How to Show Your Congregation You Care This Month

Why can't we have a church member appreciation month? (Photo by Anna Earl on Unsplash)

I'd like to start a trend. Since October is "Pastor Appreciation" time, let's make November—the month of Thanksgiving—"Member Appreciation."

I'm suggesting—no, I'm urging—every pastor to write a minimum of 25 thank-yous to some church members this month.

I love receiving thank-you notes. Writing them, however, takes a little more effort. But the benefits are astounding.

Two thank-you notes came in the mail last week.

After I had spent last Sunday evening sketching at her church's "fall festival," the preschool children's director wrote: Thank you so much for drawing at our Fun Fest last Sunday! You blessed and encouraged our families so much! I'm grateful for you, your ministry, and the way the Lord is using you to draw others to Himself. Thank you again!

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Four sentences. But it was perfect.

The fact that I have known that young lady, the preschool minister, her whole life and that her parents are my dear friends, did not matter. I love her dearly as she does me. But she still did the niceties and wrote a thank-you.

It's a classy thing to do.

That same Sunday morning, I preached at a church near my house, filling in for the pastor whom I have known since he was a teen. Three decades ago, fresh from seminary, he became my church's singles' minister. And yet, wherever he was this week, he stopped to write me: As I listened to your message via the internet, I was inspired by your wisdom backed up by your own walk with the Lord. Your message was one of encouragement—in times of disappointment and anxiety as well as pursuits of ministry including evangelism. I am grateful to you for ministering to the flock under my care.

Three sentences. Handwritten, of course.

A class act.

If anyone on the planet should be good about writing thank-yous, it's the Lord's ministers.

And yet.

The stories I could tell.

But, speaking of class, I don't think I will. The failure to send a well-deserved thank-you shows a lack of character, in my opinion.

And I've been guilty, I'm sure.

Even so, let's see if we can get this right. Let's bless some people and show appreciation where it is due. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Start by making a list of church members—we're talking about people in your own congregation—who need to hear a hearty "well done" from their shepherd. Add to the list over the next few days.
  2. Whenever you have a little free time, write a couple of the notes. Don't try to do it all at once. Make it a project for the entire month.
  3. Ask your spouse to help you think of people who need appreciation.
  4. If you have secretarial help (not all pastors do), ask for help in looking up the addresses. Then, you not only write the note but also address the envelope. Your people will notice and will appreciate that personal touch.
  5. Remember, just three or four sentences will suffice. If you must be general—"thank you for your faithfulness"—then do it. But if possible, be specific: "Thanks for a great solo Sunday morning. I do love what you do to a gospel song." "I hear such good things about your Sunday school class. Well done!"
  6. If you are a man writing to a woman, ask your spouse for help with the wording. This doesn't come easily to all of us.
  7. Some pastors will say, "My handwriting is not very legible." I reply, "Either slow down and work at it, or print your words." Both thank-yous I received this week were hand-lettered (not cursive).
  8. For another touch, go to the post office and choose some beautiful stamps. They always have some interesting ones. Put a Scooby-Doo stamp or a vintage locomotive or the USS Missouri (all three stamps are available right now) on the envelope. The single message that would send to the receiver is "your minister picked this out himself and paid for the stamp." (That is, it was not run through the church's postage meter!)
  9. Keep the list in a bottom drawer of your desk and add to it from time to time. There's no law that says we can't write thank-yous any time we wish.
  10. Enjoy it. Don't let it be a chore. If you have something humorous to put in a note, do it. Whatever makes it personal and specific is good.
  11. No criticism. Not ever. Never, ever put a negative word in a letter. (I've learned this the hard way!) Only sweet, positive stuff.
  12. One more thing. Do not tell others you are doing this. Tell the congregation and two bad things will happen: You will diminish the impact of the notes you write and many will wonder why they didn't receive one. So, spare yourself and them the grief, and let this be a little private thing between you and the Lord.

Twenty-five minimum. No matter the size of your church. If you have fewer than 25 members, you might have to ask the Lord to help you think "outside the (church) box."

November is "Member Appreciation Month." Let's do this.

Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

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