Saturday, November 14, 2015

Thanksgiving Trees as a Simple Outreach

I am sure that nearly all of you have heard of the "Thanksgiving Tree" tradition. For those who might not know of it, it's where you make a tree out of paper to hang on your wall, or out of bare branches in a vase or jar, and adorn it over time with paper leaves with hand-written blessings on them. Some people like to do this for the entire month of November, others just for Thanksgiving week or day as a way to focus our hearts on thankfulness to the Lord. You can invite those who enter your home to participate with you and to count their own blessings by hanging a leaf or two on your tree. The end result is a beautiful display of the Lord's goodness.

Our Thanksgiving Tree last year, not long after we started

We have done this tradition in our home for a number of years, and last year got to thinking about how this is such a great way to engage non-believers in spiritual conversation. When we think of the things that we are thankful for, a natural second question is to whom we are grateful for these gifts.

Our daughter goes to Russian pre-school, so we decided to see if we might be able to share this tradition with her class. I explained about the tree and how the teacher could gather the kids around each day for a week or so to ask them two question; first being what they are thankful for, and second being to whom they are thankful. Our beloved teacher surprised us with her great enthusiasm and explained how she loved this idea after noticing how kids these days are growing to feel more and more entitled to things and less and less grateful. Our teacher is not a believer but has a huge heart for developing the character of her kids.

We brought in the tree and a bunch of cut out leaves with string loops attached, and the teacher and class fell in love with this tradition. They did it not only for a week, but an entire month! One day not long after they started, our daughter's teacher, who knows that we are Christians, said, "Guess what? Today a little boy said that he was thankful for the sun. And guess who he was thankful to? God!"

The preschool Thanksgiving tree, also not long after they started

The teacher felt that this practice of giving thanks was so valuable that she went around to all of the other classes in our preschool and even to a gathering of preschool teachers in the city and shared the idea, encouraging them to adopt it for their own classes.

I wanted to share this with you as a very simple and non-confrontational way to spur hearts towards spiritual things and to begin conversations with groups, perhaps at schools or other places, where you might not be welcomed to share as openly about the gospel as you would like. God has greatly used this tradition to open doors for us and I pray that it might do the same for some of you!

Is the Thanksgiving Tree a part of your family tradition? What are some ways that you've been able to reach out to people in your community through the Thanksgiving holiday?


  1. Awesome, Ashley! Love the photo of the one at the school. :-)

  2. That's a great idea. :) We've done something similar before, but I never thought about how it could be used as an outreach. I'm planning to steal that idea.