This past Thanksgiving, we gathered with family, ate a meal and took a few minutes to express our thanks. Then we moved on with talking, eating, watching football, napping…and eating again.
We have so much for which to be grateful. I fear, though, that we too often limit our expressions of thanksgiving to only this day. Because the Apostle Paul tells us to “give thanks in everything” (1 Thess 5:18), we need to practice thanksgiving. Here are some practical ways to build thanksgiving into your leadership role.
1. Handwrite thank-you notes. Frankly, it was my wife who convinced me of the importance of this task. An email is acceptable, but a personally handwritten note somehow raises the significance of the “thank you.” Take the time to write something—it won’t be a waste of your time.
2. Make a monthly thank-you call. Somebody in your life deserves a “thank you” from you. Again, an email might be the more common expression of thanks today, but God gives us voices to communicate. Each month, find somebody for whom a phone call of thanksgiving will mean much. Use the phone, and have a conversation. You might even find that a phone call takes less time than writing an email.
3. Surprise your spouse with another “Thanksgiving Day.” Everybody expects to celebrate Thanksgiving in November, but few people will be ready for an undeclared day of thanksgiving. Choose another day during the year (and NOT your anniversary or your spouse’s birthday), and show your gratitude for your spouse’s love and support.
4. Write a thank-you letter to your children. Depending on their age, they might react differently to this letter. Young ones might not fully understand its significance, though they’ll likely be glad to hear you read it to them. Teens might think it to be weird (at least publicly), but they might also cherish it privately. Give your children something to keep for the rest of their lives.
5. Spend one day a week in thanksgiving prayer. Choose one day, and pray only thanksgiving prayers throughout the day. Begin this way, “Lord, thank you for this new day. Thank you that I have life today,” and then thank God for everything throughout the day. I promise you won’t exhaust your reasons to be grateful.
6. Send a thank-you card to people who have positively influenced your life. The possibilities are numerous: your parents, a teacher, a Scout leader, a pastor, a small group leader, a mentor, the person who did your premarital counseling, a boss, a neighbor, etc. Think about sending one card per month. Schedule it. Write it. Send it. Bless somebody else with a simple card.
7. Sponsor a thank-you break for your co-workers. It’s easy to do, and it’s not costly. Get the boss’ approval (of course, you might be the boss), order a few snacks and surprise your co-workers with a 20-minute unexpected break. Taking time to express your gratitude for them will make their day.
8. Get involved in a ministry to needy people. Christians often help the needy during the holidays, but the needs continue throughout the year. Find a ministry in which your family can participate regularly. Help your children to see that many other people do not have all the blessings many of us have. Teach them to be grateful for a roof, a meal, a shower and clean clothes—and you lead the way in expressing gratitude.
9. Start a thank-you journal. I am not typically a journaler, but this type of journaling does not take much time. Keep a small journal handy, and simply write down the things for which you are thankful throughout the day. Pay special attention to God’s answering prayers or moving in unexpected ways. Be sure to share your thanksgivings with someone at least once a week so God alone gets the glory.
10. Take the Lord’s Supper regularly. Your congregation may already do so. If so, be sure to attend. Use the time as genuine reflection on the death of Christ until He comes again. Allow this church ordinance to grip you with thanksgiving. Live in light of that gratitude by choosing obedience over sin, sacrifice over self-centeredness and grace over unforgiveness.