“I thank my God every time I remember you …” Philippians 1:3
The Apostle Paul was quick to thank those who joined him in the work of sharing the good news of God’s grace and mercy, those who hosted him in his missionary visits and those who were generous in support of the work of the church. To the Christians he wrote that he thanked God every time he remembered the saints in that community of faith.
One of the challenges in our frenetic culture is to take the time to offer words of written or spoken thanks to those who support the work of the church or synod in small or grand ways. Here are some tips for saying thank you on a daily, weekly and seasonal basis:
- Take time daily to offer a prayer of thanks. All stewardship is a God-driven activity. Whether offered at the start or close of the day, prayer helps stewardship leaders to frame all they do in terms of all that God has done and continues to do.
- In worship each week, give thanks for a group, a ministry team, or several leaders, who have invested in God’s mission. This could come before the offering, as a reminder that we serve God with all the resources of our lives or be woven into the offering prayer. Over a year’s time you will have acknowledged dozens of servants.
- Do not overlook the power of a handwritten note in a digital era. There was a reason our parents made us sit down and write thank-you notes after receiving birthday or Christmas gifts. They knew that notes in our childhood letters would mean much to those who gave gifts to us. They also recognized that intentional thanking is a life-long habit that deepens with practice. Here is one way to deepen that habit in a congregation:
> Weekly: send a hand-written note to five people, who faithfully contribute financially or invest time in the life of the congregation. Over a year that is 250 notes of gratitude.
> Monthly: at a stewardship committee meeting or church council meeting, ask members to send a hand-written note to a community organization or local leader, whose leadership is making a difference to the community. By providing names, addresses and notecards, thanks can be extended to 12 or more leaders and organizations each year.
> Seasonally: send a personal word of thanks to each person or household making a pledge for the first time. Having done that, add a personal greeting to each pledge acknowledgement. Be sure that thanks are offered to all who invest time in planning for stewardship work through a personal note and in the congregation’s prayers.
- Go through the list above and substitute a phone call or a face-to-face visit for each of those habit building activities. For example:
> Weekly: call five persons, who faithfully contribute financially or invest time in the life of the congregation. Over a year that is 250 expressions of gratitude.
> Monthly: ask committee members to call or stop by to visit community leaders, whose leadership and organization is impacting the local community. That is 12 organizations a year.
> Seasonally: call each household, making a pledge for the first time, and say “thank you.” In fact, you – or a committee – could call and thank everyone who contributes financially to the congregation.
- Don’t forget that videos convey strong messages and are easy to record with a smart phone. Create a short video of many groups, simply saying “thank you” into the camera. This could be played in worship and/or posted on the congregation’s website.
- In all forms of communications, give thanks for the generosity behind financial gifts of every size. It is tempting to equate “generous donors” with those who have the ability to give larger money gifts. Remember the widow’s two coins along with Zacchaeus’ extraordinary pledge.
by Bishop Patricia Lull