Have you ever noticed that Thanksgiving can often get overlooked? With all the excitement for other holidays, it is sometimes easy to brush right over Thanksgiving and prepare for Christmas.
Amid the craziness of the holiday season, can I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on all you have to be grateful for and the incredible opportunity we have to be part of God’s family?
Thanksgiving Lessons from Grandma
When I was a kid, my grandma would host a large Thanksgiving dinner for our family. It was one of my favorite times of the year because it’s when I got to play with all my cousins.
One year, I visited my grandma’s house a few days before Thanksgiving and noticed that she had already set the table. I asked her, “Grandma, why is the table set when Thanksgiving is still days away?” She told me she was preparing in advance for our family to come over.
As I looked around the table, I saw that she had taken out the nice plates, her good silverware, and even the fabric napkins instead of our usual paper plates and paper towels. It seemed like a lot of work for a meal; we would probably eat quickly and then want to nap after.
The next funny thing was when I started counting the place settings. She had two extra place settings. I figured that my grandma had just miscounted and put too many out. I said, “Grandma, there are too many place settings on the table. You can put two away.”
Without missing a beat, she said, “Those are for anyone lonely that doesn’t have family nearby or a place to go.”
At that moment, I thought back on our past Thanksgiving meals and remembered that we always seemed to have a couple of people sitting with us who weren’t part of our family. My grandma taught me a few important lessons that will stay with me forever.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Have you ever tried to throw an event together last minute? In kids’ ministry, we often have to adjust on the fly. Things go much smoother when there is time to prepare. If you want to create an environment of gratitude this holiday season, plan ahead of time.
You can use one of these simple ideas:
- Draw a large shape (heart, leaf, pumpkin, etc.) on a sheet of butcher paper. Have kids write or draw things they are grateful for on colorful sticky notes. Challenge kids to fill the entire shape using their notes.
- Encourage your team to vocalize what they are grateful for about each kid throughout your time together. “Chloe, I’m so grateful that you came today.” “Owen, I’m grateful that God gave you strong legs to jump and dance during worship.”
- Recognize your team members in front of kids by giving them all a gift card to their favorite coffee shop. Demonstrating an attitude of gratefulness doesn’t have to be done only during team meetings.
Show Gratitude by Pulling out the Best
Pull out the best when showing gratitude for your team. In kids’ ministry, there is always a need for new volunteers. When coaching new children’s directors, I encourage them to spend the same amount of time appreciating their current volunteers as they do recruiting new team members.
Ask your lead pastor to create a short video message thanking your team for all they do. Or plan an outing for your team to make fun memories together. One of my favorite times with my team was when we rented out a bowling alley and threw a pizza party for the team and their families.
Changing how you show your appreciation will make your team feel loved. They will most likely tell others about how great the team is and invite others to join.
Make Room at Your Thanksgiving Table
When new guests visit your church, do they feel like they are walking in on a family party they are not a part of, or do they feel as if you were expecting them? Invite your team to pray together before the kids arrive, thanking God for the kids He has entrusted you with and those yet to come.
Plan a welcoming experience for new families. Have a volunteer help the new family check in and include a short tour of your facility. Pair up the new kid with a kid who has been in your ministry a while so they can sit together. Follow up with the family by mailing them a card letting them know that you are grateful that they visited.
Creating an environment of gratitude first starts with the leader. Plan ways to show your team and kids that you are thankful for them. Change how you show your appreciation so that your team and kids know that you were thinking of them and not just doing what has been done in the past. Don’t forget to make room for new people this holiday season.
God has called and invited you to be part of His family; let’s scoot over and make room for who else He will bring you.