8 Ideas for a Meaningful Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is next week, and many of you are probably anticipating hours of cleaning to ready your home for company, preparing the perfect turkey, planning a dozen side dishes, setting a beautiful table, or traveling across country to grandma and grandpa’s house. In all the busyness, how can your family worship God during your Thanksgiving day? 

Here are eight practical ideas requiring little to no preparation to help your family have a meaningful holiday as you thank God for the blessings He has given you.

1.  Anticipate Giving Thanks

This is one activity our staff loves to do together each year. Look back at your year and reflect on three to five things for which you are thankful. Next, create a list of three to five anticipated thanksgivings—specific things you are committing to praying for over the coming year with the hope that next Thanksgiving you can praise God for the answered prayers. Be sure to capture everyone’s answers (possibly in a journal, or create a small booklet), so you can be reminded to pray throughout the year. Down the road, you’ll be able to look back and see evidences of God’s grace in your family’s life over the years.

2.  Read Verses of Praise

Have your children create placecards for each person coming to your Thanksgiving celebration. On the back, have them write out a verse of praise (or reference) for each guest to read during the meal. Have a Bible or two near the table to read from. Great Thanksgiving verses to start with include:

  • 1 Chronicles 16:8-9
  • Psalm 7:17
  • Psalm 79:13
  • Psalm 86:12-13
  • Psalm 100:4-5
  • Psalm 106:1
  • Acts 17:24-25
  • 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • Colossians 3:15-17
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. 

3.  Sing a Hymn

Close dinner with a short hymn sing. A newer favorite by Keith and Kristyn Getty is
My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness
, or you could sing the classic, For the Beauty of the Earth,
by Folliot Pierpoint and Conrad Kocher.

4.  Look Deeper

When thinking of what we are thankful for, it is easy to focus on the tangible—family, friends, a warm home, good food, or fun toys. While these are all wonderful things we can thank God for providing, it’s valuable to help your children think deeper about what they have been learning about God in family devotions or Sunday school. Encourage your children to think of an attribute of God, a name of God, a promise God has given us, a Bible story, or another truth they have learned for which they are thankful. You could also have your children recite Bible verses they are thankful to have treasured in their hearts.

5.  Center on Thanks

While you are waiting for the turkey to roast, work as a family to create a special centerpiece focused on thanks. If you have a pumpkin, take turns writing what you are thankful for on the pumpkin with a Sharpie® marker (a gold Sharpie looks great on a white pumpkin). Or cut out tags or leaves to write on and hang them on a garland or small tree. If you have a kids’ table at your family celebration, cover it with paper and supply the kids with markers or crayons to color pictures of what they are thankful for.

6.  Go for a Walk

After dinner, go for a group nature walk and look for things in creation that show the greatness of God. Thank God for creating the items you find from the biggest or most beautiful to the smallest or most simple. Note: You can help the cook/Mom join in on this walk (and enjoy a refreshing break from the kitchen) if you use paper plates for the meal and/or get everyone involved in the cleanup.

7. Read the Easter Story

No, I did not get my holidays mixed up. The greatest gift we have ever been offered is the gift of salvation. Spend time reading about the crucifixion from the Bible or a children’s storybook. Thank Jesus for becoming the sacrifice for our sins and offering us the gift of eternal life.

8.  Plan a Family Service Project for Christmas

As your family spends the day reflecting on all of the blessings for which you are thankful, think about how you can share the overflow of your blessing with others during the upcoming Christmas season. Spend time as a family discussing a service project you could do together to help people in need. Here are some ideas for blessing friends, neighbors, and those in need:

  • Go caroling at a local nursing home.
  • Volunteer at a local ministry.
  • Donate supplies to a crisis pregnancy center or food pantry.
  • Make a meal for new parents.
  • Include international students or someone with no local family into your Christmas plans.
  • Shovel your neighbors’ sidewalks.
  • Bake cookies for friends who need some extra encouragement.
  • Or decide to set aside some of the money in your family’s gift budget and donate it to a missionary family or international ministry.

Holiday traditions are a powerful tool for focusing on the goodness of the Lord. Whether you already have a list of traditions or haven’t yet started any, be encouraged. It’s worth the effort to keep them up if you already have them, and it’s never too late to start.