Churches are gearing up for the holiday season, the period running from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day. For most churches, the plans are already in place. The sermon series are mapped out. The Christmas music has been selected. The special programs and services have been scheduled. It is a busy but fun time of year for church leaders.
For many churches, the holiday season is also a season of generosity. It is a time to meet needs and bless community members. Acts of generosity demonstrate the generous character of our God and provide opportunities for sharing the love of Jesus.
Acts of generosity demonstrate the generous character of our God and provide opportunities for sharing the love of Jesus.
What needs are churches meeting this Thanksgiving? Here are a few ways churches are impacting their community this Thanksgiving:
1. Providing Thanksgiving meals to families in need.
Thanksgiving Day often includes a shared meal with family and friends. However, there are those in the community who are not able to enjoy such a meal. Their finances are limited. To help less fortunate individuals and families, churches often provide the food necessary to hold a traditional Thanksgiving meal—turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and more.
At LaBelle Haven Baptist Church in Olive Branch, Mississippi, Pastor Dean Stewart asks church members and small groups to contribute specific food items for a Thanksgiving basket. These baskets are then given to struggling families in the community. Church members can also financially contribute $45 to cover the costs of an individual basket.
Some churches go beyond just the distribution of food. Pastor George Bailey of Shiloh Church in Oceanside, California emphasizes the need to distribute food, clothing, and toys to community members in need. They also encourage their church to participate in the work done by Toys for Tots, an organization that collects and distributes toys to less fortunate children during Christmas.
2. Partner with local schools and ministries.
Some churches choose to partner with local schools and nonprofits to help identify and meet the needs of their community. Churches may simply use this information to develop their own strategy or support an existing strategy by a school or non-profit.
Brandon Johnston from Coram Deo Church said their church completed a campaign to provide 1,700 pounds of food to a local non-profit. The non-profit sends backpacks of food home with elementary students. In addition, their church will gather supplies for gift baskets that will go to new mothers at a local pregnancy resource center.
In Bradenton, Florida, Pastor Sam Rainer has his church work with the local school system and local non-profits to identify families in need. The church provides turkeys and food baskets to the identified families.
3. Provide care kits for medical personnel.
During the height of the pandemic, the medical community worked tirelessly caring for the sick. The exhaustion and stress had an impact on the medical personnel and their families. Some churches are using Thanksgiving as a time to say “thank you” to nurses, doctors, and other hospital workers.
Daniel Riddick, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida wrote, “After (an) incredibly tough Covid season in Jacksonville, we’re partnering with three hospitals to provide over one thousand care kits for all medical staff.” The care kits include gift cards, snacks, gifts, and opportunities to connect for prayer, counseling, and support.
4. Collect Christmas presents for less fortunate children.
Some churches use the Thanksgiving season to point church members toward Christmas generosity efforts. These Christmas initiatives are in addition to their Thanksgiving plans.
Sarah Landrum of Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia oversees efforts to provide a Thanksgiving meal through their Dream Center in addition to leading the church to collect Christmas presents for their Angel Tree.
This allows them to have all the presents collected before the Christmas season begins. As mentioned earlier, Shiloh Church in California encourages church members to participate in Toys for Tots’ Christmas toy drive.
There are a variety of ways churches are generously meeting the needs of their community. If your church is considering a generosity initiative for Thanksgiving, here are three questions to help you get started:
Question #1: What are the needs of your community members?
Note the question does not ask what you think are the needs. It is possible to incorrectly assume needs. There are a few ways to identify what community challenges your church could address. One way is to pull psychographic data on your community. This data can prove to be valuable when attempting to understand your area. A more common way to determine needs is to simply ask local schools and nonprofits. These are the ones who usually have a good read on the area. Identify the needs of your community members.
Question #2: What can your church do to help meet those needs?
What does your church have that can meet a discovered need? Limitations necessitate choices. Most churches have at least two limitations—people and finances. Certainly, God can overcome those limitations, but it is important not to commit to something that is likely unattainable. Consider the resources God has given your church and determine how to best deploy them for maximum community impact.
Question #3: How can you leverage this opportunity to tell them about Jesus?
Caring for your community is important. The generosity of your church showcases the generosity of your God. In many communities, there are real and significant needs. But as you care for the community, remember the greatest need we all have is not physical but spiritual. Jesus healed the sick and fed the poor, but his greatest act of generosity was on the cross. Determine how your church can leverage this opportunity to tell them about Jesus.
Churches around the United States are impacting their communities in incredible ways this Thanksgiving. May the generosity displayed by churches reveal to their communities the generosity of a loving and gracious God. May the meeting of physical needs lead to the meeting of the ultimate spiritual needs. May the enjoyment of a delicious Thanksgiving meal result in the tasting of God’s goodness.