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The Ancient Art of Thanking

Robert Hay, Jr. looks at the underestimated value of giving thanks to your church members, and how an old-fashioned hand-written note can build a stronger, more authentic relationship.
by Center for Stewardship Leaders | November 26, 2019

As many of us put the finishing touches on fall stewardship campaigns, and we gather in commitment forms from our members, do the math, and get a sense for what we are looking at for next year, we are rerunning a very timely reminder of the importance of saying thank you, the kind offered between community members and friends who are pulling in the same direction. 

Our thanks to you, our readers, for all the good work you do to inspire generosity in your context for the sake of the gospel and a better world for all!


Catherine Malotky, Center for Stewardship Leaders

The Ancient Art of Thanking

By Robert Hay, Jr.

Do you remember the last hand-written note you received? The hand-written note used to be the way people communicated. Today we use email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope (I will admit, that even as a fairly tech savvy Gen X-er I am not exactly sure how to use Periscope). We send out email-blasts that are chocked full of information and we send out short text messages with acronyms and poor grammar. We have websites with calendars and electronic forms for people to complete. Then there’s photos and videos galore available for church members and potential members to view online. Today we have more ways to communicate with our flock than we have ever had before. But, is something missing in all of this communication?

In my experience, people get engaged with churches where they feel like they have a real and authentic connection. Certainly we are in the business of building relationships with Jesus Christ, but one of the ways we do that is to build authentic relationships with our church members. We have fellowship gatherings and prayer groups and maybe even dinner groups that help to build authentic relationships. But how do we build authentic relationships through our communications?

Hand-written notes! With all of the technologically advanced communications available to us I think the best way to build authenticity in our communications is to go back to the simple, hand-written note. The hand-written note tells the recipient that you care enough about them to slow down your busy day long enough to write them a note about how much you appreciate them. This simple act of giving thanks via a hand-written note will endear the recipient to you and will strengthen your relationship with them.

Here is a really practical way that you can achieve sending a hand-written note to everyone in your congregation. Take your church role and divide it by 52 (52 weeks in a year) and write that many notes a week. The most appropriate topic for the note would be simply to say thank you to them. Thank them for singing in the choir. Thank them for ushering. Thank them for leading a Sunday School class. Thank them for their financial giving. Thank them for their leadership role in the congregation. And if you can’t come up with something specific to thank them for, then thank them for being a part of the church.

Order some thank you notes with the church logo on them. Partner with the administrative staff to prepare and address the envelopes each week. The notes do not need to be long. Keep it short and simple. Two or three sentences will do.

Giving thanks to church members for the ways they are a part of your church through a simple hand-written thank you note will build a stronger and more authentic relationship between you and them. This stronger relationship will lead to many more opportunities for spiritual growth and engagement. And church members give more generously of their time, talent, and treasure to churches where they are growing spiritually and where they have authentic relationships with the leadership. Asking people to give is very important, but saying THANK YOU is even more powerful!

Check out the rest of the Giving Thanks series:
A Gratitude Campaign by Catherine Malotky
Stewardship in the Shadow of the Shema by Raymond Bonwell
For this, I give thanks by Ingrid C. Arneson Rasmussen
Gratitude and the Simplicity Movement by Adam J. Copeland

About the Author

Robert Hay, Jr. is a Ministry Relations Officer with the Presbyterian Foundation. Robert is a preacher’s kid and preacher’s spouse who enjoys helping churches increase their stewardship by cultivating a culture of generosity. Robert and his wife Morgan live in Peachtree City, Georgia where Morgan serves as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Peachtree City. They have two young children who keep them busy.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

About the Center

Center for Stewardship Leaders

The Center for Stewardship Leaders seeks to shape a faithful, multidimensional culture of stewardship in congregations, households, and society. The center strives to consider the full spectrum of stewardship practice and theology, including financial stewardship, holistic stewardship, and leadership. See all posts from CSL.

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