It is a hallmark of Christianity: gratitude, giving thanks, showing appreciation for all that we have and the wonderful world God gave us. Gratitude journals and lists are all the rage in popular culture, but how often do we plan expressing gratitude or thankfulness as an activity of the church?
Here are several ideas for bringing people together in the joyous practice of gratitude.
POST ON FACEBOOK
Use your church's Facebook page to post what your church is thankful for. A custodian? The choir? Your soup kitchen volunteers? An historic sanctuary? The new parking lot? Post daily Bible verses about giving thanks or mindfulness: "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Ask Facebook friends to add a word or photo every day of the month or week. Create a web page of members' thankful thoughts and share a little more grace on your church's website.
- TWEET YOUR THANKS
Post what you are thankful for on your own Twitter account. Your staff? Your annual conference? Your child? It is a great way to spread a spirit of gratefulness and for others to get to know you a little better. Challenge pastor friends, staff members or others to tweet thanks as well. Tag them in a note of appreciation.
- ASK THE KIDDOS
Children's perspectives provide excellent food-for-thought for adults and kids alike. As a Sunday school project, have children draw pictures of people or pets for which they are thankful. Ask them to bring photos or images cut from a magazine of things they appreciate and ask them why they are grateful.
- INITIATE GRATEFUL GROUPS
Sometimes when adults get together, we can focus on the problems - oops, challenges - we have. It is easy to complain about what is not going well. What if you started a meeting by asking everyone to share something that is going right? Perhaps plan a meeting or Sunday school class around gratitude - only. If you host dinner clubs or small groups, ask each member to share what they appreciate most in life in place of saying grace. Let gratitude be your prayer.
- POST IT - OLD SCHOOL
Not everyone is on Facebook. As an added visual for your office, clear a bulletin board or put up a presentation board for "thank you notes." Write "What are you thankful for?" at the top, put out lots of large sticky notes and some pens and see what happens.
- THANK A SOLDIER OR SHUT-IN
Churches are often a main connection to community for members who cannot be physically present in the congregation. Visits or phone calls are wonderful, but consider sending a note expressing your thankfulness for them. Someone who is ill or not able to be there to lend a hand will know their membership, prayers and support are still needed and appreciated.
- THANK YOUR STAFF
Have you told them lately that you love them? Make it official with a card or note.
- THANK GOD
Gratitude is an amazing lens through which to view the world. When we focus on our blessings, we tend to be happier. When we realize how much we possess, we tend to be more thoughtful of those who have less. When we talk about the good together, we tend to appreciate each other more.
Being grateful is really about being more mindful of the abundance in our lives and how we can share it with others. This November, engage in gratitude. And, remember, it only takes about 30 days for a new practice to become a habit.
Thanks be to God!
Laurens Glass is a writer and digital media specialist for United Methodist News Service, a part of United Methodist Communications.