7 IDEAS FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE NOVEMBER IN YOUR SMALL CHURCH
Wondering how to make Thanksgiving more meaningful in your church? 30 DAYS GRATEFUL is your ticket to a Christ-Centered holiday season in your small church.
30 DAYS GRATEFUL not only transforms November, but prepares your church community for Advent in a fresh, deep way.
(This is a great service opportunity for the Youth Group, Women’s Ministry, or a Creative Team to lead the charge!)
THANKSGIVING SHOULD BE MORE THAN TURKEY AND SHOPPING
For many, Thanksgiving is a stepping stone to Christmas. Over turkey dinner, conversation turns to shopping plans. Whether it’s strategizing Black Friday Blitzes or keeping a watchful eye on Cyber Monday deals, a day earmarked for gratitude quickly succumbs to consumerism.
The Christmas Tree goes up as Pumpkin Pie goes down.
What would happen if your church community set aside the entire month of November to cultivate a culture of gratitude?
Engaging in 30 DAYS GRATEFUL won’t just change your November. It will actually change Advent this year. As 30 DAYS GRATEFUL prepares hearts for deeper things to come.
Gratefulness turns our hearts from “give ME” to “thank YOU” and sets the stage for the coming of Christ.
Whether you choose to immerse your church family in all 7 Ideas or just choose a few, you’ll see 3 things happen.
- Friendships grow and deepen with the shared experience of 30 DAYS GRATEFUL.
- Gratitude turns the Christmas gift-GETTING season topsy-turvy and toward increased contentment.
- You church family grows in Christ-likeness as it literally practices Living the Word.
- Being thankful in all things
- Encouraging one another
- Seeking the Deep that calls to Deep
7 CREATIVE IDEAS TO A SET-APART NOVEMBER
Enjoy these 7 ideas in 30 DAYS GRATEFUL.
A few years ago our church Creative Team met to idea-share about how we could make Thanksgiving more impactful and Christ-centered.
We came up with multiple avenues because our Creative Team works to incorporate multiple senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) whenever we can.
We also recognize that everyone is unique. What connects one person to God, doesn’t always work for another. And what draws me deeper, doesn’t always draw you.
So, just as God created a huge variety of … well, everything …
We strive to imitate Him.
Read on to find a photo booth, a craft, a social media campaign, a display wall, a church-written devotional, a daily challenge calendar and a slideshow finale.
WE ENDED UP WITH A MONTH-LONG THEME OF THANKFULNESS!
- “I’m Grateful” Photo Booth
- Thanksgiving Craft: DIY Gratitude Jars
- Social Media Campaign: 7 Days of #GodisGood
- Church Display: The Gratitude Wall
- Thanksgiving Devotional
- All-Church Challenge: 30 Days of Gratitude
- Thanksgiving Weekend Slideshow
1) “I’M GRATEFUL” PHOTO BOOTH
Set up your own “I’m Grateful” Photo Booth at your church.
You need a backdrop, some props, a person to take the pics, and a positively happy person to take the lead.
When we did this, we took the first couple of Sundays in November, advertised the Photo Booth to our church family, and before and after church people filtered in.
Armed with a few hand-held little white boards and dry erase markers, our teenagers encouraged people to write what they are thankful for. Families and friends posed for pictures holding signs of what they were thankful for.
Many asked for digital copies to post on social media and send to friends. Some even used their photo for holiday postcards.
It was great fun and very positive.
(Later, we also included these pics in our Thanksgiving Weekend Slideshow.)
2) THANKSGIVING CRAFT: DIY GRATITUDE JARS
With mason jars in hand (we chose the mini size), our crafty team brought in their crafty stuff and set up in our welcome center on a few Sunday mornings. Worshipers came to the interactive station for a little DIY fun before and after the worship service.
Glue guns, cardstock, markers, colored twine, and more added to the tools to create Gratitude Jars.
People took their finished jars home along with pre-cut strips of colored cardstock. The strips would soon be filled with written reminders of What God Had Done in their lives.
- Some families keep the jars out all year, adding written notes in any season. Then on Thanksgiving Day they read them at the dinner table as a reminder of how God has shown up this year.
- Other people begin the tradition of adding to the jar only on Thanksgiving Day. Each guest at the table writes one thing they are thankful for that year. They pack the jar away every Thanksgiving to reserve it for the next. The yearly writings are a reminder of God’s hand throughout the years.
- Other choose to gift their Gratitude Jar to a neighbor. Spreading this culture of gratitude beyond our own walls.
3) SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN: 7 Days of #GodisGood
Gather a small group of people to start this campaign and watch it spread.
The instructions are simple: Each day for 7 Days, post a photo of something you are grateful for. Add the hashtag #GodisGood. Tag 7 friends and encourage them to do the same!
