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Being thankful reaps health benefits as well as spiritual ones.  Photo by Carl Attard,

Photo by Carl Attard,

3 ways to encourage gratitude in the church


By Tricia Brown

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” — Cicero

According to University of Mississippi Medical Center chaplain Doris Whitaker, being thankful reaps health benefits as well as spiritual ones. The director of pastoral services explains, “Thankfulness releases us from anger and from materialism. It helps us acknowledge that there’s something greater than us.”

So, what are some easy ways to share gratitude? How can you help your church members express thankfulness in their lives and ministries?

Being thankful reaps health benefits as well as spiritual ones. TWEET THIS TWEET THIS

1. Recognize your blessings

The easiest way to glean gratitude out of life is to remember all the things for which you are thankful. Counting your blessings should be more than just a song.

  • Ask your members to check out this gratitude quiz.   
  • Set aside a few minutes of each service for offering a prayer of thanksgiving.
  • During worship, invite congregants to contemplate quietly the reasons they are thankful.
  • Set aside a special service where members can share testimonies of thanksgiving.
  • Take an offering of thanksgiving or create a blessing box. Ask attendees anonymously to write things for which they are thankful and place them in the box. Choose a few to share each week during the service.

2. Remember your remarks

Engaging your church with gratitude involves more than just words, but words are extremely important. You can help your church members develop hearts of thanksgiving by encouraging them to pay attention to their words.

  • Lead your congregation by taking the 21-day complaint-free church challenge.
  • Preach on thankfulness — year round. Promote thankful hearts, and hold each other accountable.
  • Encourage members to keep a journal of things for which they are thankful.
  • Teach your congregation about the gift of encouragement and model it. Say “thank you” often. Write notes of encouragement. When you want to complain, think of someone who has done something for you and make a conscious effort to thank that person as soon as possible.
  • As a church leader, use social media as a forum for appreciation and encourage your members to do so as well. Post or tweet affirmations of thanksgiving and gratitude.
  • Remind your congregation that thanksgiving should never end. Help them look for ways to include praise and thanksgiving as a regular part of their quiet time and prayer life.
  • Remember that sincere appreciation and gratitude go a long way towards winning friends and influencing people.
Take the 21-day complaint-free church challenge TWEET THIS TWEET THIS

3. Reach out to those in need

Therese Borchard, author of “9 Ways to Promote Gratitude in Your Life,” writes, “Service promotes gratitude more directly than any other path I know. Whenever I’m stuck in self-pity or depression, feeling personally victimized by the universe, the fastest way out of my head and into my heart is reaching out to someone who is in pain — especially similar pain.” The same is true for members of the church. Help your church develop hearts of gratitude by reaching out to others in need.

  • Teach your congregation about why and how United Methodists serve others.
  • Invite missionaries to speak at your church. If possible, ask them to show the congregation videos.
  • Provide a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for all ages of your congregation.
  • Encourage small groups to take field trips to various areas of your community and look for needs, and then brainstorm ways they might help.
  • Since giving really does promote gratitude, help create a joyful giving experience for your congregation.
  • Remind church members that they give because it is a way of showing gratitude for all God has given to them.

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Being thankful is more than just saying a few words of blessing over a meal or celebrating a once-a-year holiday. Encourage gratitude in your church. Thanksgiving should be a way of life.

Tricia Brown

Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.