If months had themes, gratefulness would be November’s. We celebrate Thanksgiving in November, which means decorations about being thankful and grateful are on shelves in stores. Being grateful is a wonderful trait and is definitely worth celebrating! However, being grateful is something that we have struggle with. We are jealous and envious of what other have. We don’t realize the opportunities we have been given. Sometimes we are just too lazy to be grateful. This all stems from our sin – from our thinking that we know better than God.
We forget that God has given us everything we need for life. We forget that we are called to give thanks in for all things and in all circumstances. Instead of remembering these two truths, we are like the nine lepers in Luke 17:11-19. They are healed, along with another man (10 total), by Jesus. However, those nine do not go and thank Jesus – only the tenth man does. We struggle to see what we should be grateful for and struggle to show gratefulness to others. Thankfully God gives grace, mercy, and forgiveness. But we are called to live differently because of that forgiveness. We are called to live gratefully and to show God our gratefulness.
How can we become more like that one former-leper, particularly in our homes? How can we become more grateful for everything that God has given us? What about being grateful for what God hasn’t given us? Let’s look at ways we can foster gratefulness in our families to God for all He has given us.
This might be an obvious way to foster gratefulness, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Many books on young people, including Relationships Count: Engaging & Retaining Millennials point to the importance of parents. Kids of all ages look to their parents as the example of how to act in regard to church (attend service, involvement, how they talk about it, etc.) and in life (check out chapter 6 of Relationships Count for more on this).
If the younger generations are looking at the older generations as the example, then we need to set that example. Look at Joshua and the Israelites. In Joshua 24, the Israelites declare that they are going to strive to serve the Lord. However, when we get to Judges 2:10 we see that Joshua and his generation did not pass on this goal of following God with their whole heart with the next generation.
These passages show us that If the older generation doesn’t model something (generosity, service, church attendance, etc.), and doesn’t actively try to pass that on, the next generation is less likely to do it. Take time to ask yourself questions like: How am I showing gratefulness when something good happens? How am I showing gratefulness when something bad happens? How am I showing gratefulness when I do not get what I want? How am I modeling being like Jesus?
Modeling our gratefulness to God when we do not receive something we want or think we need is also important! Remember, God has given us everything we need (2 Peter 1:3) and that needs to be shared with the next generation. Modeling our gratefulness to God to the next generation might be the greatest way we can foster gratefulness!
Make it Part of Your Daily Routine
Like other young people, I spend some time on YouTube. A phrase I often hear from YouTubers is, “Thank you for making me (us) part of your daily routine.” I can’t help but think, “Do I make being grateful to God part of my daily routine?”
The unfortunate answer to that is no, I don’t. But what would happen if we took time each day to think about & give thanks to God for what happened and what we received? Take time during the day as a family to have each person say 1-3 things that they are grateful for that day – the events that happened or items they received that they are grateful for. Talk about their disappointments in what they wanted to happen but didn’t and how they can be grateful for that too. You could do this before a meal with your family, before bed, or in the car on a drive! Making being grateful part of your daily routine makes it important for you and those in your family.
Activities to Foster Gratefulness
Here are some activity ideas to help you foster gratefulness:
Brainstorm What to Be Grateful For
During a meal or some down time get out some paper and a pen. Explain to your family that you are going to be brainstorming all of things you should be grateful for. If you have mostly older kids at home, you could have them do this on their own. If your family needs help thinking of what they should be grateful for, go through these three questions:
- What has God given me/us?
- What opportunities do I/we have?
- What has God not given me?
After you’ve had time to answer those questions, read 2 Peter 1:3 & 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (If you sent your family to go do this individually, gather together again). Go through everything brainstormed and answer these two questions:
- How can I show God I am grateful?
- How can I show others that I am grateful?
Those might be hard questions to answer, especially when thinking about being grateful when we don’t get what we want. Remind them that God gives us what we need and brainstorms how to be grateful for what we do not receive.
Write Thank You Notes
Writing Thank You Notes is a skill that many learn in high school, but it is never too early to learn! You can go buy Thank You cards or make your own. After an event, sit down and help your child write a Thank You Note to the person, organization, etc. This could also be part of your daily or weekly routine! Here are just some occasions that would be great for a Thank You Note:
- End year/season for a coaches, tutors, instructors, and teachers
- For those who came to a party (even if they didn’t bring a gift!)
- For a grandparent after staying at their house
- For parents who give rides to and from events
- To a doctor or nurse for their constant work during COVID19
- And many more!
During the lock-down in Wisconsin, where I live, many houses and businesses in my area started sporting stain glass windows showing support and gratitude for front line workers. What if we took that principal, but applied to everything we are grateful for? You’ll need some window paint and a window. Make the window beautiful with drawings or words of what your family is the most grateful for and show the world who you are grateful to – God!
These are just a few ideas of how you can foster gratefulness at home. In a season where it can be difficult to be grateful putting activities and routines in place to be grateful can be a huge benefit! It all starts with us setting the example for the next generation. God’s blessings as you strive to give Him the thanks He deserves!