Guest post from
Today is my first day back in the office after our annual winter retreat weekend. I’ve got a full email inbox, there are phone messages to return, and let’s not talk about the to do list that’s on my desk taunting me. But before I conquer any of those things, I need to prioritize thanking the team that pulled off two, back-to-back retreats this past weekend.
Why? Because ministry is often a thankless job. Or if you get a thank you, it may have conditions. For example, a parent might say to a small group leader, “Thank you for picking up Johnnie from practice for me last week. I was so crunched for time. You were such a blessing… can you do that every Thursday afternoon?”
In our 2017 American Church culture, where families expect ministers to cater to their every need, genuine thank you’s are rare. Writing thank you notes to your volunteers can be a game changer for them personally and also for your team as whole. Encouraged and fulfilled volunteers serve in your ministry longer. Also, if we are asking our people to invest in students’ lives… shouldn’t we be investing into their lives at an even higher rate?
One of the greatest gems I picked up in college was the power of a thank you note. I had a professor tell me to write two notes every day that you were in the office. That’s ten notes a week… and almost 500 notes in a year (give or take vacation weeks and trips). Think about that — you could personally thank nearly 500 people in your church by just spending 10-15 minutes a day writing notes. Here are some tips for thank you note success:
- Handwrite & Mail Your Notes
The dollar spot at Target is a goldmine for cheap thank you cards. They come eight for a dollar! I know in a technological age, it’s easy to write on a Facebook wall or send your volunteers a text, but there is something powerful about handwriting. Handwriting on a real notecard communicates: This took me time. This was intentional. You are valuable to me.
Also, mail the note. I know the stamp will cost you more than the note itself, mail it anyway. My mail is generally all bills. What a ray of sunshine to get a happy, encouraging card in that stack of adultness!
- The Length of the Note Does Not Matter
Thank you notes should be quick and genuine. It does not matter if you are an incredible writer, just spend 3-5 sentences explaining to the person something specific you value about them. It can be as simple as, “I appreciate how you always make sure the plates and napkins are out before the pizza arrives. That is a critical part of having our environment ready for youth group. Your behind-the-scenes thoughtfulness is so valuable to me and our students!”
- Schedule & Document Your Notes
Make sure to jot down on a spreadsheet or calendar when and to whom you have sent a note. Once you get in the habit of doing this, you will have something to look back on to help you see who you have missed or haven’t encouraged in a while.
Words cannot adequately express how powerful this has been in my ministry. Whether it’s three sentences or three pages, please write at least one volunteer an encouraging note today!