As adults, breaking habits and retraining our thought patterns can be tough.

What if you could have taught your junior high self to understand what you now know about the importance of living a life of gratitude?

That is exactly the opportunity you have with the students you minister to on a weekly basis!

Use this lesson to teach junior high students that thankful thinking is a choice you make every day.

– Nick Diliberto, Junior High Ministry

JUNIOR HIGH LESSON ON THANKFUL THINKING

DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF THIS LESSON

Bible: Luke 17:11-17; Colossians 3:16

Bottom Line: Thankful thinking is a choice you make every day.

SUPPLIES

  • List of words for students to guess
  • Giant bag of candy corn for the winning team to share

OPENING GAME: THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT

GAME PREP

This game will focus on words that have a Thanksgiving theme.

Divide students into two teams of equal size.

Stand in front of the students with the list of words they will guess.

On the sheet you will be reading from, you will have the word the students are trying to guess (don’t read it out loud) and words that describe the word.

As you read the description words, go slowly, allowing students time to guess the word.

The first team to guess the word wins the number of points listed by the last word that was read.

Designate another leader to keep track of each team’s points.

Have one person from each team come forward and begin the game.

HOW TO PLAY THE GAME

Say: We’re going to play an awesome game called, “That’s what I thought.”

I’m going to ask one person from each team to come forward.

I will read a list of words that describe the word I want you to guess – each word has a Thanksgiving theme, so keep that in mind.

Your goal is to be the first team to guess the word, and you want to do it as fast as you can.

The fewer amount of words that I read to help you guess, the more points you will win for your team.

After you guess the word correctly, and I say “Correct,” you will say “That’s what I thought,” and then you will be awarded the points for your team.

After you have taken your turn for your team, go to the back of your line and the next person will come forward.

Are you ready?… Let’s begin!

  1. TURKEY: snood (5), feathers (4), gobbler (3), wishbone (2), drumstick (1)
  2. PILGRIM: traveler (5), English settler (4), Plymouth (3), Mayflower (2), First Thanksgiving (1)
  3. PUMPKIN PIE: nutmeg (5), brown sugar (4), milk (3), pie crust (2), pumpkin (1)
  4. HARVEST: gather (5), crops (4), corn (3), reaping (2), plow (1)
  5. POTATOES: boiled (5), butter (4), salt (3), peeled (2), mashed (1)
  6. CRANBERRIES: acidic (5), bog (4), shrub (3), canned (2), sauce (1)
  7. SQUASH: gourd (5), vine (4), English game (3), vegetable or fruit (2), orange, green, yellow, or white (1)
  8. STUFFING: crusty bread (5), broth (4), onions (3), herbs (2), inside the turkey (1)

Tally the points and award the winning team a giant bag of candy corn to share.

TEACH

Say: While the winning team is chowing down on their bag of candy corn, we’re going to talk about Thanksgiving.

As many people know, Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday.

As a nation, we set aside one day out of the year to give thanks to God for His blessings in our lives.

I’m sure your family is probably like most, in that you have unique Thanksgiving traditions that you celebrate.

Like that certain food that you only get to eat at Thanksgiving dinner.

Those family members that only come around once a year.

The football games you watch on TV.

Some families gather around the table and share something they have been thankful for over the past year.

The word “thanks” appears in the Bible nearly 100 times, with over one-third of those in the Book of Psalms alone.

Read Luke 17:11-17.

As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 

As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 

He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”

And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.

So, we find Jesus heading toward Jerusalem.

When he entered a village, the verse says He was greeted by ten men with leprosy crying out for Jesus to heal them.

Leprosy is a contagious disease that affects the skin and nerves, causing discoloration and lumps on the skin and, in severe cases, disfigurement and deformities.

The story continues by saying that Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests.

Then, as they were walking away, they were miraculously healed.

They had not done anything special, they just walked away – but, they were obedient to what Jesus asked them to do.

We read that one of the men made the choice and returned to Jesus and praised God.

It says he fell to the ground thanking Jesus for what He had done.

When Jesus asked the man where the other nine were, he couldn’t respond.

He honestly didn’t know why the other nine chose not to give Jesus thanks, but he made the choice to be grateful.

Imagine the Thanksgiving dinner conversation at his table that year… “This year, I’m thankful that God healed me from leprosy.”

We’ve all had times when we forget to say “thank you” to someone.

Maybe you’ve even felt embarrassed when you realized that you forgot – we’ve all done it.

But this was something pretty important to be thankful for.

Being thankful is so important to God that we are told to “give thanks” about 46 times in the Bible.

Many times, at Thanksgiving, we are told by everything from advertisements to pictures on the wall to give thanks – there are reminders all around us.

And even though giving thanks is important, what’s even more important is WHO it is we give thanks to.

To just simply give thanks isn’t the point.

It’s not only what you’re grateful for, but who you are grateful to.

And being thankful is much more than just saying “thank you.”

Read Colossians 3:16.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives.

Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.

Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

This verse tells us to sing to God with thankful hearts.

But how can somebody sing with a thankful heart?

For the Colossian church, they had thankful hearts because of God’s grace and mercy.

Their relationship with God had been restored through Jesus Christ, and they were extremely thankful.

Many of them were persecuted for their faith in Jesus, but still, they were grateful to God.

Thankful thinking comes from deciding that you are going to be thankful.

It’s a choice you get to make every single day.

Many people give thanks for meals and for a new day.

We are even thankful for our stuff – clothes, video games, cell phones, etc.

But what about being thankful for friends?

Or how about being thankful for having good health?

You can even be thankful for clean air and water that is safe to drink.

The man with leprosy not only realized that he was healed and his health was restored, but he wanted to give thanks to the one who gave it to him.

Too many times we don’t realize the importance of being thankful for someone or something until it’s gone.

Of course, that’s why the man with leprosy returned to thank Jesus.

He realized the incredible gift he had been given in having his health restored.

We don’t know how long this man lived with the disease, but he would have had to live with others with the disease like him, away from other people.

But now his life was changed.

And the Bible says he demonstrated it by praising God and giving thanks to Jesus.

He didn’t have to live separated from others anymore.

He no longer had to shamefully shout his disease before entering into a town.

He could enjoy his friends and family like everyone else.

I’m sure that after that, he worshiped God with a truly thankful heart.

It was his decision to come back to Jesus.

Think back to the things that have happened in your life in the last few days.

In good situations and celebrations, be thankful for the opportunity to celebrate.

In difficult times, be thankful to God that He is right there with you to comfort you and bring you through.

Every action begins with a thought.

You choose what you think about.

And if you think about being thankful to God in every area of life, you will definitely end up there.

The more we show our thankfulness every day, the more it will become our regular way of thinking.

Then, we can live a life of gratitude for all that God has done.

Close in prayer.

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Why don’t we naturally think about being thankful?
  2. It’s easy to be thankful for the things we can see. What are some things we can’t see that we should be thankful for?
  3. How does it make you feel when someone thanks you for a good job or for helping out?
  4. How can thankful thinking change someone’s actions?
  5. Why do you think that God wants us to be thankful?
  6. Is having a grateful attitude contagious? How?
  7. Think about the people in your life. Is there someone you should express thankfulness for? How could you show them that you appreciate what they mean to you?
  8. In what ways would the world be different if more people were grateful? Share your thoughts.
  9. When was the last time you said, “thank you”? Think about it and then share with the group.
  10. In your group, take turns naming things that you are thankful for, whether you think they are big or small.

DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF THIS LESSON

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Junior High Ministry Lesson on God’s Love