Here’s a free youth group lesson on Gratitude. Use it as an upcoming lesson for Thanksgiving or any time of the year.

Bible: Colossians 3:1-3, 12-15

Bottom Line: Gratitude is a response to God’s grace and an attitude that affects all our lives.

Enjoy the lesson!

– Nick Diliberto, Ministry to Youth

Like this lesson? It’s a sample from our new Grace & Gratitude series, which is included in our Exclusive Youth Curriculum.

EXCLUSIVE YOUTH CURRICULUM: One year of youth ministry totally done for you! 52 weeks of teaching curriculum, 77 weeks of small group curriculum, 4 youth group events and 6 training sessions. Three options now available: Everything, Teaching Curriculum or Small Group Curriculum.

YOUTH GROUP LESSON ON GRATITUDE

SUPPLIES

  • A way to show slides to your students – either in-person and virtual.
  • A cell phone – yours or someone else’s, OR you can create a dummy number by using a service like https://smsreceivefree.com.

OPENING GAME: NITRO TEXT

Game Prep:

How to Play the Game:

Say, 

  • Today we are going to see who has the fastest texting fingers in a game called “Nitro Text.”
  • In a minute, I’m going to put a phone number and a message on the screen.
  • The first student to send that message to that number is our winner.
    • If you don’t want to have to ask students to verify their phone numbers to determine a winner, have them include their name at the end of the message. 
  • We’ll play _____ rounds to figure out who is the Nitro-est Text-er.
  • Ready, set, go!

As messages come in, verify spelling and punctuation; if there are errors, tell them to try again!

Celebrate the winner of each round, giving prizes as appropriate.

Play as many rounds as your group finds fun, but always stop before they get bored.

TEACH

What’s up everybody!?!!

I’m super excited to see you here tonight because we’re starting a new series all about gratitude. 

I know, I know … you’ve heard it all before: “We should be thankful, blah blah blah …”

During this series, I think we’re going to talk about gratitude in a way that changes things for you.

Before we get started, let’s have a little MANDATORY FUN TIME.

It’s a little bit like Nitro Text, but this time, I want to see the things you’re thankful for.

I’m putting my cell number on the screen. The first person to send me a single message with twenty-five things you’re thankful for is the winner.

[If you’re not comfortable sharing your cell number, you can have a volunteer share their number to receive texts, OR use a service like https://smsreceivefree.com. Be sure to have the students include their names in their messages.]

Ready, set, go!!!

[Once you receive your first text of twenty-five, call time.]

Okay, Okay, our winner is _____ … congratulations!

Here are some of the things they said they were thankful for: [Read a few off the list … there will likely be some silly ones – read one or two of those too.]

Let’s play again. This time I want you to send me your top twenty-five things that get on your nerves.

Ready, set, go!!!

[Once you receive your first text of twenty-five, call time.]

Okay. Our winner is _____ … congratulations!

[If time permits, tell other students to send what they have, even if it’s not twenty-five.]

Here are some of the things you said that got on your nerves: [Read a few off the list … focus on the funny ones.]

Was it harder to come up with twenty-five things to be thankful for, or twenty-five things that get on your nerves?

[Give a moment or two for interaction.]

Why do you think some people said, “get on your nerves”?

[Give a moment or two for interaction.]

How hard was it coming up with twenty-five things to be thankful for?

[Give a moment or two for interaction.]

Raise your hand if you didn’t participate because the thought of coming up with twenty-five things seemed like a lot.

Isn’t that interesting?

We know we all have way more than twenty-five things we’re thankful for, but for some reason, making a list of twenty-five things seems really hard!

I wonder if one of the main reasons it’s easy to make a list of negative things, but hard for us to think of positive things, is because a lot of us focus more on the negative things in our lives than the positives.

It seems like a lot of people are just looking for reasons to be offended. 

When you live life with a negative outlook all the time, it severely hurts your ability to be grateful.

But it’s so hard because it seems like everyone around us is negative.

In our passage for tonight, Paul addresses how we should think differently.

Paul was a follower of Jesus that would travel around and start churches. 

Once things got off the ground, Paul would pack up and go to another town and start another church.

Sometimes, Paul would send letters back to these churches to encourage them.

Tonight’s passage is from a letter Paul wrote to the church in Colossae.

We’re going to read two sections of Colossians 3.

Would someone read Colossians 3:1-3 aloud for the group? [I LOVE having students read from the Bible. If it doesn’t work for your group, feel free to read it yourself or have another adult read it.]

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3 (NLT)

First, Paul starts out with the phrase, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ…”

That’s Paul’s way of letting us know that what he’s writing is for people who have a relationship with Jesus.

If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, tonight is a great night to begin one.

Later, when you’re with your small group, you’ll have a chance to ask more questions about that.

Paul is saying that if you’re a follower of Jesus, you’ve got to let God reshape the way you think.

