Great Idea: Thanksgiving Worship that Lets the People Preach


Dear Ones:

It’s a simple, memorable worship idea from a small congregation.  And it’s been lavishly practiced and adapted by others to become a beloved Thanksgiving tradition.

Here’s how it works. Start with Matthew 6:25-33 (“lilies of the field”) or another thanksgiving scripture. Then, in place of the usual Thanksgiving Sunday sermon, let the people preach. Invite worshipers to bring an object that signifies something they are deeply grateful for. During worship, they will place it at the altar with a brief explanation. Like this, “I’m grateful for ___________ because _____________.”

The key, of course, is to start communicating early. Well in advance. And often. Remember your practical ministry tools. Plan, then badger, then love whatever happens. Call your pastor or lay leader today to get started.

The following request can go out in bulletins, emails, texts, FaceBook posts. It even works spoken on the phone or in person.

Read Matthew 6:25-33.

On Sunday, November 21st, bring an object that reminds you of God’s goodness—a sign of something you give thanks for. It can be a picture, a paper, a tool, a plant, a treasured belonging . . . anything that captures your gratitude.

In place of the usual sermon, each of us will place our object at the altar.  Then name what we are grateful for. In a sentence or two. It’s that simple. 

“I’m grateful for ________ because _________.”

This works especially well after a big, shared experience—like serving a Thanksgiving meal together or partnering with a community organization to load baskets of food.

Pastors should avoid the urge to curate the event with lots of their own words. Start the sharing. Then let the people work. Add your own object along the way. As one of the working people. 

Don’t insist on everyone presenting something. But provide a craft table in the back for visitors or forgetters to make a sign of their gratitude.

Decorate your chancel area with finest linens, shiniest drapes, and the brightest cross. You might need to add a small table for objects in front of the altar—close and accessible to all the people. Then let the accumulation of gratitude objects reveal the messy mystery of how the High Holy lives Right Here. 

Offer to collect and include objects for those who are homebound. Share their words with and for all worshipers.

Take a picture of the finished altar as a remembrance for future years. Deliver it to anyone who could not be present. Give thanks with them, too.

Share your worship stories. I cherish the conversations.

Thanks for your ministry,


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