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The following topics have bunches of ideas and resources, as well as links to other topics in our Bible Story forums related to thanksgiving and stewardship. If you have a specific Bible story in mind that teaches thankfulness, gratitude, or stewardship, look it up in our Bible Story Lesson Forums. Here are three of the most popular "thanksgiving" stories: Parable of the Talents, The Thankful Leper, and Widow's Mite Please also see our "Thanksgiving and Stewardship in 2020" topic below for ideas specific to giving thanks and being good stewards during the 2020 COVID pandemic.

Need help with a lesson idea? Post your question in our Teachers Lounge.


This topic thread highlights some of the special resources, lessons, and ideas here at that seem particularly appropriate for Thanksgiving and Stewardship in 2020 during the COVID pandemic.

Below we've also created or collected some new resources for just such a time as this!

In addition to the ideas posted below, here are some resource highlights from our "normal year" Thanksgiving ideas forum would also work well in this "not so normal" year.


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Jesus wants us to count a different kind of blessing

A Thanksgiving 2020 Point of View

Thanksgiving in the midst of struggle is one of the reoccurring themes in the Bible. In fact, there is no better time to "count your blessings" than when you realize they can't be taken for granted.

HOWEVER, NONE of the "usual blessings" we tend to count at Thanksgiving are on Jesus' list of blessings known as The Beatitudes. Nary a "food," "shelter," "grandma," or "family" among them.

Instead, the blessings Jesus wants us to count are spiritual and aspirational:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit (i.e. those who know they're lacking)
  • Blessed are the meek for they will inherit (possess, understand, i.e. the humble get it!)
  • Blessed are those who mourn (who know the value of what they've truly lost)
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (who strive for what God wants)

In light of this year's struggles and Jesus' definition of "blessing,"  the typical "glib" blessings we tend to pray about and teach about just don't seem right. Starting and ending with thanking God for our dog, health, toys, and home (not matter how creative we try to dress it up) are missed opportunities to go deeper, especially this year.

So what might "Jesus & COVID-struggle-inspired thanksgivings" sound like this year?

How about...

  • Thank you for reminding us that we really DO depend on each other, whether we like each other or not.
  • Thank you for the humble reminder our of mortality — that life is a gift.
  • Thank you for teaching us that the church is more than a building and set of programs.
  • Thank you for the blessing of gathered worship which we had taken for granted.
  • Thank you for teachers and schools, for waiters and daycare workers and first-responders.
  • And thank you for the "lesson of the mask" -- that it's not what goes in, but literally and figuratively what comes out of our mouths — that we should be concerned about. Help us to heed our words and care about the safety of other.
  • Thank you for giving us life that is full of challenging lessons, and for the humility to learn them.

What would you add to this list of 2020 Blessings?


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Giving during the pandemic

A short stewardship discussion for older children, youth, and adults

Question: Do you think "giving" to the church went up or down during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Answer: It did both!

The following chart shows the results of two surveys of churches on "giving" during the pandemic, one early in the pandemic, and one a few months later. Below it are some possible questions to ask.

A Few Questions

  • Why do you think some churches saw their giving go up and some go down?
  • Did your personal giving go up or down?
  • Is it wrong for you to give LESS when you are not able to go to church? (That seems to be what the survey results are suggesting, that attendance and giving are strongly linked.)
  • What is the potential long-term "damage" to church finances, budgets, programs, and staff when giving decreases?
  • Should church members "give more" once the pandemic is over to "make up" for the amount of gifts they were not able to give due to the pandemic?  
  • What other things can you do to be a good steward when you don't have money to give?


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Gratitude Ball Toss
Questions for Kids About 2020

An at-home or in-class discussion game about Gratitude in 2020.

The questions can be written on the different panels of a beach ball which is then tossed and caught -- and whichever question your right hand is on you must answer. They can also be written on the sides of a large decorated square box and rolled like a dice to determine which question the roller has to answer. Add numbers to each question too if you want to "advance X number of spaces" on a board game (squares on the floor or drawn on paper).

Due the pandemic...

  • Name an activity that you missed this year?

  • Name a person you are really looking forward to spending more time with once things return to "normal"?

  • What difficulty have you experienced that has taught you a good lesson?

  • What have you learned you can do without and still be happy?

  • What have you missed about our church?

  • What changes have you learned you need to make in your life and habits?

  • Name something positive that has come out of the pandemic for you.

  • What lesson from the pandemic do you think God wants his people to remember once it is over?


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Preparing for Thanksgiving 2020

For many reasons, Thanksgiving 2020 will be more stressful than most years:

  • With air travel at record lows due to the pandemic, a lot of family members won't be joining the usual Thanksgiving extended-family feast in 2020.
  • Closures of restaurants, travel restrictions, and the inability to join with local friends will put a crimp on alternative solutions and celebrations. This will be especially hard on single younger and older people.
  • Traditional Thanksgiving school activities, such as feasts and plays, will be curtailed.
  • Thanksgiving 2020 comes after a divisive US election and financially challenging time for many.

Taken together, Thanksgiving 2020 will be a time of stress, longing, and despair for many.

One of the most important things the church can do is PREPARE our church members and kids to deal with the stresses and be on the look-out for those in need.

Here are two ideas to help prepare people for Thanksgiving 2020

1. A Thanksgiving 2020 Instruction Video

Have your church kids and leaders record "Thanksgiving 2020 Instructional Videos" that prep church members in a humorous way to be thinking about the challenges and needs this year.

