Developing a Movement of Gratitude

Last week, I talked about “Thank-A-Prof“. The campaign itself is simply an overflow of who we are as Christian. We looked at thankfulness as a distinguishing mark of believers. Gratitude is in short supply in our culture, but when it is genuinely lived out, can be very winsome.

Rick Hove, Executive Director of Faculty Commons, offered a possible message series on thankfulness and gratitude. You could do this as a three week countdown movement-wide or just in a discipleship group. You could do this with or apart from “Thank-A-Prof”.

I thought you would enjoy reading Rick’s description and heart behind a movement of gratitude.

The reality is that we want all of our staff and students to exude gratitude. Why is this? Because gratitude flows from the gospel. Those who are forgiven much – who have received so much that wasn’t deserved – become grateful people. In fact, one could make the case that our level of gratitude actually reflects our spiritual maturity. Being thankful is clearly linked to being filled with the Spirit.

Here is a possible way to help those involved in our movements grow in this area. This will not only change lives but open up ministry opportunities as well. This “movement of gratitude” is built around 2 or 3 weekly meetings in late October/early November (or whenever).

Week 1 (third week of October)

  • Have someone do a short 15 minute talk on how experiencing the gospel is linked to gratitude (or how the fruit of being filled with the Spirit is being grateful). The big idea is to tie “gratitude” to the gospel and God.
  • Then invite the movement on a 3 week experiment where as many students who are willing will take some baby steps in gratitude by making an effort to say “thank you.” This is a “hands on” sort of experiment.
  • Introduce the experiment by taking the last 15 minutes of the talk to address the issue of being grateful to our parents. At the end invite or encourage everyone in attendance to find their own way to call or write their parents and say “thank you.” Students can start by thanking God for their parents (which could be difficult for some) and then making an effort to thank their parents. And at the next weekly meeting you’d like some of them to share about their experience.

Week 2 (fourth week of October)

  • Designate time in the meeting for students to share how it went with their parents. Then do a brief talk on saying “thank you” within the movement: students to staff, students to students, staff to students. Start by thanking God for all of these people, then thank the people in particular.
  • Invite everyone to go out of their way in the next week to creatively and sincerely say “thank you” to those in the movement they appreciate the most . . .friends in their small group, their disciplers, their roommates, etc. Tell them at the next meeting you’d like a few people to share how God has used this in their lives.

Week 3 (first week of November).

  • Designate a time in the meeting for folks to share their experiences in saying “thank you” and “I appreciate you” to each other. Cast vision for wanting to be this sort of movement.
  • Then do a brief talk on the power of saying “thank you” in evangelism. Being grateful to someone, especially when they haven’t deserved it, can really open up doors for the gospel.
  • Perhaps nowhere does gratitude offer greater ministry returns than with professors. The academy is a very hostile place – no one says “thank you” – and profs experience students as those who “rate” them. Students have a great opportunity to be used by God in their professors’ lives by saying “thanks.”
  • So, for the final experiment on gratitude you invite every student to shock a professor by going by their office and telling them some specific ways that they appreciate them. If going to their office is too traumatic, suggest stopping by the front of the class after a lecture. And the next week at the weekly meeting allow some students to share how this experience went. You could also encourage students to say “thank you” to a non-Christian friend in their life.

Down the road the dream is that the movement will become known as a place of gratitude, and that students will begin to understand and experience the power of gratitude. You can build on this year after year.

As for professors, when students say “thank you” to profs it sets the stage for something like a “Faculty Appreciation” dinner in the Spring. And it teaches students that they have something to offer professors, and can be involved in their lives.

I think a 3 week series on gratitude – complete with little faith steps along the way – could transform a movement and open up many ministry doors, especially with professors. The specifics can be tweaked at each location, and I’m sure that the best ideas on this have yet to be suggested, but the basic idea – becoming a movement of gratitude – could really be powerful.

Building Trust

Several years ago, I wrote a tip about how Urs Wolfe, National Director of Switzerland, showed gratitude to university officials at Christmas time. This simple act of helped build trust between our ministry and university administration.

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