The jack-o’-lanterns and costumes have been put away, the candy bowls are slowly emptying…it must be time for Christmas, right? The stores are filled with garlands and Christmas carols, the pre-Christmas sales are beginning. Let’s face it, this is a busy time of year and it is tempting to rush through the holidays. Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about the importance of the often-overlooked holiday in the middle, Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving offers an incredible opportunity to remember our blessings and to be thankful. It’s time to put both the thanks and the giving back into Thanksgiving.
In a very real way, these suggested activities are countercultural, remembering to give thanks and to give things away is countercultural in itself. We live in a culture where consumerism and buying more stuff is presented as the way to holiday happiness. Ten years ago, it would be strange to see Christmas decorations in October, and in the last few years it has even become normal to spend Thanksgiving Day out shopping for Christmas gifts. Instead of giving into this consumer culture, let’s make the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving a time of thanking God and of giving things away with a cheerful heart. To make planning things easier for you, here are 3 ready-made Thanksgiving activities you can present to your youth group – an activity challenge, a prayer challenge and a photo challenge.
How it works in 3 easy steps:
- Select the challenge for your youth group. Select the image and save it to your smartphone, or right-click and save the image to your computer.
- Send out the challenge image with some simple instructions to your youth group – Instagram it, text, email, print it off, whatever works best for your group!
- Follow up with discussion and sharing your stories of Thanks and Giving as a group.
I challenge you as a youthworker to take two of the next few weeks (you pick the dates that work best for your schedule) to participate in one of the following Thanksgiving challenges:
Option 1: 7 Ways of Thanks and 7 Ways of Giving Challenge – Each day has a different challenge activity for that day. The first seven days focus on gratitude, the last seven focus on generosity. You can decide how the youth will keep track of their progress.
Option 2: 7 Prayers of Thanks and 7 Prayers of Giving Challenge – Each day has a Bible verse and prayer. Like the first challenge, it is 7 days on the topic of gratitude and 7 on generosity. One idea is you can have your youth group members read the Bible verse, tweet the verse and prayer with the hashtag #thanksgivingchallenge or #youryouthgroupname. Encourage your youth to share their faith in an easy, nonthreatening way with this challenge. You can use this list as a guide for daily text messages to your youth as well.
Option 3: 7 Photos of Thanks and 7 Photos of Giving Photo Challenge – Take advantage of social media like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter to have your youth take daily photos on the topics of Thanks and Giving. Pick a hashtag that makes sense for your youth ministry. Post photos on the youth website or show them at your next youth group meeting. (Share the photos @ywmovement and we’ll give you a shout out, too!)
And there you have it – 3 ready-made youth activities you can share with your youth to make Thanksgiving more meaningful before the rush of Christmas takes over. My prayer for you is that this leads to a more thoughtful holiday and to great conversations about blessings, gratitude and generosity.
1. What activities have you done to make Thanksgiving more meaningful in your youth ministry?
2. How do you use effectively social media and technology to enhance your youth ministry?
3. What are you doing to bring more Thanks and Giving to Thanksgiving?