The ripple effect is great fun to watch. Be sure to include your youth on this one.
And include all the social media platforms your church family frequents. It will probably be a mix of facebook, instagram, snapchat, pinterest, and maybe even twitter!
Because people are tagging their friends, even though it’s only a 7 Day Challenge, it should continue way beyond a week. And so on, and so on, and so on!
4) CHURCH DISPLAY: SET UP A GRATITUDE WALL
Invite your church community to bring in tangible items to hang on the Gratitude Wall for the month of November.
Items should represent something they are grateful for. If the item is too large, too heavy, or too precious to hang on the Gratitude Wall, ask for a photo of it.
Have some of your core peeps to get this started with fun examples.
It is beautiful to watch this board fill up for the entire month.
I will never forget the cap one of our Vietnam Veterans hung, in memory of an enemy soldier who actually saved his life. Or another friend hanging a medical document of her Diabetic numbers that were on the decrease.
Photos of loved ones, pets, sunsets and more. A small heirloom Bible was even hung by one of our colored clothes pins.
It became a literal Wall of Gratitude!
Use free standing dividers for your wall or command hooks on a wall with twine running between them. Mini clothes pin can hang your items.
5) THANKSGIVING DEVOTIONAL: A CONVERSATION ON THANKFULNESS
This Devotional is one of the most memorable projects I have ever been part of in the life of a church. Here’s what we did:
- Toward the end of September, we distributed an invitation to our worshipers to submit their own written devotion.
- The invitation included very clear instructions including writing prompts.
- Write a 100-300 word devotional around the theme of thankfulness.
- We asked for personal stories, not platitudes.
- As well as the inclusion of a central scripture verse.
I was blown away by the submissions we received. They were genuine, varied, and heartfelt.
While all were about thankfulness, some centered on struggle, others on blessings. A few on the miraculous.
Different voices all relate-able and all pointing hearts to God.
After proofreading and editing, we printed them in-house and bound the sheets with binding combs.
I wish I could verbalize the incredible impact as stories never shared were read for the first time.
We watched worshipers thanking each other, encouraging each other, and sharing more life stories now that a door had been opened.
New relationships formed. Established relationships deepened.
Years later, my copy of “a conversation on thankfulness” occupies a special place on my shelf.
6) ALL-CHURCH CHALLENGE: 30 Days of Gratitude
While this is not a new idea or an exclusive concept, people love to step up to a challenge. And they love a specific plan. So hand out a calendar with simple daily tasks of gratitude.
You can absolutely develop your own calendar if you desire. But if you don’t want to re-design the wheel, download a free one from soveryblessed.com and see if that fits your needs. Direct your church family there for a free download and they can print their own.
Although the 30 Days of Gratitude is an individual challenge, when your church family shares this experience it builds in some accountability. Friends check in with each other and small groups ask the question, “How is your 30 Day Challenge going?”
Either create your own calendar and have it available in your welcome center or promote the soveryblessed 30 Days of Gratitude challenge in your bulletin and announcements. A handy flyer with the link, plus shares on social media are a great help!
7) THANKSGIVING SLIDESHOW in 3 Easy Steps
- Gather Thankful Photos from the month
- Ask your church family for more
- Find someone to make an iMovie
And you are all set!
Show this iMovie during Sunday worship on Thanksgiving weekend as a finale to your 30 DAYS GRATEFUL.
If your church participated in the Photo Booth and the 7 Day Social Media Campaign, you will already have a slew of photos. If you are doing the slideshow as a standalone project, simply start early in November asking people to send in photos of what they are grateful for.
Conclude the slideshow with a graphic of Psalm 9:1.
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
Add the song Your Love is Mine (by I Am They) as the audio track. It’s fun with a happy beat. And you can’t go wrong singing about God’s love.
(If you are unfamiliar with iMovie, don’t be stressed. Ask around. I promise there is someone nearby who can take this on. If they know iMovie (which many teenagers do) it’ll be less than an hour project!)
GATHER A TEAM TO PULL TOGETHER 30 DAYS GRATEFUL FOR YOUR CHURCH
I’m big on teams. I don’t think we should do anything in ministry alone. We are meant to work together. With different gifts and different passions. Different talents and different personalities.
The 7 Ideas that make up 30 DAYS GRATEFUL are only overwhelming if you do it alone.
So grab some friends. Recruit a teenager who loves photography. Find a dad who can make you a wall. Talk to a crafty person who already has the glue guns. They are all around you. Many are just waiting to be asked.
One of the most important traits of an amazing woman in ministry is just being an initiator!
You don’t have to have all the talent. Or all the ideas. Or even the know-how.
You just need to get the ball rolling.
And surround yourself with a team. (that’s my secret anyway!)