It’s easy to be thankful when you’ve got a stomach full of turkey and pumpkin pie while watching football surrounded by family.
But expressing gratitude shouldn’t be limited to Turkey Day. Especially in the church, we should have a Thanksgiving mindset all year round. And that attitude of gratitude should be incorporated into your communication strategy.
Most churches depend on a team of volunteers to keep ministries running each week. You probably shoot them an email when you need help, but is recognizing their efforts a part of your regular communication strategy?
Although people don’t serve in order to receive praise, gratitude will leave volunteers more inclined to continue serving because their efforts are recognized and appreciated.
- Personally thank volunteers while they’re in action. If you’re passing by the nursery on Sunday morning, take a few seconds to thank the volunteers who are changing diapers and handing out snacks.
- Highlight a volunteer in your newsletter, on your blog, or with a Facebook post. Thank Sarah for her 12 years of selfless dedication to the youth group with a brief story of her experience in ministry.
- Recognize volunteer efforts during church announcements. Give credit to the team that organized your Trunk or Treat outreach and feature a few snapshots from the event.
- Turn the tables and host a thank you event where the typical volunteers are honored guests.
- Automate. Sometimes you can’t personally thank every single volunteer, so schedule an email to participants following the Christmas cantata.
- Send a handwritten card. Whether it’s a birthday wish or a simple thank you, the personal touch will go a long way in making volunteers feel appreciated.
- Say thank you—without actually saying thank you. Sometimes actions speak louder than words, so show your gratitude by finding value in volunteers’ experience and understanding. Make it easy for them to communicate any needs or concerns with church leadership. Actively seek their input and take it to heart. Provide all the tools and training they need and work to accommodate their schedules.
You probably work hard to bring new people into your church, but do you thank them for coming once they visit?
- Thank them from the pulpit. Don’t embarrass visitors by making them stand up or raise a hand, but tell them that you appreciate them joining you in worship.
- Offer them a visitor gift in exchange for some basic contact information. Check out these ideas to make an irresistible gift bag.
- Follow up with them. Whether it’s a letter, a phone call, or a personal visit, express your gratitude by following up with each person that visits your church for the first time or attends an event—and make sure it’s timely.
Visit 5 Ways to Keep Visitors from Coming Back to Your Church for more tips on visitor care.
Some people think that since church staff members are getting paid for their service, they don’t need to be thanked or encouraged. But pastors and other church staff typically make some kind of sacrifice in order to work in ministry—and many will end up suffering from ministry burnout. So make sure you’re expressing gratitude to your entire team.
- Stop by their offices to say thank you—especially after they just completed a major project. Show them that you see their accomplishments as important too.
- Encourage the church community to thank them—and not just those in leadership positions. The secretary and IT person should be recognized too.
- Automate some thank you communication. After the busyness of the holiday season, send out some emails thanking your church staff for all their hard work preparing for the musical, outreach event, and Christmas Eve service.
- Make sure you’re not grossly underpaying church staff if you can afford to give them a decent wage. Just because someone is dedicated to ministry doesn’t mean his family should live in squalor.
While it takes staff and volunteers to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of your church, they couldn’t get much done without the financial support of your church community. Are you thanking the people that faithfully give?
- Incorporate a thank you in the bulletin or on a slide along with your weekly giving report. This might also serve as a reminder for those who’ve neglected their giving.
- Include a thank you message with year-end contribution statements. If people print their own statements online, you can send them an email recognizing their financial support over the past year.
- When your church reaches a financial milestone—like paying off the mortgage or raising the funds for a special missions project—express your gratitude in an email or letter to the church community.
- Make it easy for people to give. Invest in the technology that will allow your loyal donors to give when and where it’s convenient for them and make sure you’ve communicated how to use these different options.
While you’re not going to send Him an email or tag Him on Facebook, isn’t God the one who deserves the bulk of our thanksgiving?
It’s easy to get caught up in the things we don’t have—megachurch attendance, hundreds of volunteers, unlimited resources—but we need to acknowledge all that He has given to us.
Share with your church community what God has already done for your ministry rather than solely focusing on your wants for the future. Set an example of gratitude. Regularly thank God for his provision as a church family. Because you can’t automate those thank yous!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.