Lesson: More than Turkey…Cultivating a Thankful Heart (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

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Lesson: More than Turkey…Cultivating a Thankful Heart (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
It is no secret that kids tend to have a short-sighted view of things — easily impatient and frustrated when results do not immediately appear. We encourage verbal gratitude at Thanksgiving time and for gifts, but do not always extend that attitude to daily life. Young and older children (and even adults!) can often use an extra little reminder to be thankful and to appreciate all that God has bestowed. He blesses us beyond what we can comprehend, and the least we can do is remember that and share it with others.
Lesson focus: We can be thankful for things large and small, and even for some unlikely blessings in life.

  • Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. -Colossians 4:2
  • Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
  • I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. -Psalm 9:1
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  -Philippians 4:6

Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)
Materials Needed: Popcorn; popsicle sticks; tissue and/or regular paper; small rocks or sand; cartons or containers; scarf or handkerchief.
Lesson Opening:
Popcorn relay…this could get messy! Start by having a relay race with a fall favorite. Have students form one or two lines (depending on how many there are; if one line it won’t be much contest but should still be fun) and sit or stand in the line. Give each student a cup, with the ones on the end having a larger cup. Have one end student scoop up a bunch of popcorn and pass it down, fire brigade-style, along the line until it reaches the other end. Continue doing this to see who finishes off their popcorn first (or if it’s just one line, until the popcorn is finished). Then sit down and enjoy some of the popcorn while discussing the activity…what was challenging about it? Maybe it was tough getting the big scoop of popcorn and having to transfer between smaller cups. Maybe a lot of it wound up on the floor. Well, sometimes our lives are like that. God gives us so many blessings, more than we can even realize. If we are not taking time to be grateful for those things or to focus on the beauty of each gift, we might miss it. We can’t understand all He gives, and sometimes we even throw away or neglect His blessings rather than appreciating them. But if we are watching carefully, we can “catch” all sorts of delights!
Bible Lesson:
Pass the “Thankerchief”! This game is sort of like a hot potato pass around. Using a scarf or hankie, go around the table passing an item while chanting a story sing-opsis of one who gave thanks:
“Ten little lepers came to Christ
He said He would heal them, wasn’t that nice?
Away went ten to be happy all their days
How many would return to give thanks and praise?”
Continue the song, gradually counting down the “away went” part until only one leper is left to give thanks. With each ending verse, whoever is holding the handkerchief on “praise” will share something they are thankful for. Others must be listening, though…the same item cannot be repeated! After this activity, take some time to consider the meaning of gratitude and why it is so important to give thanks. Invite students to share ideas about why they think it might be so essential. Who do we give thanks to? Sure, it is important to use our manners with people around us or write Grandma a thank-you note for a Christmas present. That’s always positive. But God doesn’t just need a thank you to justify His blessings or boost His own ego. If He needed us to accomplish His worth, how powerful would He be? No, God wants us to live lives of thanks partly for our own purpose. Notice the trend in our verses (read or have students look up the above verses. There are countless other great ones, including Philippians 1:3, Isaiah 51:3, Jeremiah 30:19, and many from Psalms). God wants us to always give thanks, and that gratitude is often coupled with prayer. That gratitude and appreciation enhance our lives, and so does prayer. When we pray, we are growing closer to God and allowing him to share in our joys and in our sorrows.
Speaking of sorrow, thanksgiving is not just for happy things. We can give thanks and be grateful even when trials come our way. Biblical leaders like Paul and Peter and David were able to give thanks even with terrible circumstances, knowing that God could use them too. Suffering is not fun, but with a Godly mindset we can be grateful for the thorns as well as the roses. Think about the words of James:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  –James 1:2-3

So when and why and how can we give thanks? Always, and for anything! It’s about a whole lot more than a turkey…
We will be making a little “gratitude garden” to consider things we are thankful for and remember to constantly offer gratitude up to God. These crafts will serve as a reminder and visual aid to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. We can be joyful every day, not just on Thanksgiving! Here are some variations on how to create the garden…

  • Use egg cartons, small cups, or Tupperware containers filled with beads or rice. Help students stick in popsicle sticks with cut paper “flowers” or tissue paper flowers on top. On the flowers, write categories such as “food,” “family member,” “something special that happened today,” “friend,” etc.
  • Decorate small flower pots and add sticks with paper flowers or tissue flowers. Consider using real soil or pebbles as filler. Come up with examples and/or more advanced categories like “when I feel anxious, I ask God for…”
  • Instead of flowers, make a “garden” in a shoe box or multi-compartmented container and use different artificial foods, seed packets, or stick-up labels to describe what thankful items are being mentioned.

Attach a Bible verse and some directions for using the gratitude garden: Display it somewhere visible at home, and take out the flowers to admire and contemplate. Each flower has an open-ended category and as you fill in the blanks of blessings, consider how thankful you are that God is so good and has richly bestowed wonderful things in your life! J
Close with prayer and thanks to God for all He does. Ask for help in remembering to live a life of gratitude, and to continually thank God and His people for our many blessings.

1 thought on “Lesson: More than Turkey…Cultivating a Thankful Heart (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)”

  1. Your ministry-to-children blesses me as a senior adult also. I am able to explain Biblical principles to young students because of your excellent teaching examples and creative ideas. Thank you.

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