The services and ministries that your church runs rely many people. These include donors, volunteers, and other supporters. Without the time and money of these generous people, the church could not be so effective. Too often, we struggle to thank these individuals appropriately. Sometimes for lack of time, sometimes for lack of the right words.
The Bible exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is our responsibility as leaders to not only thank God for His provision. We have an equal responsibility to thank those who helped make it happen. By modeling gratitude, we help others to then be more thankful in their lives.
Practicing gratitude also leads to a humble heart. When we elevate God and the works of others, we benefit. It helps us to remember that we are one small part of God’s plan and how He works through the church.
Finally, it is easy to thank God in our head but forget that others cannot see it. Our voices (and pens) are powerful tools for empowering other Christians. In Ephesians, we are told, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). By thanking others, we help and encourage them.
What Makes a Good Thank You Letter?
A good thank you letter is:
A good thank you letter in an outward expression of how you feel. Finding the right words may be difficult but finding the emotion behind it should not. Despite this, even leaders sometimes struggle!
We admit, it can be difficult to write genuine thank you letters when you have so many of them to do. Ask God to help you to be thankful and keep asking him as you write the letter.
Often as you write it, thankfulness will come. Your own writing will remind you of the part that person played. This will help you to reflect on their contribution and how it helped the church.
“Thank you for that thing you did.”
Doesn’t sound great, does it? Would you like to receive this in a thank you note? Without specifics it sounds downright ungrateful!
“Thank you for cleaning the toilets before Church on Sunday”?
Better, but we can improve it even further, because it doesn’t specify how this made an impact.
“Thank you for cleaning the toilets before Church on Sunday. It helped to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for our congregation and visitors.”
Much better. The more specific you can get about what the person did and how it impacted the work of the church, the better the thank you. Be wary of using generic a generic message and spend a couple of minutes considering their actions and what they achieved.
3. A Natural Extension of Your Relationship
The language of your thank you should reflect the relationship you have with the person you are writing to.
For example, address them how you would normally address them when speaking to them. If you normally call them Mrs. Jenkins, use that in the thank you letter. If, on the other hand, you call them Julie, use that.
There are no set rules – you should choose your language and content based on your relationship with that person. Failure to do this can make the letter sound unnatural. Sending a formal letter to a close friend can be as big a mistake as sending a “chummy” letter to someone you barely know.
Where possible, personalize each letter with something specific to that person. You could:
- Ask after their husband or wife.
- Reflect on something unique or individual they bring to the congregation.
- Mention something they said to you in a previous conversation.
These small personal details communicate that you have put care and thought into writing the letter. This can turn a simple thank you letter template into something individual, genuine, and far more effective.
5. Written in Your Church’s “Language”
One of the biggest mistakes when writing a church thank you letter is to use a template too closely. Failing to edit your template to reflect the language and communication in your church can make your letter stick out like a poor thumb. The only thing worse than a poorly written thank you letter is one that is obviously copy-pasted with no thought at all for how it sounds.
An Example Church Thank You Letter
Below is a short example of a good thank you letter. It mentions what you’re thanking the person for, the impact their contribution has made, and does so in a personal way:
On behalf of the whole church family, I wanted to say a big thank you for the time and effort you’ve invested in our Childrens’ Ministry this term. I appreciate the time, energy, and love you’ve put into your volunteering and especially with your leadership of the team.
Your efforts have raised the bar, and I’ve noticed that the team has been revitalized under your guidance. We’re now seeing lots of fruit from the ministry, and we could not have done it without you – looking forward to seeing where God takes us next term!
The above example might be too informal for your church, personal style, or your relationship with the person. If that is the case, it isn’t hard to modify it:
Dear Mr. Betts,
On behalf of the church, I wanted to express my sincere gratitude for your volunteering in the Childrens’ Ministry this term. Under your leadership, the team has thrived, and I give thanks to God for the impact your work has had.
Under your guidance, the team has been revitalized. I look forward to seeing the impact God has through you next term,
Yours in Christ,