Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday. Is it just me, or are all these Thanksgiving-weekend activities getting a little hard to manage?
As is so often the case, it’s easy to let our celebration of thankfulness for all God’s good gifts become eclipsed by our relentless desire for more and better. How can your church help your members to pause and reflect throughout Thanksgiving weekend? Here are some ideas for simple Thanksgiving-weekend activities that can help your church and her members maintain a thankful spirit in the next few days.
There will always be people at your church who don’t have a place to go for a Thanksgiving meal. Maybe it’s because they are new to the area and family is far away. Perhaps their spouse recently passed away and this will be their first year without that familiar routine. Some members may have to work on Thanksgiving Day, leaving the rest of their families feeling a little down and out at home. There are probably other members at your church who enjoy cooking, but feel as if they don’t know enough people to invite over for a meal.
Whatever the case, your church can certainly be a place where everyone finds a Thanksgiving Day “family” to celebrate with. Offer to coordinate schedules or assist with pairing people and families who may otherwise have celebrated separately. More often than not, you’ll find that there are tons of generous families willing to open their homes and celebrate together.
Thanksgiving is also a good time to think about those members of your church who may be away from home, like military members or college students. Rather than going out and shopping Friday, your church could host a care-package assembly day for these members. Make cards or letters, bake cookies together, and put together some simple gift boxes. Even small gifts or notes can provide some needed encouragement for those who may be away from home.
If you don’t already have a list of those serving in the military or away at college, make sure to ask for names first in your bulletin notes, email newsletter, or other church communications. Chances are there are plenty of people at your church who know someone who could use a gift like this. Once your list is ready, be sure to update your church database, and include the appropriate tags and away addresses so you can reach out to this group in the future.
Rather than gathering at church, you may also want to consider making a special event of visiting shut-ins or hospitalized members on the days surrounding Thanksgiving. Hold an impromptu hymn sing or bring a recording of your Thanksgiving Day service to watch together. Spend time together in God’s Word and prayer, but then stay for a few more moments to talk, play a game, or share family pictures. Even a short visit can help bring a bit of normalcy and relief to what can be a lonely and stressful time of year for many people.
Yes, I know this one may verge a little on the holiday shopping craziness. However, hear me out. The coming days can be a great time to collect gifts and food for those in need. With all the sales going on, it’s a great time to practice good stewardship by getting the most out of the limited funds you may have for helping organizations in the community.
If you’re collecting food, be sure to check with your local food bank first to see what they need most. Many organizations get overloaded with canned corn and green beans, but run short on protein-packed foods like peanut butter and hearty canned soups.
If you’re collecting gifts, it’s also a good idea to first check with your local family-services organization about which gifts are most in demand. Gifts for teens and adult males can be hard to come by, so consider finding those gifts first. Your church could even make this gift shopping a group activity or field trip, giving your members an opportunity to grow in life together as they help those in need.
Another fun idea is to host a meal on the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving. I once attended a church where the youth always hosted a spaghetti supper on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This meal gave the youth an opportunity to serve and provided everyone at church with a needed break from their Thanksgiving leftovers. If you don’t want to cook from scratch, maybe your church could coordinate a potluck where everyone brings their Thanksgiving leftovers. Families will have fun trying new recipies and dishes with their church family.
I know that most of us probably enjoy the extra days off during Thanksgiving break. However, if your family is anything like mine, everyone may get a little stir crazy around the third or fourth day of break. During this latter part of the week, it may be a great time to host a family activity night at your church. Encourage families to bring their favorite games, or put on a movie and serve some snacks. Kids will have fun reuniting with others their age, and adults will have the chance to get together and share some of their favorite moments from the past few days.
Sharing messaging of thankfulness through social media is also a great practice to take up during Thanksgiving weekend. Take advantage of the fact that many people may be spending more time online looking for flash sales or last-minute deals. By hosting a social media campaign with graphics or short videos, your church can provide some needed relief from the noise and materialism of the world. Ask your members to post videos sharing their favorite Bible verses, or put together a set of social graphics to share throughout the weekend.
I hope these ideas helped spur your creativity for alternate Thanksgiving-weekend activities. If you’re ready to get started now, download this set of social media graphics with Thanksgiving Bible verses to give your communications plan a boost!
Share these graphics on your church’s social media channels to help members and online followers reflect on God’s provision during the holiday weekend.