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Thanksgiving Planning Guide for Churches

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away! In the midst of preparing for the meals and family get-togethers, it’s surprisingly easy to let the day come and go without taking time to pause, reflect, and actually give thanks. This struggle can be magnified for pastors, church administrators, and volunteers who are trying to balance preparations at home with preparations taking place at church!

In order to help you and your congregation members prepare your hearts and minds for Thanksgiving, we’ve compiled some ways to foster thankfulness in the days and weeks leading up to the holiday.

Devotional Practices in Preparation for Thanksgiving

During this hectic time, it may be helpful to pause and reflect upon the reason for Thanksgiving celebrations in the Church. What separates our Christian celebration of Thanksgiving from the rest of the world is our focus on the One to whom we give thanks: the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even on Thanksgiving, the main focus of worship remains on the Giver of all good gifts, rather than our response to these gifts. As you prepare to enter the Lord’s house on Thanksgiving, take time daily to remind yourself of the Means of Grace, God’s gifts in His Word, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper.

One way to refocus during the days leading up to Thanksgiving is to encourage thankfulness in prayer and personal devotions. Hymnals, like Lutheran Service Book, are a great resource to help keep everyone at your congregation on the same page for their daily devotions and Scripture readings. If you’re looking for a place to start, we recommend using the orders of daily prayer (pp. 294–98) and the daily lectionary (pp. 299–304).

Prayer in Preparation for Thanksgiving

In the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, many have found it helpful to daily offer up specific prayers of thanks for the different gifts that God has given.

When prayers start and end in the Word of God, thankfulness abounds. If you’re not sure how to fill up a whole four weeks with prayers of thanks, here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Focus on giving thanks for the work of each person of the Trinity. Praise God for His creating work, His redeeming work, and His sanctifying work.
  • Select a different petition of the Lord’s Prayer to focus on for each day of the week. Thank God for His promises to hear and answer prayer.
  • Give thanks for the institutions God has put in place and those who serve in those institutions. Thank God for the government and all civil authorities, for your church and pastor, for families, for your father, mother, spouse, or children.

Check out pages 2–5 of our Thanksgiving preparation guide for more information on each of these ideas and for a complete schedule of prayer and hymn ideas for the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving!

Planning for Thanksgiving Worship

In addition to personal preparation, there are a lot of tasks the church office needs to complete when planning for Thanksgiving worship. Banners are hung, bulletins are prepared, and special music is rehearsed.

Whether you are a pastor, church administrator, musician, or volunteer, getting ready for Thanksgiving can create an added layer of stress on top of your Advent and Christmas preparations. Planning ahead now will help eliminate some of the last-minute stress and help you to focus on the worship service itself when Thanksgiving Day comes.

Responding in Thankfulness with Acts of Mercy

Many congregations may choose to hold a food drive, special meal, or other outreach event in the days surrounding Thanksgiving. Although this event may not take place until after Thanksgiving Day, preparations start well in advance. The church office makes promotional flyers, bulletin blurbs, or social media announcements asking for food donations. Ministry leaders work hard to identify people inside and outside of the congregation who might be in need of assistance during this time. Volunteers are to be recruited and scheduled to work in shifts for preparing and distributing food.

Coordinating all these moving pieces can also be a challenge, so outline a planning schedule well in advance to help eliminate some of the last-minute stress. If you haven’t created an event planning strategy yet, be sure to check out page 7 in our Thanksgiving preparation guide for some ideas on getting started.

We hope this post has given you some ideas in preparing for Thanksgiving at your congregation. To learn more, click on the link below to download the preparation guide than can be used in your church office and devotional guide that can be shared with the members of your congregation!

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