Give Thanks: Building Space for Gratitude

In this lesson, youth will explore what it looks like to express gratitude in their daily lives.

Quest for Life

Enhancer of Joy



60 minutes

Lesson Developed by

Rev. Marc Afshar and Dr. Robert Emmons


Give Thanks

Tips to Prepare

Prayerfully Read Luke 9:10-17

Materials Checklist

  • Hat or bowl to draw names from
  • Small pieces of paper to write down names
  • chalk/chalkboard
  • Pens, pencils, or colored pencils, paper

Setting the Atmosphere

No specific set-up is prescribed for this session, but participants should be able to sit comfortably and read text from a handout. Participants can be seated in a circle or in rows. Lighting should be managed so that it is bright enough for participants to see well when necessary. The materials listed for each activity are deliberately simple and low-cost  Links to PDFs of handouts and PowerPoint slides could be included with the curriculum.

Scripture Focus

Luke 9: 10-17  


 The goal of this lesson is to discover practical ways to demonstrate gratitude in daily living. Students will learn that gratitude is a way of life and one that will lead to positive change in all facets of their being.


 In this discussion youth will discuss what it means to live in gratitude, explore ways of demonstrating the concept and engage in activities that help build space for gratitude to have its place in their life.

Introduction for Leaders

Gratitude has so much to do with your well being – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. You can change your life by being grateful. As a youth leader you need to address this pivotal concept because it will set up every young person for long-term success and will shake the spirit of entitlement right off. Over the course of your time with your group this session will aim to shed light on gratitude on how we live life gratefully. Your group will explore ways to bring out gratitude and also have fun with it. 

We will first gather information from the students about what they value in their lives. We will then draw a bridge to feeling gratitude over what they find value in. This is so key as sometimes we often neglect being grateful over things we find very valuable and it draws our attention to being grateful for those things.

Gratitude ought to be fun! We see David who wrote so many of his psalms full of gratitude. A fun modern day way to do that is to write a rap. Students will tap into their creativity to express their gratitude in a fun unique way. Perhaps a hit song will come out of it!

Another aspect of the session aims to build a gratitude receptor within us for others. We ought to be givers of gratitude. When we find ourselves grateful for what we receive it should spill out of us for others as well. The students will “secretly” observe others in the group and find something they are grateful for in each other. 

To finalize our time together students will see how even Jesus found himself thankful and what that did for a large crowd of people! Gratitude is truly amazing and when put into play it can lead to miraculous results.


Gather (5 minutes)

  • Greet participants and invite them to be seated in your discussion area.
  • Invite participants to draw one slip of paper in the hat/bucket and only keep it to themselves. They are going to keep this name in the back of their mind the entire duration of the session and find one trait or action they found grateful of the name they picked out. You may need to have everyone introduce themselves after the fact if students don’t know each other. This will create excitement and overall vibe for the duration of the session and teach students to always be on the lookout to give gratitude. We will go back to the observation sometime later in the session and students will share what they are grateful for on the name they picked. 


Engage (30 minutes)

Activity 1: What is valuable to you and where does gratitude fit into that picture? The facilitator will create a simple x,y chart with valuable and gratitude as the coordinates on the front board for all students to view.

Facilitator: “Today we are going to talk about what it means to be grateful and how we may be grateful already but not necessarily know it.” Facilitator goes on to ask what are things that the students find valuable to them? (school, family, money, opportunities, friends, etc) 

The facilitator will write down students’ responses on the chart in levels of value to the students. If something is of high value then mark that on a greater value on the chart. Then after a good amount of responses you will want to ask the level of gratitude they find for the things they listed as valuable to them. This will show students that gratitude ought to flow naturally for things we find value in. Hopefully this will teach or shed light on being found more grateful when we realize the things we value in life.

Facilitator: “Now has anyone drawn a conclusion on how gratitude ties to in our lives already?”

The facilitator will allow for a few volunteers.  For each volunteered answer, the facilitator will make the connection that something the student values(such as a person helped the student, or the student received a gift) and that is why the student felt grateful. 

Activity 2: Gratitude Rap challenge.  The facilitator will get students into groups of no more than 5 students per group. Next hand out sheets of paper to the students. Students will be instructed that they must come up with a rap or poem or chant and present it to the group. Give them about 5-10 minutes to complete their rap. 

Facilitator: “I am handing you out a couple sheets of paper for the gratitude challenge. Each group member must have a minimum of 2 lines to share and the theme is on how we are grateful and what we are grateful for.

After students have completed their rap , the facilitator will ask students to present to the rest of the group from the front.

Facilitator: “How did you come up with your raps? Did it come easier since it was conducted in a creative manner?” 

Activity 3: Gratitude observation

The facilitator will now have the students sit back down and draw their attention back to the name they drew. He will then in an orderly manner ask each student to share who was their person and what they were grateful for that person for. 


Reflect (20 minutes)

Activity 4: What is giving thanks?  Giving thanks is a common but sometimes neglected expression. As we look into the scripture and see Jesus give thanks with the little that He had we can begin to reflect on that and be guided to experience more on a spiritual level. 

Facilitator: “Have you ever been in a position where you gave thanks?” If so, please describe the experience? Have you ever been in a place where you gave thanks when you didn’t have much and you were grateful for the little you did had? If so, please describe that experience? In what way(s) did you feel giving thanks did for you?

Activity 5: Jesus gives thanks Consider the miracle of feeding the 5,000. The disciples were rightfully concerned about not having enough to feed the entire crowd. Jesus however knew the secret to life. It was to give thanks in all circumstances as that is God’s will for everyone. His gratitude was aimed at God because He knew that God is providing. His giving thanks led to a miracle of multiplying the food.

Facilitator: In what ways is this story much more than a story about how good gratitude is or how bad ingratitude is?” “How is God’s giving different than our own?” Can you think of times where you did not give thanks because you didn’t think it was worthwhile to do so? 

Send Forth

Send Forth (5 minutes)


Facilitator: Giving thanks has so much to do with gratitude. It is part of living a grateful life. What we find valuable to us ought to make us grateful regardless of what it is. We learn from Jesus that a little can be much when gratitude is in the equation.

Closing Prayer: “Father God, we give you thanks for your radical grace, your outrageous mercy, your unconditional love.” As we go forth from this place, tune our hearts and our minds to see and savor your amazing grace. Help us to give like you give, see others like you see them, not expecting gratitude in return. We ask that you help us live a life of gratefulness, never forgetting that you are the Source of all good. Please touch us with your love in a special way, we believe for that today. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Related Video Clips


This Resource includes the following downloadable content:

Yale Youth Ministry Institute