Make this Thanksgiving season more about Jesus and teach your children thankfulness and a servant’s heart with these 7 Christ-centered Thanksgiving activities and traditions for families!

The holiday season can get really busy! I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that!

There’s a part of us that can get overwhelmed when thinking about all the things we have to do to prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And because of that, we can sometimes lose sight of the deeper meaning of the season and how we’re provided a perfect opportunity to teach our kids about Christ and what he’s done for us during these times of year.

Don’t let another holiday season go by without making your Thanksgiving season more Christ-centered! There are some really simple idea for your family that can make this happen!

So let’s talk about seven Jesus-focused Thanksgiving activities and traditions that can strengthen your family’s faith and help you cut through the chaos and create meaningful traditions that help your kids see the needs of others and be thankful to God.

**I’ve also listed a Christ-Centered Benefit and Bible Verse that go along with each idea!

7 Christ-Centered Thanksgiving Traditions for Families (to Serve Others and Be Grateful)

Thanksgiving traditions for families to start this year

1) Fill a Shoebox for Operation Christmas Child (or Participate in another Charitable Organization’s Project)

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of Samaritan’s Purse that involves filling a shoebox with age-appropriate toys, toiletries and clothing items to be delivered to children ages 0-14 in foreign countries around the world. 

These boxes of goodies go to children who do not typically receive gifts. Also included in the boxes are gospel booklets that teach the kids about Jesus in their native language! 

We have been SO blessed by participating in this ministry for many years! Our church does it as a group, but you can also fill a box individually and bring it to a drop off location.

National Collection week for OCC this year is November 18-15. Follow these instructions for packing a box! Remember that you can also find a local drop-off location (#6 under instructions) if you don’t want to purchase a shipping label online.

There are many local and national charitable organizations. Find one your family can invest in and make a difference in someone’s life! 

Christ-Centered Benefit: Teaches your kids to pray for those around the world to know Jesus and to have their physical needs met too!

Bible Verses: 1 Timothy 2:1-4

2) Serve your community!

There are so many ways to serve in your community and usually the holiday season brings extra opportunities.

Some things we have done in the past as a family are:

  • Raking leaves for people in our church (and sometimes for strangers)
  • Serving at The Banquet, a ministry in our city that serves meals each night to the underprivileged
  • Purchasing gifts for a local Angel Tree that gives much-needed food and toiletry items to single moms of young children
  • Delivering baskets with cleaning supplies, disposable dish wear, and Thanksgiving meal foods to our local food bank
  • Bringing extra produce to our local food bank

Other ideas might be:

  • Serving Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter 
  • Doing fall chores (window washing, cleaning, etc) for a widow or a busy mom with young kids!
  • Offering to do free babysitting for a couple who needs a date night
  • Hosting someone for Thanksgiving dinner who is not a family member

Christ-Centered Benefit: Teaches your kids to serve others out of their abundance.

Bible Verse: Deuteronomy 10:18, “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”

3) Write a Letter Expressing Thankfulness

Why not have your kids (you can do it too!) write a letter to someone to tell them why they’re thankful for that person? You could include a Scripture coloring page or some Bible verse cards as an extra encouragement. This is a great idea for a child who isn’t into art projects, as I found with my oldest. He would rather write a note to someone than paint a picture!  

Christ-Centered Benefit: Shows our kids practical ways to encourage and care for someone who is special to them. 

Bible Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Encourage one another and build each other up.”

4) Do a Thanksgiving Bible Study or Devotional as a Family 

Sometimes our days are so busy we feel like there’s no way we can squeeze in devotional time. Or we think that there’s never a perfect time so then we never start. 

But what I’ve learned is that studying the Bible with your family doesn’t have to look perfect to be the right choice :) 

So just choose something, even if it’s just a short reflection each day, and go for it! 

I just finished up a brand new Bible study called “God Makes Me Grateful” that is designed specifically for busy families with multiple ages of kids. There are seven Bible lessons on thanksgiving and you can do each in about 10 minutes a day. There are supplements and activities too if you want to go further! 

Click HERE or the photo below to take a look inside God Makes Me Grateful!


5) Start a Thanksgiving Day tradition of sharing gratefulness around the table

This can look very different depending on your family! Just pick something simple and go for it. Like I always say, your idea doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective! :)

Here are a few ideas I gathered from readers.

  • I bought a nice notebook where on Thanksgiving morning, when it’s just our immediate family, we sit down and write down all the things we are grateful/thankful for in the last year. This year we will do the same, but also read last year’s. – Jenny
  • Something I want to start this year is to have a tablecloth everyone signs/draws on that we can add to every year. – Jennifer
  • I love getting together with family, sitting around the table and each saying something we’re thankful for before we eat! – Luella
  • When I was growing up my mom had a tradition she called “Thankful Corn.” She would put some kernels of dried corn (popcorn) on everybody’s plate before the meal and we had to go around and say one thing we were thankful for, one for each kernel we had. We couldn’t eat until all the corn was collected in a dish. I always groaned when we did it because I hated having to saying stuff in front of everybody, but as an adult I can appreciate what she was doing. – Ellen
  • We drew a tree trunk/branches on poster board, cut it out, and taped it to the wall. Then we each filled out leaves with things we were thankful for. Each of those got put on the branches. We had this big reminder you couldn’t help but look at all month long with these reminders to be thankful. – Tiffany
  • Singing songs with my family to Jesus about who He is and all He’s done for us! – Valerie
  • We buy an inexpensive plastic pumpkin and write something we’re thankful for on it each year. – Ann

Christ-Centered Benefit: Helps your family reflect on God’s faithfulness and include extended family members in this tradition too!

Bible Verse: Psalm 100:4, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”

6) Read Jesus-focused Thanksgiving books together

One of the traditions I love the most in our home is reading the same books over and over together each Thanksgiving season.

I have a list of 15 of the best Thanksgiving books for Christian kids that your family is definitely going to enjoy! You can find those HERE.

Christ-Centered Benefit: Reinforces Biblical truths about thankfulness to God and cultivates quiet family time in the busyness! (I am not sure if that’s officially Christ-centered, but it definitely is beneficial!) :) 

Bible Verse: Psalm 92:1-2, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night.”

Christ Centered Thanksgiving Traditions

7) Keep a thankfulness journal

Choose a pretty lined journal and write down Thanksgiving themed Scriptures or reflections on gratefulness each day in your personal devotional time. (Find a Thanksgiving reading plan HERE).

In addition, hang Thanksgiving Bible verse cards around the house. Have your kids do this along with you!

Keep the same journal for next year and enjoy looking back on your writings from the past. This is something I used to do and haven’t for quite a few years. I need to pick it back up again!

Christ-Centered Benefit: Keeps thoughts of Jesus, God’s Word and eternal things on you and your family’s minds when other thoughts threaten to crowd Him out! 

Bible Verse: John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

BONUS! Create a Thankfulness Jar

Click the photo below for instructions :)

Thankfulness Jar
What Thanksgiving traditions are you thinking of starting with your family this year?

Make the season of Thanksgiving richer with 24 Days of Psalms of Thanks!

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