To many, church on Thanksgiving signals the official start of the holiday season. Families gather around tables full of home cooked food, uniting with friends and loved ones to remember life’s blessings. Many have traditions they enjoy, and with good reason. Traditions help us mark and celebrate the passage of time while giving us comforting, familiar touch points that remain the same each year.
Though there are many people in your church and community who have an abundance of Thanksgiving traditions to celebrate, there are likely just as many who will feel alone and adrift at the start of the holidays. This is a wonderful opportunity for your church to step in and practice generosity and hospitality. You have the chance to help people who are hurting at a particularly tender time of year.
We’ve rounded up a few ways your church can celebrate Thanksgiving through service to others. Find an option that works well for your church and community, and pray that God uses your church to bless others this Thanksgiving.
1. Offer an airport shuttle
People who are far from home may have the opportunity to fly to visit family over Thanksgiving. However, paying for transportation to the airport or for long-term parking can be expensive. You can bless people in your church and community by offering an airport shuttle service in the days leading up to and after Thanksgiving. A shuttle ride is a blessing in itself, but it also gives volunteer drivers from your church a chance to connect with passengers, learn a little about their lives, and wish them a blessed Thanksgiving.
2. Host a community meal
Host a community Thanksgiving meal for people in your neighborhood who might not have another place to go. Some churches host meals for the homeless in their cities, others focus on low-income families, elderly people without family nearby, or those far from home (college students, military members etc.). Depending on the scope of your budget and the available space you have, you can focus on one of these groups, or have a blend of several. If you really want to go big, consider teaming up with other churches, ministries, or nonprofits in your town to up the scale of your dinner.
3. Coordinate pie parties
Organize pie baking parties amongst people in your church. This could be small groups, Sunday school classes, or a blend of volunteers. People gather together to prepare and bake homemade pies, then venture out to give the pies away to people in need of some Thanksgiving joy. Pies could go to homebound elderly folks or those in nursing homes, to single parents, first responders, teachers in schools, or anyone else your church would like to show love and appreciation to. This is a great way to bring people in your church together for fellowship while also blessing the larger community around you.
4. Launch a food drive
This classic outreach idea is a great way to get your church involved in supporting those in need over the holidays. Partner with a local food bank to determine their greatest needs, then ask your church members to donate accordingly. Start in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and update your congregation on how much has been donated. Food banks often receive more donations around Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of year. Contributions are important, but consider asking your food bank partner how your church can support them year round.
5. Volunteer at a food bank
This option works well in tandem with launching a food drive at your church. With the influx of donations during the holiday season, many food banks need extra help sorting, organizing, and distributing donations. Gather volunteer teams from your church and work with your food bank partner to find out when they need help. It’s a great option to have members of your church serve together while blessing a ministry partner and people in need in your community.
We hope these ideas encourage your church to get involved in serving your community this Thanksgiving! Serving together is a great reminder of all we have to be grateful for, and gives us the chance to extend the love and hope of Christ to people who need it.