A thankful heart is a worshiping heart.
Psalm 100:4 reminds us to:
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.
As illustrated in this verse, the worship practices of the Israelites in the Old Testament involved thanksgiving. Which is why, even in the midst of the Last Supper, Jesus took time to lead the disciples in giving thanks. As the church began to form in the New Testament, the call for a life of thankfulness was reinforced.
It’s easy to be thankful at Thanksgiving time, but what about being thankful beyond Thanksgiving? And how can a worship leader/pastor lead the congregation in thankfulness and reinforce that value all year long?
By drawing on these planning suggestions throughout the year (and not just in the Thanksgiving service), it’s possible to continually lead people to be thankful.
Here are 8 worship service elements focused on giving thanks:
1) Have someone share a story or testimony about something they are thankful for. This can be done live or via video. It could be done through your newsletter or website. It doesn’t have to be long, but can be a special moment in your service.
2) Have people share short sentences of what they are thankful for. As part of the service, perhaps toward the beginning as a call to worship, encourage people to stand up and say something they are thankful for. I’ve found it’s good to let people know it’s coming as early in the service as possible so they aren’t caught off guard. If you haven’t done this kind of thing much, either, you might want to ask a few people to be ready to get things rolling. You can follow it up with a time of prayer or a song.
3) Encourage people to share something they are thankful for as they shake someone’s hand. Most churches include some type of greeting time near the beginning of the service. Instead of this just being random time, be intentional with it. Ask people to tell someone else what they are thankful for. This can be a non-threatening way to get people talking about spiritual things and learning about each other.
4) Sing songs focused on giving thanks. Again, these songs don’t have to be only sung at Thanksgiving time. While you might want to avoid songs that specifically mention the Thanksgiving holiday, there are many that draw out our thankfulness for God and what He has done. Forever by Chris Tomlin comes to mind.
5) Read Scriptures about the role of thanks and gratitude in our lives as part of the service. Scripture is a great way to reinforce important biblical and worship concepts. Include some of these at appropriate times in the worship seat or as a transition. Perhaps in connection with some of these other activities about why you are doing them. Psalm 100, Psalm 95:2, and 1 Thess 5:18 are good ones.
6) Have a way for people to write down their thanks and post or read them aloud. This is a variation on a theme, but provide pieces of paper or space on your welcome card for people to not only write prayer requests, but also what they are thankful for. Have a board where people can post them, or collect them and read a few at the end of a service during a ministry time. You could also encourage people to post items of thanks on the church’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.
7) Have a time of reflection or prayer focused on thanksgiving. This could follow a time of verbal thanksgiving or just be an element of service. Allow people to reflect on God, who He is, and what He has done. Invite people to pray silently, have some pray out loud, or have someone pray on behalf of the congregation. The idea is to have a time not focused on needs, but giving thanks to God.
8) Take Communion together. Hopefully your church does this anyway, but this is a great way to include thanksgiving. Our word “communion” comes from the word “Eucharist” which has meanings of thanksgiving and gratitude. Communion doesn’t have to be just about solemnly remembering what Christ did, but can (and should) include thanksgiving as well. Communion is an opportunity to reinforce this aspect of our lives.
I encourage you to use these ideas in your worship services throughout the year to help reinforce the value and importance of thanksgiving as Christians. Remember, a thankful heart is a worshiping heart. By developing hearts of thankfulness, we’ll also help develop hearts of worship.
How have you incorporated giving thanks in worship services throughout the year?