Opening: Play a quick game to test your teens knowledge of Thanksgiving. Using the list of facts and answers below, create a set of note cards with just one fact or just one answer per card. Give all the cards to the group and challenge them to work together to match the right answer with the right fact. When they think they are finished, reveal the correct answers.
- Pounds of turkey consumed by the typical American in 2007: 13.8
- Pounds of expected U.S. cranberry production in 2010: 735
- The year killer-turkey horror movie “Blood Freak” was made: 1972
- Dollar amount (in millions) of Thanksgiving weekend movie box office earnings in 2009 : 275
- Percentage increase in the volume of household waste between Thanksgiving and New Years: 25
- Time in minutes it takes to make Stove Top Stuffing: 30
- Number of pounds the average person puts on between Thanksgiving and Christmas: 1
- The value (in billions) of the turkeys shipped in 2002: 3.6
- Number of cities in U.S. named “Turkey”: 3
- Number of years the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was suspended during WWII: 2
- Cubic feet of helium needed to inflate the Jimmy Neutron balloon in Macy’s parade: 12,300
- Number of days the first Thanksgiving celebration lasted: 3
You will find a nice graphic with most of these facts and more here.
Digging In: Ask the group if they can think of times that they forgot to say thank you to someone – maybe a relative that sent them a gift, a favor offered by a friend, or a simple act of kindness by a stranger. Why do they think they didn’t bother to say thanks? Ask the youth if anyone has ever failed to thank them for some deed or favor they considered important. What did it feel like to be forgotten or slighted? Read together Luke 17: 11 – 19, the story of the ten lepers. Ask: Why do you think the nine lepers failed to say “thanks” to Jesus? Why do you think the writer of Luke wanted us to remember the story of the one who did come back to say thanks?
Reflecting: Invite the group to consider why we might offer thanks to God. Does God need to hear us say “thank you?” Do we benefit from the spiritual practice of offering thanks? When in our lives do we actually take time to do this?
Responding: Invite youth to write a prayer of thanksgiving using an outline like the one below. Explain that you will collect the prayers and read them aloud and challenge the group to guess who wrote each prayer. Teens will want to avoid using obvious references to themselves that will easily tip off to others whose prayer is whose. Of course, this will also encourage them to think more deeply about what they are thankful for and to avoid the more obvious and shallow responses such as “I’m thankful for my 2010 convertible” or “I’m thankful that I get to go to Florida for Christmas vacation.”
Prayer of Thanksgiving: God of everything, today I'm thankful for all the good things which flow from you. I'm thankful for (things in creation)_____, for (things that come to me without costing money)________, for (important relationships)_____. I'm also thankful for (something you have learned about life) __________, and for (something you have learned about yourself)______. I'm thankful for (something blue) ______, (something big) ______, (something little)______, (something edible), _______ and (something that smells good) ______. Lastly, I'm thankful for (something that comes to you from God) ______. Amen.
Closing: Finish with a circle prayer, asking each person in turn to share one word that represents something important in their lives for which they are thankful.