While everyone may have their own traditions for the celebration, Thanksgiving is an American secular holiday at its core. It commemorates the Europeans first settling in the New World, and the meals we all enjoy are a reminder of the earliest celebrations in the Americas. Even so, this secular holiday has plenty of religious undertones. It reminds us about the importance of gratitude. Always remember the significance of this lesson when creating your Thanksgiving church service.
Of course, an effective Thanksgiving message is more than just a sermon. After all, pastors get behind the pulpit multiple times every week and preach to their congregation. How exactly can you make sermons during this special time of the year stand out, and how can you connect the tenets of a secular holiday to a spiritual celebration? While these questions are certainly complex, the following Thanksgiving church service tips will help in your quest.
1. Logistics: When Should You Have a Thanksgiving Church Service?
One of the most important considerations for your church service on Thanksgiving is when you should have it. Sure, you could host it on Thanksgiving day. Even though the holiday is on a Thursday every year, people will at least have the day off. Unfortunately, a service that takes place the same day as the holiday can interrupt your congregant’s family celebrations. Even so, you still want the service to occur when folks have the day off and at a time that’s relevant. This certainly seems like a catch-22.
That’s why you should consider taking a poll of your congregants at least one month in advance. This will give you an opportunity to find out what will work best for the majority of your members. We’ve seen such polls prove very effective with the donor surveys we utilize in our digital giving software. Of course, you could also simply plan the service far in advance. This will give your congregants plenty of time to make plans that will allow them to celebrate with family and also make it to the Thanksgiving church service.
2. Getting the Word Out About Your Thanksgiving Service
Now that you’ve got an idea about how to plan the date of your service, it’s important to let congregants know when it will take place. After all, most Thanksgiving church services don’t occur during regular worship hours. That’s why you should utilize a variety of strategies to get the word out about the upcoming event. You don’t want to spend tons of time planning just to have no one show up! Here are a few helpful tips for spreading the word:
- Print flyers to hand out during regular Sunday services
- Place flyers on the community bulletin boards
- Send out notices via social media and other digital platforms
- Include your Thanksgiving church service info in emailed newsletters
Many ministries overlook the opportunity to send announcements via email. In most instances, that’s because they haven’t taken active steps to nurture their lists. Our tips for Growing Your Church Email List can help in this endeavor, but if you’re just getting started, it might be wise to focus on other efforts until the holiday is over. A well-planned Thanksgiving church service is only a success if your congregants attend, so make sure you focus on this step!
3. Get Help From Volunteers
Since you will likely hold your Thanksgiving church service on a different schedule than normal, there’s a good chance you may need help from your members. Volunteers can give readings, lead prayers, usher in members, sing in the choir, hand out literature, and more. Of course, you may not need this extra help. Still, consider getting members involved anyway.
The reason you should do this is that people who volunteer once are more likely to do so again. This can also increase congregant participation among those who typically only sit quietly in the pews. Just make sure you ask for volunteers with plenty of advance notice. You want to make sure they can make plans to be there when you need them the most.
4. Content Is King: Creating Your Thanksgiving Sermon
No matter how much work goes into the other aspects of your Thanksgiving church service, the element that gets the most attention will always be your sermon. This means you should take at least a week to plan your service’s content, prayers, songs, sermons, and special events. The following are some of the most important points to focus on:
Gratitude Is Important, But Focus on Prayers
Gratitude is obviously the name of the game when it comes to Thanksgiving church services. However, you can tell people to “be thankful” only so many times. Gratitude should be a verb — and you can make it one by focusing on prayer. Have your congregation actively call out to God to give him thanks. We far too often only speak with Him when we need something, so it’s important to remember what this holiday is about.
Plan Your Sermon
We’ve mentioned it already, and we’ll probably mention it again: the sermon is the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving church service. Plan it out far in advance so you can ensure that it really hits home. There are plenty of verses and stories you can base your message on, and we’ve compiled many of them in our guide on Thanksgiving Sermon Ideas.
Of course, these are by no means your only options. Come up with something on your own, if you’d like! However, consider getting a little personal when you’re coming up with your own ideas. Share stories from your life and tell your congregation everything that you’re thankful for. By modeling what thankfulness should look like, you’ll show your congregation how gratitude can elevate their lives along with the lives of those they’re grateful for.
Remember, you need to make this sermon stand out since folks will likely attend during non-traditional church hours. Practice the sermon several times in advance. Not only will this make you better prepared for your Thanksgiving church service, but it will free up time for you to enjoy the holiday yourself without having to worry about last-minute rehearsing.
5. Get Everyone Involved With More Activities
The focus of your Thanksgiving service is not the only difference it will have from traditional services. One of the biggest differences involves the activities that are often incorporated. These activities get people excited about attending, and it ensures they get more involved in the festivities. The following activities are all great places to start:
- Feed the less fortunate. Have congregants prepare and serve the meal.
- Host a food drive and donate to a local food pantry.
- Assemble gift packages for the homeless and impoverished.
- Allow congregants to share their gratitude out loud during the service.
- Coordinate with other local community events focused on helping the less fortunate.
- Consider including passages from non-religious books that focus on gratitude.
- Offer fellowship both before and after your Thanksgiving church service.
- Let people socialize while expressing love and gratitude.
While the sermon will be the main focus of your service, the activities will certainly come in at a close second. Utilize one, multiple, or all of these ideas — and use them for inspiration to come up with your own. You want to make this Thanksgiving church service one to remember, and in doing so, you’ll improve the odds of congregants looking forward to next year’s events.
6. Create a Festive Environment
Your ministry probably just finished up an exciting church Fall Festival, so you’re likely not super motivated to go all out with another holiday. Still, a few simple tasks can create a festive environment for your congregation. It only takes a decorative touch here and there to remind folks of the season.
For your Thanksgiving church service, consider using autumn-themed decor like pumpkins, mums, cornucopias, and straw. When decorating, you can also extend your reach outside of the main sanctuary. People should feel immersed in the season from the moment they pull into the parking lot.
7. Encourage Your Congregation to Remain Thankful
Decorations and focusing on the reason for Thanksgiving are great, but it’s important for the message to not stop here. After all the festive excitement, your congregation should walk away remembering that gratitude is important for more than just a Thanksgiving church service. During your sermon, have people highlight or write down Bible verses that focus on gratitude. Provide ideas on how to incorporate gratefulness into daily living. Challenge folks to start a gratitude journal or to make a point of thanking at least one new person on a daily basis. Your service should serve as a reminder that gratitude is important at all times.
Thanksgiving Church Services Can Spark Generosity
Although Thanksgiving isn’t typically viewed as a Christian holiday, it does provide ministries with the opportunity to teach and celebrate some of the most fundamental aspects of the religion. On top of providing an additional opportunity for preaching the Word of God, it also gives families an opportunity to enjoy structured and fulfilling activities together. You’ll also find that it offers a chance for your church to bring in more donations.
Before you tell yourself that Thanksgiving isn’t a time to ask for additional contributions, always remember that it’s these donations that keep the lights on. They give your ministry what it needs to provide for others — and thus show gratitude to God for everything he has done. DonorWerx can help you greatly increase your ministry’s revenue with just a few simple steps. Schedule a Discovery Call with us today for a free consultation on increasing tithing and donations.