The other day someone in my household dropped some marbles in a glass dish. That sound caught me off guard. Immediately my mind was taken back many years to one of the wonderful small churches I pastored in Indiana. Each Sunday, near the altar, was a very large glass jar. It had been decorated by the children, so you can imagine it was very colorful and had ribbons dangling from the top. It was our Gratitude Jar.
At the appropriate point in the service, usually prior to the morning prayer, folks were invited to grab some of the marbles that were supplied in the pew and drop one marble for each thing for which they were thankful that week. It was a wonderful blend of sight and sound. Children rushed forward with many thanks and made much clatter. Adults stood in line, adding their thanksgivings. Always there were elderly and infirmed who handed the children their marbles, giving the kids another go-around at the jar.
The whole thing probably took a minute, but it was a powerful minute. We could see and hear the gratitude of people toward their God. Not only did it give us a minute to consider our own thanks, but it was a witness to the many ways God was blessing those in our church family. Even if we had suffered through a rough week, it did us good to see our brothers and sisters, many of whom had their own struggles, bearing witness to the light that shines in the darkness.
Then, following the prayer, we took up the offering. Perhaps there was some connection between the Gratitude Jar and the offering plate. That church always seemed to have money for anything it wanted to do. Now that I think about it, it was an emotionally and spiritually healthy congregation, too. I doubt that was a coincidence.
Could your church use a Gratitude Jar? Perhaps even once a month it could be used. Even once a year, at Thanksgiving, a lengthy period of time could be given to contemplating our blessings, then grabbing a handful of hefty marbles and making some racket in the jar.
Whether you use a jar or not, take time for gratitude. Search for it. Bear witness to it. Make some noise about it. Then trust that God will continue to be generous.
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Director of Development
United Methodist Foundation of Indiana