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The Ancient Art of Thanking

Throwback culture is quite popular these days. Retro fashion is in. My grandfather’s plaid shirts and wool caps are cool again. But to take the cake, at my local coffee shop I recently saw a young adult enter carrying an old-fashioned typewriter. He set it up at the table, ordered coffee, and typed away -- quite loudly, mind you! Some older styles die off and nobody complains. But, handwritten notes…remember those? What classics! They’re actually written on this thing called “paper” we make out of dead trees. In today’s newsletter, Robert Hay, Jr. continues our series on Giving Thanks with a welcome throwback.

Yours truly,
Adam J. Copeland, Director
Center for Stewardship Leaders
Luther Seminary

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


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.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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