The holidays provide an incredible opportunity for many churches. The nature of family celebrations lends itself to families attending worship together. Since Thanksgiving occurs in the middle of the week, there aren’t many extra Sunday worshippers.
However, it is possible to have a unique service that highlights and encourages Christian gratitude and congregational intimacy. In fact, the service I often hear the most feedback on is our Thanksgiving Share service.
This particular service does not include a traditional worship set or a whole sermon, thus it is better suited to a Sunday or Wednesday night. Below I will walk you through the preparation and execution of a memorable event to kick off your holiday celebrations.
As you prepare for your Thanksgiving service, you will want to start by enlisting your worship team to prepare for two musical numbers. The first one should be a congregational song with a theme of gratitude. “Count Your Many Blessings” works well here. They also will want to plan for a second song that will be a closing number to the service. Typically, we have closed the service with an acapella version of “Family of God.”
The second step in getting ready for the service is to prepare a brief devotional on gratitude. A passage such as Psalm 100 or Luke 17:11-19 would be appropriate.
Next, enlist key leaders who are willing to share a brief testimony of why they are thankful. I have found that three to four “designated” sharers tend to encourage others to share why they are grateful.
Depending on the size of the congregation, someone also will need to run sound, and there will need to be someone to ferry microphones from person to person. This is recommended so everyone will be able to hear adequately. Also, make sure you have plenty of tissues available. I have yet to attend one of these services when tears did not flow.
The final component of readiness for the service is promotion. Get the date on the calendar at least a month ahead of time. If you have a bulletin or an announcement loop on your screens, begin announcing your special Thanksgiving Share service.
When the service time arrives, explain to the congregation what will take place. I find this helpful, so they are prepared for what will come. Let them know the intention of this service is to focus the congregation on the holiday and let others celebrate what God has done and is doing in each other’s lives as a congregation.
Explain that the microphones are there simply so everyone can hear. Once explanations are completed, kick off the service with prayer. Next, begin with the congregational hymn. Once the music is finished, share your devotional. As difficult as it may be for preachers, the key in this portion is to be brief. Your congregation hears you more than 40 times annually, and your goal is to get them to share. After your devotional, testify (again briefly) about what you are thankful for in the past year. Your thoughts give some prompts to stimulate the congregation’s thinking.
Then open the floor for others to share. Here is where your key leaders will share why they are thankful. I find it helpful not to call on those individuals by name but rather open the floor. Have them raise a hand for a microphone and allow the sharing to begin. Others in the congregation will follow their lead and share as well. It is important to remember there will be times when the sharing will flow freely and others when it will slow down. It is critical to be patient with the silence.
You should be able to see which people are working up the courage to share. Please note that the time frame of this service is fluid. I’ve seen the full service go 30 minutes, and I’ve seen it go more than an hour, but the ones that went longer were celebrative and gratitude-inducing and served to bring the congregation closer together.
Once the sharing ceases, instruct the attendees to draw close to each other and join hands. (If this is uncomfortable in a post-Covid world, one can leave out the hand holding.) Sing “Family of God” as a conclusion to the service.
As you approach the holidays, don’t miss an opportunity to draw your congregation closer together and focus their minds on gratitude by using a Thanksgiving Share service.
Published October 11, 2022