Thanksgiving Service Project for Children and Teens

This year has been difficult for many people. Food banks are once again seeing an increase in requests. What many people don’t know is that in most cases those who eat donated food don’t get to choose what they eat – they eat whatever has been donated to the pantry – regardless of personal preferences.

While there is an argument to be made for gratitude, the Bible commands us to treat others as we would want to be treated. Would you want to eat a steady stream of beets and other rejects from the pantries of wealthier people? On Thanksgiving Day, while you may be grateful for Spaghetti-O’s or pb&j, would it be nice to have the same meal as almost everyone else in your country?

A great way to introduce the children and teens in your ministry or congregation to service and faith sharing is to involve them in a project during the upcoming school holidays. During these days with no school or extra curricular activities, many families find they have free time to fill. Rather than just shutting down your ministry for the holidays, I challenge you to do this special service project with the young people served by your ministry (and perhaps entire families). To make it even more fun and challenging, see if you can pull it off without the recipient(s) knowing who served them, but still find a way to share your faith with them!

For years now, our church has done a project we called Thanksgiving In A Box. Although we do it on a large scale for a church in a less affluent part of town, this is also a great project for one ministry to do for families in your area or another area of town. Ask the produce clerk at the grocery store to save you an empty apple or banana box. Then fill it with everything a family could use for Thanksgiving dinner, breakfast and probably another dinner.  In an average box we put a couple of cans each of green vegetables, yellow vegetables, tomatoes, soup, beans and fruit. We also include cereal or oatmeal, rice or pasta, stuffing mix, boxed mashed potatoes, bread mix (like corn muffins), dessert mix (look for ones that only require adding water if possible), cranberry sauce and a canned ham (those are usually cheapest at drug stores for some reason). A box can run between $20 and $40 depending on sales, coupons and how full you fill it. If you can only afford a few dollars, just focus on the basics or deliver homemade baked goods instead.

We make sure nothing has to be refrigerated and requires as few additional ingredients and special equipment to make as possible. The children or teens in your ministry can have fun decorating the box, helping you shop for the contents and packing it up. Our daughter and her friends helped our church with this project since they were toddlers. Then take your box(es) and deliver it the weekend before Thanksgiving to the porch of someone who is having a tough time. Ring the bell and run or stay and chat with them a bit about God and invite them to church.

On the way home, talk to those who participated in the project about why God wants us to serve others. Discuss the scriptures that talk about the kinds of people we are to serve and why God wants the “right hand not to know what the left is doing”. Service without God loses much of its meaning. Many groups today do wonderful things for the world. Yet God is not a part of their thinking. Not only should our service point others to God but show them His love for them. Our service should glorify God and help convert others to want to follow His Word. I think you will find it also adds a fullness and richness to our service that you may not have experienced before.

Categories Elementary, Ministering to Student Families, Service, Teens
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