November is the perfect time of year to teach a lesson on thankfulness as many families gather together for Thanksgiving. There are several wonderful ways to combine the traditions of this holiday with what God’s word says about gratitude. We hope this article will be useful in giving you a few ideas as you plan for your Thanksgiving Sunday School lesson! Let’s explore the 10 must-haves for this season of Thanksgiving.
Must-Have #1: A Thanksgiving Harvest!
What is Thanksgiving without a bountiful harvest? Hosting a meal is a tangible way to show kids an example of what they can be thankful for. A few fun ideas are to include a table full of pre-peeled and cooked potatoes that kids can help mash up, a table full of freshly picked peas that kids can learn to pod, (most kids prefer fresh peas to cooked anyway!), or a table full of pre-peeled and baked apples that kids can help make into apple sauce! This hands-on experience is a wonderful way to help them see the true fruits of their labor and experience learning where food comes from. Whatever you choose, include that food later in a snack or Thanksgiving feast!
Must-Have #2: A "God is Provider" Bible Lesson
Explore how God is the provider of all things through a Bible lesson. Some excellent Scriptures to use are Genesis 1, where God created everything; Genesis 45-50, where God provided for Joseph and his family during a famine; and Exodus 16, where God provided food for the starving Israelites. These verses will help children see that there is something to be thankful for - a God who provides!
Must-Have #3: A Grateful List
Provide an opportunity for kids to think about what they are grateful for. Write a list as a whole class, give kids individual cards to write down what they’re thankful for, or provide an activity where kids can draw what they are thankful for.
One fun way to encourage gratitude is to have children team up and play Pictionary, where they draw and guess what each other is grateful for.
Must-Have #4: A Thankful Prayer
A common occurrence in the Christian faith is a thankful prayer before mealtimes. Thanksgiving is an opportune time to teach about prayer in your Children’s Ministry and to invite kids to practice praying.
After exploring what they are grateful for, take the time to pray and thank God for what He has provided. Pray in small group settings, provide a moment of silence for kids to pray after you pray out loud, or go around in a circle as a large group and let each kid say one thing that they are thankful for to God!
Must-Have #5: A Thanksgiving Game (Or Two!)
There are many fun Thanksgiving-themed games to choose from, and a lot are posted online and easily found. A fun new game you could try is called “Can you Collect it All?” This game helps children to see just how much God provides for them.
"Can You Collect It All?"
How to Play
Fill the center of the room with items representative of 7 categories of God's providence: clothing, shelter, animals, plants, sustenance, people, and air. These items could be a stuffed toy (for animals), a cotton t-shirt (for clothing), a bottle of water (for sustenance), a photo of a loved one (for people), etc.
Split the children into several teams. The object of the game is to get one item from all 7 categories. Write down the 7 categories clearly for the kids to see and explain that they can only grab one item at a time. Students will have to run to the middle, grab one item, and run it back to their station. The next teammate can then run and grab another item from another category.
Start a timer for just 1 minute. Help the kids keep track of their items and the 7 categories as they play the game. Make the game more challenging for the second round by shortening the time.
To make it really challenging, you can have one less item for some of the categories than there are teams so that it isn’t just the time that runs out but also the items!
Must-Have #6: A Thanksgiving Craft
One must-have is a beautiful craft for kids to take home or to display at church as decoration. A unique and fun craft for Thanksgiving is creating corn mosaics. There are a few approaches you could take to this:
- You could use actual flint corn which is multi-colored corn. This would need to be purchased already off of the cob or you would need to remove it ahead of time before the lesson. In this case, you can use glue and cardstock paper and allow kids to create their own mosaic of something they are thankful for.
- You can get white cattle corn and use food coloring to dye it ahead of time. This will allow for more color options than the natural-colored corn such as green or hot pink.
- You can use yellow and green beads or multi-colored and green beads and have kids glue them to cardstock and create the shape of an ear of corn with the words “God provides for me” at the top of the paper.
Must-Have #7: A Thanksgiving Charitable Collection
As you prepare for your Thanksgiving Bible lesson, plan ahead with a month-long charitable collection for children to participate in giving items to those in need. Offering a collection is a positive and tangible way of helping kids learn the importance of giving to others. When you teach about thankfulness, kids will begin to realize just how much they truly have and can be grateful for.
Some great collections you can arrange include
- A collection of canned goods that won’t spoil
- A coat and blanket drive for the upcoming cold months
- A fundraiser for a local non-profit organization to help the less fortunate in your community
Must-Have #8: Don’t Forget the Thanksgiving Turkey!
You might get away with doing a lesson on thankfulness without a turkey, but why would you want to?
In our country and culture, the turkey has become a symbol of the Thanksgiving Feast! There are quite a few ways to incorporate this “gobbling” guy into Sunday School. Here are just a few:
- Take kids on a “turkey hunt” in a game scenario where they have to track down a turkey following turkey footprints with Bible verses attached.
- Do a new version of the Hokey Pokey by putting your turkey tail in and your beak out, your wing in, and lay an egg out!
- Finally, play a new game called, “Catch the Flying Turkey Feathers” by using a large pile of colored feathers, a fan to blow them around, and fun moving music such as The Chicken Dance!
Must-Have #9: Worship Music
As you decide on what worship music to play, ponder that worship is a spirit of gratitude towards God. It is a reflection of the amazing things God has done and our chance to praise Him for it! We can lift up our voices and hands in thanksgiving for what Jesus has done on the cross! A beautiful way to truly celebrate in worship is going the extra mile this Thanksgiving service and handing out tambourines, maracas, colorful ribbons, and drums to let kids make a joyful noise!
Must-Have #10: Take Homes for the Thanksgiving Table
Hand-outs and take-homes are often highly appreciated by parents. Not only do they give kids something fun to create at home, but they also can be a wonderful way to decorate the Thanksgiving table this year. Preparing cutouts for kids to take home and glue together or even purchasing an easy-to-make to-go craft to hand out at pick-up time can be an extra special surprise for the kids.
Some fun ideas you can prepare include “What are you thankful for?” place-setting cards, or a turkey table centerpiece for kids to create. We included a list of supplies and instructions for the turkey creation below!
Turkey Table Centerpiece
- 1 piece of brown construction paper
- 1 small circle of brown construction paper
- 1 pine cone
- 1 piece of cattle corn
- 2 googly eyes
- 1 short piece of red ribbon
- (Supplies you will need at home: Tape and Glue)
- Turn brown construction paper horizontally and fold it into a fan. Tape the bottom of the fan to hold it together or ask an adult to staple it.
- Next, glue the pine cone to the bottom of the fan and let it sit to dry. (You may need extra sticky glue such as wood glue or hot glue that a parent should help you with.)
- Once it is dry, glue the brown circle at the top of the pine cone as a head, glue googly eyes on the circle, and corn as a beak.
- Glue red ribbon as gizzard under the beak.
- Use it as a Thanksgiving Decoration!