Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the year, count your blessings, and celebrate in the midst of family and friends. But once the pie is polished off and the dishes are done, somehow we’re moving from preparation, to celebration and back again, all the way until January! It can be easy to lose grip on what we were celebrating in the first place. Here are some ways for your vibrant parish to stay thankful all year long.
Appreciate Your Parishioners
When was the last time your parishioners heard that you were grateful for them? This can be a verbal affirmation or encouragement. It can also be shown in concrete acts of love. Host a “volunteer thank you” luncheon. Give a small gift to those who donated to your latest building campaign. If you’re the pastor or have a role in the parish office, write a note to your co-workers expressing your gratitude for who they are and what they bring to the team.
Adding a Gratitude Prayer to the General Intercessions
The Prayers of the Faithful follows a similar format each week – a litany of needs in the Church and the world. The General Instructions for the Roman Missal offers a guide for the intentions to be offered up – the needs of the Church, public authorities, those burdened by difficulty, and the local community. While it’s incredibly important to intercede together as a parish community, what about thanking God for the good He has done? It’s easy enough to add! Here are some suggestions:
- “In thanksgiving for 100 years of faithfulness in St. Matthias Parish, and blessings on the community as we celebrate our jubilee. We pray to the Lord …”
- “In thanksgiving for the firefighters battling the forest fires, and for the protection of all still in the path of the blaze. We pray to the Lord …”
- “In thanksgiving for a successful winter coat drive, and for all the homeless in our community, that they may experience warmth and shelter this winter. We pray to the Lord …”
Offer Tools for Families
Gratitude is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The more we choose to let God into a moment, the more we can foster a habit of being. Gratefulness is something we can all work on. It’s especially important to sow the seeds of this attitude when children are young. But this doesn’t just come from telling kids to “be more grateful.” We need concrete actions to build habits.
Here’s one: how about a “giving thanks” jar? Decorate a mason jar together – or have your children each work on their own – and keep little pieces of paper on hand. At dinner or bedtime, have family members say something they’re thankful for, write it down, and put it in the jar. At the end of the week or month, empty out the jar and take a “grateful” walk down memory lane!
Promote hands-on activities in the religious education classroom, or compile some ideas to share with parents in the bulletin. Check out this list and this one too for more inspiration.
Take Inspiration from Other Initiatives
You might not feel like your parish needs “one more program,” but there’s a lot of inspiration out there for new ideas. There’s a template (and 21 day challenge!) for complaint-free churches . There’s a gratitude assessment quiz , with tailored advice for people who report different levels of thankfulness. You can find detailed advice about keeping a gratitude journal . No one tool is the perfect answer for fostering gratitude, but these might spark your creativity for something simple and stretching for your parishioners.
Thanksgiving may come just one day in 365, but the habit of gratitude can last all year! How does your vibrant parish foster thankfulness?