UPDATE: This post was written in 2016. All the advice still applies, but if you want to buy a calendar for your whole congregation to use, use THIS ONE for 2017.
I’m not sure which wise mentorfriend (that’s a word, right? Mentorfriend?) of mine said “You know, I heard that pastors, if they are lucky have about three sermon ideas that they just keep recycling all the time.” I’m not sure what my other two, but one of mine is definitely gratitude. I tell people that if I had a spiritual prescription pad, gratitude would be the “prescription” I would write for just about any spiritual ailment. Research about the physical, spiritual and psychological benefit of gratitude is well known. There are many ways to motivate people to develop a gratitude practice, and the month of November is a wonderful time to do that. Here’s a step by step guide to making it happen!
Step One: Decide on the parameters of the challenge. Here are some ideas:
- Everyone will write down one thing per day you are thankful for
- Everyone will spend five (or ten or twenty) minutes per day in a gratitude journal
- Everyone will take a photo each day of something that they are thankful for
- Everyone will get a word each day that will be the starting point for a gratitude reflection, piece of art, etc.
In my congregation we are going to encourage people to write down one thing per day they are thankful for, using my gratitude calendar. We are encouraging people to take a photo of the daily gratitude as well.
Step Two: Get (or make) the tools you will need. For my congregation, they’ll be using the daily gratitude calendar for 2016. I made it available to churches for purchase here. It has one (specific) thing for folks to write down each day. I thought it would be nice to do that to connect everyone with the same thought each day. That way, when they share on social media or in church, they’ll all be on the same page. If you don’t want to buy one, either give everyone a blank calendar (you can make one here) or use your own ideas to make one. In my congregation, I’ll also be encouraging people to take a picture each day. To organize the photos, they can be stored on the gratitude 365 app which is free to download.
Step Three: Decide how everyone will share their daily reflections: Some ideas:
- Everyone will gather together at a end of the month luncheon or coffee hour or education hour to share how the experience was and share some of their reflections
- Create a Facebook group where participants can share each day
- Encourage sharing on a church webpage, shared dropbox or other online forum
- Invite participants to share in worship on Sundays
Step Four: Publicize your challenge: Put the parameters in the bulletin, church newsletter, church website, facebook, etc. I love using Canva for things like this. Easy and inexpensive! Added bonus is that explaining the challenge and sharing information about it can double as one of those monthly newsletter articles we often find so challenging! Here’s an example of an easy graphic I made on canva, this is a generic version, but I also made one with our church website and an invitation to join. Consider making a hashtag for your challenge that can be tracked through all social media platforms.
Step Five: Evaluate the Challenge – This will be our first year trying a November gratitude challenge. We’ve done advent photo challenges before and lenten “word of the day” challenges. Each time we’ve refined a little and changed based on what we learned. Have fun, and don’t worry if there are some wrinkles to iron out.
So… what do you think? Will you be doing a November Gratitude challenge? What ideas do you have to make it a huge success that might help kick-start your congregation toward a practice of gratitude?
Reminder: 2017 Calendar is HERE.