1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Gratitude is central to our walk as Christians. We see the important role it plays in relating with God and others.
In our modern age we have the benefit of science, which continues to back up the claims of Scripture. Check out these ways science backs up our theological view of gratitude. See, too, just how much gratitude impacts small group ministry.
Gratitude increases our desire to help others.
In 2006, a team of researchers studied how gratitude affects our willingness to engage in “costly prosocial behavior.” Another way of phrasing that is “helping even when it hurts.” The study found that gratitude increases likelihood of helping others. It also found that the impact gratitude has is distinct from just being in a generally good mood. As a small group point person, you know the importance of group members helping one another. As people recognize the gifts they have in their life it’s a natural next step to extend gifts to others.
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Gratitude increases empathy.
This 2011 study found that gratitude increases sensitivity to others’ needs and empathy. Empathy is foundational in its importance in small group dynamics. Only when group members understand one another can they start to truly care for one another. Romans 12:15 emphasizes this importance when it tells us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Having an emotional and relational connection with others in our groups is pivotal.
Christian values and gratitude increase physical health!
A 2015 study showed several findings important to our Christian walk. First, they found that a belief in a benevolent God led to more gratitude. Next, they observed that gratitude increased hopefulness. Finally, they measured better health outcomes related to that hopefulness. As Christians we are not surprised to find that following God leads to thankfulness and good health. However, this collection of findings emphasizes that gratitude is core to relating with God. We can encourage one another in this as John does in 3 John 1:2, “I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.”
Finally, expressing gratitude to a small group leader may increase functioning!
Here’s a finding your small group leaders will want to share with their groups. In 2014 a team observed a group of athletes and measured their gratitude toward coaches. Openly grateful athletes exhibited higher self-esteem that appeared to optimize functioning. So next time someone in your small group wants to take things to the next level, just remind them to be more thankful to their small group leader!