In another letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he wrote, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Romans 12:2a (NLT)

He says when we start following Jesus, His spirit starts to change everything about us, including what we think and how we think.

We focus more on the things of heaven than the things of earth. 

Which means we’re going to start thinking differently than everyone else.

He even goes as far as to say that we have died to the life of thinking like everyone else.

Then a few verses later, he starts to tell us how to do this.

Would someone read Colossians 3:12-15 aloud for the group? [Again, I love having students read, but if it doesn’t work for your group, have you or another adult read.]

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. – Colossians 3:12-15 (NLT)

Paul gives a great list of things that describe a person who is thinking about the things of heaven, not of earth.

I’m going to read the passage again, but this time I’m going to read each word or phrase that Paul talks about in this passage.

When I get to a word or phrase that describes how Paul says we should be, I want everyone to yell out, “There’s one!” then “There’s two!” etc.

Cool? Here we go:

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy [“There’s one!”]

kindness, [“There’s two!”]

humility, [“There’s three!”]

gentleness, [“There’s four!”]

and patience. [“There’s five!”]

13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, [“There’s six!”]

and forgive anyone who offends you. [“There’s seven!”]

Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. [“That’s actually a repeat – so still seven.”]

14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, [“There’s eight!”]

which binds us all together in perfect harmony. [“There’s nine!”]

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. [“There’s ten!”]

For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. [“That’s another repeat, so ten.”]

And always be thankful. [“There’s eleven!”]

Paul gives this long list of things–humility, patience, peace, forgiveness; and these are some biggies–and then he includes being thankful as the last one.

Paul knows gratitude is an attitude that affects all our lives.

I wonder if sometimes we don’t FEEL thankful, so we don’t say “thank you.”

But in this passage, Paul is saying:

  • Be merciful, even if you don’t feel like it, because you’ve died to your old life.
  • Be kind, even if you don’t feel like it, because you’ve died to your old life.
  • Be humble, even if you don’t feel like it, because you’ve died to your old life.
  • Be gentle, be patient, forgive, be at peace, even if you don’t feel like it, because you’ve died to your old life.

All those things make sense because deep down, we know they’re good for us.

So why don’t we think of gratitude the same way?

I think that’s part of the disconnect we have with gratitude.

We know we should be kind because that’s good.

We know we should be humble, and patient, and forgiving because they’re good.

All those make sense, but we don’t think of gratitude the same way.

In this passage, Paul is saying be grateful, even if you don’t feel like it, because you’ve died to your old life, and you don’t think like everyone else.

God doesn’t need us to be thankful; God gives us the gift of being able to be thankful.

Gratitude is a response to God’s grace in our lives:

  • We can be grateful because God offers us new life in him.
  • We can be grateful because he’s given us power by his Spirit to live freely.
  • We can be grateful because we have the church – friendships with other Christ-followers who encourage us, help us, and pray for us.
  • We can be grateful because God invites us to be a part of His mission to redeem the whole world.

Gratitude is an attitude that affects all our lives.

Gratitude is the right attitude to have … because it’s the best way for us to live … and because it’s best for everyone around us.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about different aspects of gratitude.

Next week we’ll talk about being grateful for the good things.

Then the next week we’ll talk about being grateful in the bad things – notice I didn’t say be thankful FOR the bad things, but IN the bad things.

Then the last week we’ll talk about how an attitude of gratitude can be an engine for good in our lives.

Have any of you heard of the song “Count Your Blessings”? 

It’s an old song that has some simple lyrics, but the message is profound.

The chorus simply says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

If we can learn how to live like that–with an attitude of gratitude–we won’t just be thinking differently, we’ll be living differently.

That’s what I hope we can figure out over the next few weeks.

Have a great small group!

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What are your top three pet peeves … the things that really get on your nerves?
  2. What are the three things you’re most thankful for?
  3. Which of those questions is easiest to answer and why?
  4. Which of those questions put you in the best mood and why?
  5. What does it mean to “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth”? (Colossians 3:2)
  6. How can people in poverty-stricken, third-world countries be grateful? 
  7. How can being spoiled cause us to struggle with being grateful?
  8. In Colossians 3:12, why did Paul use the metaphor of “clothe yourself” to describe how we should think and act?
  9. Paul lists eleven things in Colossians 3:12-15 that we should “clothe” ourselves with. Which are the easiest for you and why? Which are the most difficult and why?
  10. What are some things you can do to grow the attitude of gratitude in your life?

End Lesson

Like this lesson? It’s a sample from our new Grace & Gratitude series, which is included in our Exclusive Youth Curriculum.

EXCLUSIVE YOUTH CURRICULUM: One year of youth ministry totally done for you! 52 weeks of teaching curriculum, 77 weeks of small group curriculum, 4 youth group events and 6 training sessions. Three options now available: Everything, Teaching Curriculum or Small Group Curriculum.

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