In an average year, many churches host a Thanksgiving meal or host some type of outreach. Obviously, 2020 is anything but average thanks to COVID-19. The unique dynamics of a global pandemic require us to think about every potential event a bit differently…including Thanksgiving.

While you might not be able to host a huge meal, there are several ways your church can serve the local community. Here are six ideas to bring Thanksgiving to the community:

#1 – Give Thanks Publicly

Consider advertising on billboards around your town to thank a particular group for their service during 2020. Perhaps you’d like to thank the healthcare workers in your area or a group of non-profits who collaborated to help people through a challenging time this year. Shine a spotlight on those who’ve stepped up to serve and give thanks for their selflessness this Thanksgiving.

#2 – Express Gratitude

If a billboard isn’t a viable option, ask for volunteers to write thank you notes to healthcare workers and others in the community who’ve gone the extra mile this year. Look into whether you can drop off a catered meal to these groups around town as well (especially for those who’re working on Thanksgiving Day).

#3 – Connect with Employers

Many people have found themselves unemployed due to COVID-19. Consider talking with business owners and corporate human resources leaders to see who’s starting to hire again. You might be able to host a socially-distanced job fair at the church campus to connect employers with potential employees. If in-person isn’t an option, you could include information about companies that are hiring in your church email newsletter and on the church website.

#4 – Organize Thanksgiving Volunteers

Contact local non-profits and ask if they need additional volunteers to help with their Thanksgiving outreaches this year. They might need help boxing up groceries, sorting coats, or preparing meals to deliver to those who are homebound. Once you know what they need, let the congregation know and provide a way for them to serve with those organizations.

#5 – Host a Coat Drive

With the weather turning colder, consider asking the congregation to donate gently used coats. You might even add in blankets, gloves, scarves, and other cold-weather attire. Once you’ve collected the coats, host a drive-through giveaway, or work with local schools and non-profits to distribute these items.

#6 – Provide Thanksgiving Ingredients

Instead of cooking and serving a Thanksgiving meal, ask your congregation to donate the ingredients. Host a drive-through Thanksgiving and hand out bags of groceries filled with the standard fixings for a Thanksgiving meal. Work with local stores to see if anyone would like to sponsor part of the meal or donate bags.

Even with all that 2020 has entailed, we still have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. You might have to get a bit more creative than usual, but there are still several ways to celebrate.

Check out these additional resources related to Thanksgiving and events:

5 Options for Bringing Thanksgiving to the Community

Top 10 Thanksgiving Films

Fall Event Planning Amidst COVID-19

Simple Small Group Tools to Help Missional Community