As our worship team began planning for Thanksgiving, we realized we wanted to do more than offer a one-time Thanksgiving service. We wanted the congregation to think about what they were thankful for through the whole Thanksgiving season, and we also wanted them to think about how they could give back to God. This series was started six weeks before Thanksgiving.
This service is full of worshiper participation, including lay readers, instrumentalists, lots of congregational singing, and the opportunity for congregants to write their own prayers of thanksgiving. Each bulletin includes one or two slips of paper printed with the words “I am thankful for . . .” Worshipers are invited to complete the sentence. These slips are gathered as a second offering, organized to avoid too much duplication, and then brought to the pastor, who incorporates them into the congregational prayer.
This service centers on the theme of giving thanks for country, church, and children. Each of the three sections features a litany, meditation, and prayer that involve a number of participants from the congregation.
Invitation to Worship
This morning we enter a time of worship with these words from Paul, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:18). No matter what circumstances come our way, we have much for which to be thankful. As you prepare your hearts for worship this morning, praise the Lord for who he is and thank God for all his blessings.
Prelude, Slide Show with Bible Verses
Gathering Song: “Come, All You People, Praise Our God” PsH 242
As people entered the church, they were given a leaf-shaped piece of paper and a pen. During the service they were asked to write a thanksgiving item on the leaf; during the offering they were invited to place their leaves on an artificial “tree” spiked with lots of nails for hanging the leaves.
On Thanksgiving Day many churches offer a very traditional worship service: Psalm 100, a litany of thanksgiving, “Come, You Thankful People, Come.” On a day when we look back with gratitude at God’s good gifts to us, it makes sense to make use of the work and wisdom of our forebears and to worship using that which is tried and true. Other congregations seek innovation: pilgrim puppets behind the pulpit, prayers of thanks colored (not written) in crayon on scraps of paper and dropped in the offering plate.