Thankful Service

by Linda Moore on November 20, 2023

“Would you like to help me clean these up?” I asked a first-grade girl in children’s church.

She looked at the mess of papers on the floor. “No. Do it yourself.” She spun on her heel and strode away.

I collected the papers by myself, hiding my surprise at her response. In my experience, most kids are eager to help the teacher.

Perhaps you’ve encountered similar behavior from students or your own children or grandchildren. With Thanksgiving this month, I thought about the connection between thankfulness and a willingness to serve others. I found that Psalm 54:6 speaks of thankfulness to God as well as a willingness to give an offering to him. Then in Romans, after finishing a psalm of praise and thankfulness for God’s great mercy, Paul reminds believers to offer themselves as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). He goes on to describe how the body of Christ functions by serving each other. I concluded that one way we can show our thankfulness to God is by serving others.

But how can we teach our students that serving can be rewarding and God-honoring when it’s done with a thankful heart? Here are a few ideas you could use with your students (young and old) to help them experience thankful service.

Serving in class:

  • Ask students for help with simple things such as passing out papers, cleaning up craft materials, or helping a classmate who’s having difficulty with a task.
  • As a class, adopt a missionary family. Share some fun facts about where they are serving. Have an online meeting with them so your students can get to know them and hear why and how they serve. Read letters or emails from them and have your class reply. As a group, make cards or send small gifts of encouragement.
  • Give your students a sense of ownership by brainstorming ideas with them for ways to serve friends and family and the church.

Serving the church:

  • Ask church staff how your class can serve around the church or at church events, such as passing out bulletins or setting up chairs for a church dinner.
  • Plan a get-together with your students to decorate cookies as a thank-you gift for the church staff.
  • Plan outings to serve church members who need help with yardwork or housework.
  • Plan for your students to write notes or make decorative cards, then deliver them to shut-ins.
  • Ask parents for help enabling and encouraging your students to serve at church, home, and school.

After serving:

  • Take pictures during service projects and post them in the classroom to remind each other of the joy everyone had while serving others.
  • Lead a discussion to allow your students to share their experience with each other and to think of ways to do things better next time.
  • Consider surprising the class with a small reward after they’ve completed a service project.

As in most other things we teach, practice is necessary to learn how to serve and how to notice the needs around us. Be sure to encourage your students by thanking them whenever you see them doing acts of service, especially outside of class. Most of all, keep reminding them that serving others is not only obedience to God, but is also a great way to show God how thankful we are for all he’s done.

For more Thanksgiving ideas, check out the free Thanksgiving lessons at

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