Thanks to Traci Smith for sharing this Great Idea.
Traci Smith invites the whole congregation to get on board with an all-church gratitude practice.
She has a licensed, copyrighted calendar and tree bundle for purchase – easy-peasy for those who love the idea and don’t want to have to think any more about it.
If purchasing a calendar for everyone is outside your budget, but you somehow have time, you might create your own.
Here’s a blank calendar for the month of November, 2023.
You can add prompts particular to your context by inviting people to complete the phrase with their own specific gratitude: “I am grateful for…
- A particular family member/church friend/neighbor…
- A particular lake/river/body of water…
- A particular stranger…
- A particular coworker/school personnel
You can generate as particular or general a list as you desire – from colors to music to people to creation. Choose one particularity for each day in November; add the prompts to the blank calendar; then invite people to write or draw their gratitude on a leaf (we’ve got a die-cutter you can use at The Ministry Lab – BYO paper!).
Leaves might be left at home:
- attach each leaf with a twist tie or twine to a small branch in a bottle or stand
- take photos of Gratitude Tree as it grows each week
- invite households to share their weekly photos on social media – along with either the prompts and/or their list of gratitudes for the week
- choose one photo each week to share on the congregation’s website
Leaves might be brought to the congregation:
- gather individual leaves in worship (during an Offering? Or Prayers?)
- invite congregation to tie them to a larger ‘tree’/branch, filling the tree out in a reverse of regular autumnal leaf activity
- continue to add gratitudes weekly until Thanksgiving
- observe how gratitudes grow/expand/multiply
If you host a Thanksgiving Eve gathering, incorporate the Gratitude Tree in some way:
- invite a resident poet to create a poem from all of the words; share the poem in worship as a Reading
- create a word cloud
- here’s a free tech option
- or hand-make it with multi-media for an all-congregation hands-on, in-worship activity
- share individual words as Prayers of Thanksgiving
- sprinkle lists or groupings of gratitudes throughout the service:
- Call to Worship might include specific people who are there in spirit but not in person
- Thanksgiving for Baptism might include specific bodies of water
- Share a poem (see above) as one of the Readings
- Prayers of the People might include natural elements or neighbors/people
- Benediction/Blessing/Sending might include local/neighborhood features
Naming a gratitude a day may prove to bond the congregation in a growing awareness of God’s presence, provision, and abundance. This practice can also expand awareness of the environment and surrounding community. Both of these outcomes work together to develop resilience and joy. So share a gratitude a day and create space for a deeper, more grounded celebration and experience of Thanksgiving.