For example:

  • "What and what not to say or do this year at Thanksgiving Dinner."
  • Signs of Stress to Watchout For (but real and humorous)
  • "Upping your Gratitude instead of Attitude"
  • "How to Leave an Empty Chair at this Year's Dinner"
  • How Kids can help reduce stress and sadness (do's and dont's at home).

You could create the video's "script" in class and then record individual kids reading individual portions of it.

Some serious subjects you could creatively address:

  • Who in your congregation or neighborhood will be alone this year if you don't invite them to safely join your Thanksgiving meal?  Or take them a portion of your meal?
  • What can you do in advance to reach out to family and church members to "check in" on their plans and identify needs?
  • How can you serve and set places for everyone differently this year to make everyone feel safe?
  • What's your plan to "ramp up" your calls and "Facetiming" to those who can't be with you?
  • What "gratitude" actions and activities can you undertake to make this year's Thanksgiving meal a little more meaningful for all concerned?  (Suggest several.)
  • Leave a chair or place empty for those not with you. ("Empty chairs" are have been used in religious rituals such as Passover and as a way military families remember those they've lost.)


2. Thanksgiving 2020: The Year Donating Food Matters Even More

Due to COVID-related job and wage losses, more people are seeking food pantry assistance. If ever there was a year when traditional food donations need to be increased, this is it. Helping others is also a great way to put your own stress in perspective.

  1. Make copies of a list of groceries that your local food pantry suggests.
  2. Paste them to brown paper bags and distribute them in church.
  3. Save and distribute some of the brown bags to your NEIGHBORS (who will also drop them off at your church too, bonus!).
  4. Mail a grocery bag to someone who can't join you for Thanksgiving and ask them to "join you in putting food on the table of someone in need."



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Take-Home Game Kits to Encourage Gratitude Discussion at Home

There are some really good "questions to ask" in the previous posts, but the challenge is getting church members to do them at home. That's where assembling and handing out "take-home game kits" can really help.

Plastic arrow spinners can be purchased in bulk quite inexpensively. They snap onto a paper plate or piece of paper on which you've written several "spinner" numbers.(see below).

Have the church supply the questions as "cards." These can be stacked on a simple hand-drawn gameboard. Players spin and advance across the gameboard -- answering a question from the stack each time they come to stop. It's okay to have questions repeat.

Sunday School kids could decorate and number the plates and attach the spinners, as well as draw the gameboard (Lots of gameboard templates online too. Google "gameboard blank squares" or similar).


A Few Additional Questions to Suggest (in addition to some in previous posts above)

  1. What's one thing GOD is grateful for about the person on your left?
  2. Who do you miss that's no longer alive and what are you grateful for about their life?
  3. What daily things would Jesus tell you to be grateful for now and increase in the year ahead?
  4. Gratefully name someone not with you right now who changed your life in a positive way.
  5. What lesson have you learned about life this past year?
  6. Move back 3 squares if you have been depressed or sad about something in the past month, then move forward 2 squares if you did something positive to respond to your sadness.
  7. Move forward one square if you did something today that someone in the game is grateful to you for doing.
  8. Move forward 3 squares if you gave thanks to God in prayer today for more than a minute (move forward 1 square if you forgot but take 30 seconds now to pray).
  9. Move forward 1 square if the person on your right says something about you that they are grateful for.
  10. Move forward one square is you say out loud the name of someone who inspires you to be a better person.

Tip: Ask the pastor to suggest questions. Perhaps they can even be part of the liturgy or sermon.


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Free to Everyone: The Parable of the Talents software game

You can share this free downloadable software game about Stewardship this season with your families. Add some follow-up questions and instructions when you distribute it.

Because of the way this game is designed, you could also run the game on your computer and share your game screen via ZOOM.  Here's an article about how to share a program on your screen with your Zoomers.



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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Two visual thanksgiving resources from the pages of

Click to open and save full size.

Psalm 8 is a song of thanksgiving as well as a "song of creation" as it is traditional taught.
Why? Because like thanksgiving, Ps 8 gets us looking up and seeing the blessings that surround us. The following music video was created for the Writing Team's Psalm 8 lesson set. It meshes dramatic Ps 8 scenes with one of Train's most popular songs, "When I Look to the Sky."

Psalm 8's "Secret" (from the Writing Team's Ps 8 Bible Background)

It is traditional to interpret Psalm 8 as a Psalm of "Creation," extolling God's majestic Creation and our place in it, and it certainly does that. But Psalm 8 has a secret.  And it's a secret you already know -if you've ever looked up to see the stars surrounding you at night.

A time-exposure photo of the Milky Way.

In Psalm 8, the Psalmist is making a visual comparison between how the heavens surround and shine on the earth, and how God surrounds and shines on us.  The Hebrew word we translate as "crowned," as in, "crowned us with glory...." actually means "surrounded." The Psalmist is in awe of the heavens that "surround" him, and makes the connection with how God's awesome glory surrounds us, even, "embraces" us. Throughout the lessons in this set we're going to make that point to help your students visualize this important insight.

Especially in a year like 2020, when you look around, blessings may be hard to spot.

But when you look up...


All thy works with joy surround thee,
earth and heaven reflect thy rays,
stars and angels sing around thee,
center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
flowery meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird and flowing fountain,
call us to rejoice in thee.

Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:18


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Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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