17:15-19) is the story where Jesus heals 10 lepers but only one returns to thank Him. Some other passages to preach from include (but are not limited to) the following: Psalm 31:19; Psalm 69:30; Psalm 95:1-6; Psalm 100; Lamentations 3:23; 1 Corinthians 4:7-9; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18, 1 Timothy 2:1; Hebrews 12:28; and James 1:17. This isn’t even close to an exhaustive list; there are tons more!
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be creative and think outside the box, incorporate visuals, videos, or short skits to illustrate your theme. You are most familiar with the needs of your church, so, remember to give personal application and a call to action at the end. If you have more ideas, we would love to hear them in the comments section below.
“O, give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him: speak of all his wondrous works” (Psalm 105:1-2).
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