Dads Should Lead on Thanksgiving

In the last few years, the Thanksgiving holiday has slowly been redefined by overeating, crank in-laws, lots of NFL football, and early Christmas sales. Now, I enjoy all of those things (yes, even the cranky in-laws). But if we are not careful, we can allow a grand moment for worship and thanks to pass us by as we’re grabbing for the remote and more pumpkin pie. This is where I think Dads can lead their families with a bit of courage and a lot of creativity.

As the spiritual leader in the home, Dads have a job to set the tone. I’m not saying we need a five-hour sermon series on the finer points of thankfulness and the history of Squanto, but at times in the Thanksgiving holiday, Dad needs to make some right turns and steer the family toward some expressions of gratitude. This could be a throat-clearing moment at dinner when Dad puts down the turkey leg and says, “Okay, I would like everyone to go around the table and express thankfulness for some blessings they received this year.” You might even plan ahead and bring your Bible to the table and read from Habakuk 3 or 1 Thessalonians 5:18. If you own a hymnal you might crack it open to a hymn like “Come Ye Thankful People, Come” or “We Gather Together” or “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” You can also Google those hymns and print them out to read.

This might take a bit of foresight, but I think it’s important for a Dad to set a tone of warmth, thanksgiving, and gratitude on Thanksgiving. Especially since Dads typically approach this holiday with a bit of a sense of indulgence: overeating, lots of football, and unwillingness to engage family. We tend to allow the ladies to serve us and offer little in the way of spiritual leadership.

I’m not saying watching football is bad on Thanksgiving. I plan on watching plenty of NFL. And I love to eat turkey and all the trimmings. However, with a little effort, Dads can lead the way to recovering the original intent of the holiday.

Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He previously served five years as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church. He is a contributor to Leadership Journal, Homelife,, Stand Firm,” and a variety of other evangelical publications. He has written several books, including his latest, Activist Faith.

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2 thoughts on “Dads Should Lead on Thanksgiving

  1. Amen! Excellent encouragement here. I have few pet peeves, but the loss of a true Thanksgiving Day is one of them. Ths holy day's focus of thanksgiving to God for his mercy and goodness needs to be recovered.
    It is sobering to read Washington's first Thanksgiveing Day proclamation. "Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…"

    or LIncoln's [Thanksgiving day became anannual federal holiday thereafter]. "The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings… that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God,…who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

  2. "the ladies serve us…"

    Are you aware that Biblically, that makes the ladies the "leaders"? (Matt 20:26, John 13, etc.)

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