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Leaning Into Thanksgiving Hurts

For kids in your small group, Thanksgiving might not always be a time of cheer and laughter. Sometimes, life circumstances can make the holidays hurt. The good news is there are things that you as a small group leader can do to support hurting students during this time. Read to learn more.

I don’t know if there’s any smell that can beat a kitchen on Thanksgiving Day. I really don’t. There’s something magical about all of those ingredients and spices melding together in pots and ovens. Cooked turkey? And apple pie? Also simmering vegetables? It’s a wonder working combination. And if Bath and Body Works sold a “Thanksgiving Dinner” scented candle, I would pay for it because there’s something evocative about that smell. It makes you think about being with people you love the most and ruminating over all of the things we’re thankful for.

But Thanksgiving doesn’t mean all of those things for all people. The experience of family, and dinner, and laughing over meaningful memories isn’t an equal one.

No dad in the picture means no dad to carve up the turkey this year.

Angry guests are doing a bad job at keeping their opinions and disappointment at bay.

Mom is really sick which puts a hard stop to holiday cheer.

Even with parents working hard, there’s not enough money for a traditional meal.

Splitting time between divorced parents is a nasty task.

Thanksgiving can be a stressful time of year for anyone, but that’s especially true for your few. Kids and students who were already aware of the gaping deficiencies in their lives can easily feel like a spotlight has been cast on those places. And for kids or students in your small group, Thanksgiving may be an event that they grudgingly anticipate and just hope that they make it through.

As a small group leader, you can’t fix every hurt. But you can recognize and validate it because it’s real. The things you say won’t make the pain go away completely because those ugly realities that they’re living in will still be there tomorrow. But you should still say something because your few need to hear what you have to say. And you can’t meet every need, but you can meet some of them.

Supporting Hurting Students This Thanksgiving

It doesn’t take much to look at a kid or student who is feeling all of the weight that comes with a day like Thanksgiving and you say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting, but I want you to know that I am grateful that you’re in my group. I’m thankful to know you. And I’m here if you ever need me.” It reminds them that whatever the circumstances are in their personal lives, there is a safe place for them. 

And the most important thing that you can do for one of your few who is hurting on Thanksgiving is to pray for them. The truth is that no matter how much you care about his or her situation, God cares more. And he is much more capable of reaching into a broken situation and pulling out something beautiful.

So this year, before and after Thanksgiving, check-in with your few, and ask them they’re feeling about this time of year and what they’re most excited about. I hope all of their answers are the positive kind! But if there’s one or two answers that are a little tough, then seize that opportunity to be there for those kids or students. Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year, but if it turns into a rough one for someone in your small group, don’t be afraid to lean into that.

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