Why Leaders Should Cultivate a Spirit of Thanksgiving

Remembering our blessedness even in our busyness

One of the benefits of having Thanksgiving Day each year on the fourth Thursday of November is that it shows up on the calendar. I can guarantee you that, were it not for its appearance on the calendar, we in the United States would not dedicate a day each year (at least in theory) for the purpose of reflecting upon and giving thanks for God’s benevolence toward us.

Things that are on our calendars get done; we blow right past things that are not there. Our roles as church leaders, community members, spouses, parents or grandparents keep us constantly on the move. But in the midst of our hectic, overscheduled lives, we have much to be thankful for.

Our busyness perpetually distracts us from giving thanks.
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Throughout Scripture, God calls His people to give thanks and to be thankful. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul exhorts the church to “in everything give thanks” and notes that this is God’s will for us. I find it fascinating that God created feast days and put them onto His people’s calendars to cause them to slow down or even to stop and give praise and thanksgiving. Should we do no less?

God has blessed us with more than we need. Yet, our busyness perpetually distracts us from giving thanks. When we gather together as leaders, most of us have a brief devotional and an “opening prayer,” and then we get right down to business.

Leaders too often fall into the trap of working on the pressing issues of the day without taking time to gain perspective by reflecting upon how we got there. An attitude of thankfulness and gratitude—coupled with taking time to reflect on our past—can help create a faith-based context for addressing today’s problems. We can confidently take gospel-centered actions because our decisions are rooted in recognition of God’s faithfulness to us and to His church—rather than on confidence in ourselves and our decision-making abilities.

In 1 Peter 5:3, Peter exhorts his fellow elders to prove to be “examples to the flock.” Are we examples of thankfulness? How would those who follow know?

Here are some ideas to help your leadership team put thanksgiving at the heart of your time together.

  • Consider scheduling an occasional meeting to focus on giving thanks. Too often we put this type of action at the start or end of an already busy agenda, which tends to make gratitude an interruption or distraction from the other “more urgent” business of the day. If you cannot do this, consider setting at least half of a regularly scheduled meeting for this purpose.
  • Have the team remind themselves of the history of the church. Remember the faithfulness and vision of the founders and early pioneers. Look for times when God’s faithfulness and favor shone through. Look for times of crisis and how God worked His will through them, including lessons learned and blessings that followed.
  • Even if in the midst of a difficult time, or perhaps especially in the midst of a difficult time, pause to reflect and thank God for His faithfulness to His people throughout history. Prayerfully seek His blessing as you work through the difficulties at hand.
  • Make a list of things happening in your church right now for which you can be thankful. Make a list of the things going on in the world for which we can be thankful. Make a list of the promises of God for which we can be thankful.
  • Acknowledge that gratitude can reinvigorate tired church leaders and teams. Thankfulness is an oasis for the soul, cool water for our parched and weary spirits. It’s biblical, and God’s will for us, too (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

We are not necessarily thankful for everything, but we can be thankful in everything. Whether we serve in leadership or not, we can be thankful in everything because of who God is and His love for us. Thanksgiving is infectious. It’s so hard to complain when our hearts are thankful. When did you last give thanks—real thanks? It’s on God’s calendar: Is it on yours?

This article is based on a piece Bob Osborne originally wrote for EFCA West. For more news from EFCA West, sign up for Zipline, the district’s email newsletter.

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