These Two Words Can Transform Your Ministry
It seems like many of the niceties that were once commonplace are increasingly becoming scarce. As a boy, there were a few things that were non-negotiable in how I was expected to interact with people. Sir and Ma’am were how I addressed adults, requests started with please, and you never forget to say thank you. I didn’t always live up to these expectations, but I tried to and often received a reprimand when I didn’t. We could spend time debating the cause of these manners being more rare or wring our hands about the direction society is moving. Neither of those things makes our world different and neither brings something positive to our lives. Instead, I will take the rest of this post to share a few ideas about why I am committing myself to two words: Thank You.
Many of the times you hear the word ‘thanks’ it can be said as a throwaway word. We finish emails with ‘thanks’, but that rarely leaves me with a warm feeling of gratitude when I read it. On the other hand, there are times when someone has thanked me for even the most mundane of things and something inside me is given life. It may be a child thanking you for making them dinner, or a spouse recognizing that you had cleaned the house, and in that moment, their gratitude has meaning for you. Additionally, when I am the person saying thank you, I am taking the intentional step to live in gratitude and recognize someone else’s contribution. Being thanked and saying thank you are both good for you.
Thoughts on Giving Thanks
Thankfulness is a posture
If I am going to be a person of gratitude, then I am forced to be on the lookout for the positives. This means that I am living with a posture of Phil 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Spending my energy looking for and recognizing the positives has an effect on how I see the world and how I interact with it.
Saying thank you is a great start, but the best acknowledgments of gratitude recognize specific actions. When speaking with a volunteer in your children’s ministry, saying ‘thanks for your help today’ is nice, but taking the time to say ‘thanks for working with the three boys that were in the back during worship time. I could tell they were disconnected and I think you helped them engage in worship. I really appreciate you being here,’ shows what a difference specifics can make. This lets people know that you were observing the contribution that they made and are not simply being polite. By using specifics you can communicate “I see you, you make this place better, and you are valuable’. That is a message that God communicates to all of us, but sadly, for many of us, it can be hard to receive.
Keep it real
Thankfulness is like a muscle and it needs to be exercised. Many of us don’t visit the gratitude gym enough, and so we can fall into the habit of ‘fake it till you make it’. Don’t do that. People can feel genuine gratitude and they can smell the foulness of insincerity. If you can’t find something positive to say to the person, keep digging. My mom used to say, ‘If you can’t find something good to say about someone, then perhaps you need to get to know them a bit more.’ Sound advice.
Thoughts on Being Thanked
Don’t fight it
Taking compliments can be hard. Next time you tell someone something that you like about them, even something as small as liking their shirt, notice their response. You may be surprised how frequently the response minimizes the value of the compliment. I know that I can do this and it take real disciple to just say thank you in return.
Hold onto it
When someone recognizes how you have been a blessing, take some time and think about it. I like to actually write down what they said so that I can revisit it at a later time. This may seem odd, but since I started doing that, I frequently find myself going back to that person and telling them how their kind words impacted me. The result of this has often been a deeper relationship and it creates a cycle of positivity.
How Does this Impact my Ministry?
Thankfulness is a discipline. Like other spiritual disciplines, God wants us to practice it because it is good for us. Here are a few ways I’ve seen gratitude impact ministries:
It creates a culture
Attitudes are contagious. Being thankful and sharing it with others fuels positivity in your community. Few people want to spend time with people who are negative, but joyful people draw a crowd. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about walking around and blowing sunshine everywhere. There are many things that are dark and negative. Let’s be honest about that. Finding things that are positive might be the hardest thing you do in a day, but it is worth the effort.
Thankfulness is a natural antibiotic for gossip. Gossip is a huge problem in many of our churches. We hide it in prayer requests or being concerned about someone, or sometimes we don’t hide it at all. It is really hard to say something negative about someone behind their back if you are genuinely telling them how you are thankful for them to their face.
Develop cheerful givers
Saying thank you to people for giving can often seem like a formality. By being specific about why their gift matters, you can give their gift its proper context. This takes some effort and thought, but letting people know how they have impacted the Kingdom with their gift is one of the best strategies you can take to retain givers in the future.
Develop devoted volunteers
Similarly, letting volunteers know why their time and energy matters can transform your volunteer ministry. When someone gives of themselves, we owe it to them to treat that like a gift. That means we have to value their time and help them see the results of their efforts.
It has been said that the spiritual journey is about coming to believe we are who God says we are, despite who we know ourselves to be. This work of embracing our true identity in Christ is something that we will work at as long as we draw breath. One way we can help each other on this path is to take the Father’s posture and tell those around us “I see you. You matter. There is innate beauty in you and I’m thankful for you.”
How are you cultivating a culture of gratitude in your community?