Do you want your thanksgiving gathering to include, well, giving thanks?

We all love sharing turkey, fixings and pumpkin pie around with family and friends followed by the annual turkey bowl. But too often we forget to plan a few moments to focus on the purpose of the holiday. Choose one or several of these ideas to help your family enjoy fun Thanksgiving traditions while expressing thanks to God for His many blessings.

If you don’t have a church home, we would love for you to join us for an upcoming worship service to help foster an ongoing spirit of thanksgiving in your home.



Designate a particular tablecloth for your family Thanksgiving celebrations. Provide fabric markers where guests can record their “gratitudes” or special prayers for the year ahead. Ask your guests to sign and date each message, as you’ll be using the same tablecloth year after year.


Set up an area with paper, pens and colors for everyone to write thank you notes to someone who has blessed them in some way this year. They can thank family members, friends, or teachers. They can also write a thank you to God. Younger children can draw pictures. Let everyone who wishes read their notes aloud during the meal.


Play a fun game with the ABC’s and thanks. Start with saying something that you are thankful for that starts with the letter “A” and go through all the letters of the alphabet. Have members take turns or have each person share a “thanks” for each letter.


Write each person’s name across the top of a card.

Set these cards out and have everyone write something about that person for which they are thankful on the back. During dessert, gather the cards and take turns reading and blessing each person at the table.


As guests arrive, have each person write a few things that they are grateful for on small sheets of paper. Make your own special roll recipe or bake pre-packaged crescent rolls.

Place the papers on the dough wedges, roll them up into the crescent shape and follow the baking directions. When the rolls are served, pass them around and enjoy the moment as each guest tears into their hot roll and reads what someone else at the table is grateful for. Have fun guessing who wrote each “thanks.”


Help younger children (and their parents!) anticipate giving thanks with this simple, fun game:

  1. Gather the children or entire family together before sitting down for the meal to enjoy a game designed to emphasize why we give thanks.
  2. If you own the game “Hungry Hungry Hippos” get it ready. If not, create your own version by placing about 20-30 marbles on a large paper plate and giving each player a spoon with which they will pick up the marbles.
  3. As the children anticipate starting the game, pause and invite the oldest child to read I Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
  4. Afterwards ask the following questions:
    • Q: What is God’s will for us? A: To give thanks.
      Q: Why do we give thanks? A: To experience joy.
  5. Tell the children that one of the most important ways we fill our hunger for joy is to give thanks for the blessings God has given.
  6. Now play several rounds of “Hungry Hungry Hippos”or “Marbles and Spoons” where the children try to gobble or pick-up as many as they can. The winner is the person who has the most balls or marbles at the end of the round.
  7. Now, turn each child into a real “winner” by inviting them to share one thing for which they are thankful for each ball or marble they retrieved. Emphasize that the more thanks we give the more our “joy tanks” fill up! Play as many rounds as you can until the meal is served.
  8. Memorize and Recite Together: “Giving Thanks – Fills Our Tanks”


Extend the spirit of thanksgiving to others in one of these ways…

  • DINE IN: Consider inviting someone that might be alone or needy to share the bounty at your Thanksgiving celebration. Invite them to join your family for a meal and informal time spent playing games, doing puzzles, telling stories, singing or just hanging out together.
  • DELIVERY: Plan to cook double the amount of food that you need for your family. If you usually have family members make different items to bring to your feast, ask if they will double the recipe and bring in two separate dishes. Check with the church or local schools to find a family in need. Contact the family and let them know that you will be bringing them a Thanksgiving feast and arrange details for delivery. Either before or after enjoying your meal, pack up and deliver the food. Spend time praying with the family before you leave.


Northwoods has four physical campuses, each unique and serving a different area of our community. We also have an online campus. We hope you join us at one of our campuses this weekend.


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Northwoods is a church made up of a diverse and vibrant community of people, with campuses throughout Illinois. Find out more about what we believe, our leadership team, and ministries for the whole family.