The end of November brings a holiday celebrated across America. No matter what religion, race, or demographic, people come together to celebrate friends, family, and all that they are grateful for. While not religious in nature, Thanksgiving is a time for churches to share the Christian message by reaching out to the community. It’s a great season to consider ways you can support and encourage those less fortunate or going through hard times in your community.
If you serve in a church, read through this list of ways your congregation can implement various outreach opportunities this Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Outreach Opportunities
Include International Students
One demographic that often goes unnoticed during the Thanksgiving holiday is international college students. College campuses clear out, and most students head home to their families. Unfortunately, international students are often unable to travel home for the short break and spend Thanksgiving Day alone. The Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Baton Rouge realized this trend and partnered with local churches to host a Thanksgiving meal for international LSU students.
You can implement this within your own congregation. Reach out to members and set up host families who are willing to invite students to join them for a Thanksgiving meal in their home.
Fill A Bag, Feed A Family
Pakachoag Church of Auburn, MA hosted this Thanksgiving mission opportunity last year. Congregants picked up bags throughout November and filled them with non-perishable food items from the recommended list. They then delivered the packed bags throughout the community to families who would not have had a Thanksgiving meal otherwise.
Wife of former Pastor John Helme of Grace Baptist Church recalls a Thanksgiving when her family received a bag through this mission. As a mom to seven children, money was tight, and this event blessed her family immensely. Fill A Bag, Feed A Family is a great mission because it serves as both a holiday outreach as well as an aid to those struggling within your own congregation.
Host a Thanksgiving Gratitude Service
Host a special service that focuses on gratitude for what the Lord is doing in the congregation and community. Many churches host this service on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but you can host it the Sunday before or even on Thanksgiving morning. Encourage members to invite neighbors and friends to service, followed by a time of fellowship. Serve pie and coffee. Yum! During the service, you can encourage members to share testimonies and how they are grateful for the ways the Lord has worked through their lives and blessed them even in the midst of trials. Be sure to live stream the service so that those traveling can still attend.
Another way you can incorporate outreach and service is by hosting a food drive. If you need direction on how to implement this, check out this Canadian congregation who hosted a food drive the Sunday before Thanksgiving to bless those less fortunate.
Plan a Day of Service
Host a classic Thanksgiving outreach opportunity for a specific reason. One of the most beneficial ways to reach your community is to meet them right where they are. Identify needs that they may have and enlist members of the congregation to step up and serve. Your church may participate in this holiday outreach project all November long and well into December. It’s also a great way to get students involved in your outreach ministries. Use the time during school break to setup day-long service projects for students.
When planning Thanksgiving outreach programs, you don’t have to do anything overly elaborate or expensive. Find areas in which members of your community are struggling and develop ways you can meet those needs. Simply inviting someone in for a meal is all it takes to get a conversation about Jesus started.
If you’re looking for even more resources on outreach, church leadership, and beyond, be sure to check out the Church Relevance Course Shop.
After living overseas, Ashley DeKock developed a passion for ministry and writing, which she loves to incorporate into each of her projects. She holds a bachelors and masters degree in communications and finds great joy in learning people’s life stories. Currently residing in Oklahoma, she and her husband have one daughter and are continuing to grow their family through adoption.