The end of the year holiday season is always busy. If you’re in a time crunch, use this simple, straight-forward lesson plan during Thanksgiving. Biblical teaching along with correlating activities will set up your Sunday School time for success, and help kids remember to be thankful not only during the holiday, but all year long and in all circumstances.
A lesson around Thanksgiving time can mean only one thing…a lesson about being thankful! There are several directions you could go as you teach, but this particular lesson will be about being thankful no matter your circumstances. Some kids have easy lives, others are filled with more difficulty. Most are somewhere in between. Your hard and their hard are likely two different challenges, but hardships, nonetheless. In this Thanksgiving Sunday School lesson, the bottom line is that kids will learn they can give thanks to God in all circumstances.
Before really getting into the lesson, do a fun activity in which everyone can participate by answering “Would You Rather” questions. There are some great sites you can google to get fun lists of these questions, (here’s one: https://www.paperscissorscraft.com/wouldyouratherquestionsforkids/) or you can make them up yourself. Here are a few examples.
Would you rather eat pickled pigs’ feet or cow brains?
Would you rather swim in a pool full of chocolate or whipped cream?
Would you rather have ten spiders on you for one minute or one spider on you for ten minutes?
Would you rather live in the woods or by the ocean?
Would you rather do the dishes or sweep the floor?
Would you rather have the power to fly or the power of super strength?
After giving kids the chance to answer and discuss some questions, relate it to the topic of the day. Everything in life comes under a set of circumstances. Some are good and some are bad. No matter what your circumstances are, you can praise and thank God through them.
Key Verse and Scripture
There are numerous places in scripture that God says to praise him in good times and bad. For this lesson, the reading and focus will be on Psalm 34:1-3, as well as 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and remembering the circumstances which surrounded Paul’s life after he became a Christian.
Start your Biblical teaching by going to the Old Testament reference of Psalm 34:1-3. It says this, “I will thank the Lord at all times. My lips will always praise him. I will find my glory in knowing the Lord. Let those who are hurting hear me and be joyful. Join me in giving glory to the Lord. Let us honor him together. (NIrV)
Talk about how David wrote this Psalm as a reminder to praise and thank God at all times, in good times and bad. He says to have praise for God ready always on your lips. Often it may be easy to forget or even have negative things to say. We need the constant reminder to lift up praise to the Lord and let others hear it as well. Perhaps when someone sees you going through a rough time, yet still living a life of thankfulness, they will be encouraged.
Moving onto the New Testament, read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks no matter what happens. God wants you to thank him because you believe in Christ Jesus.” (NIrV) That is one powerful verse! Paul wrote this letter to the people in the Thessalonian church. When we think about where he was coming from, he certainly had experienced good and bad things in his life. He had great joy because of the work he was doing for the Lord, but at the same time, he had great sorrow because of many hardships. During Paul’s life and work, he was shipwrecked, beaten, and put into prison. Despite all of that, he still penned the words, “Give thanks no matter what happens.” And he meant it with every part of his being. He didn’t say give thanks only when things go your way or when you feel happy. He also answers the question as to why we are to thank God. It’s not just because we feel like it, but rather because we have Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 is a great verse for kids to commit to memory. Be sure you have them find this passage in their Bibles and read it together several times. Then, without looking, say a few words of the verse and see if they can fill in the blanks. Do this a few times, changing up which words you leave out.
After studying about being thankful in all circumstances and discussing what that means and looks like, ask a few questions to make sure your students are tracking. What are some things that David says about praising God? When does Paul say to give thanks? Why should you give thanks? When is a time you’ve been happy/sad and have still remembered to praise and thank God through it?
Play a simple game of Thankful Charades. Either have kids come up with things to act out on their own or write out some ideas ahead of time. You could easily write actions down on paper, cut them up and have kids draw them out of a hat. The charades should all be things that can be acted out and are things to be thankful for. Here are some ideas: family, friends, home, food, sports, and school. Remind kids that they can thank God for everything, even school and homework!
To reiterate that there is much to be thankful for, make an ABC Thankful List. To do this easy craft, everyone will need a piece of paper and a pencil or other writing utensil. Write down all the letters in the alphabet in list form. Then all together or in partners, come up with something that begins with each letter that is something to thank God for. For example, the letter A could stand for automobiles and B could stand for basketball. Encourage kids to take their paper home and look over it each day. Challenge them to pick three to four letters a day, saying a prayer to thank God specifically for those items.
Share a fun snack of M & M’s and add a lesson to it as your students enjoy the treat. There are six colors of M & M candies. For each color, kids should name a specific thing they are thankful for. Use the following list as a guide.
Brown – a family member
Red – a friend
Orange – something in nature
Yellow – something in their house
Green – something at their church
Blue – something that might not seem good (a bad circumstance)
Wrapping It Up
To finish up your Sunday School time together, do a quick recap. See if anyone can quote 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Ask for a few examples of what it looks like to thank God in all circumstances, both good and bad. Challenge kids to pray each day this week, being thankful to God, using their ABC Thankful List as a guide. End your time by having a volunteer pray and thank God for allowing you to learn more about being thankful.