Eleven ways a church can send thank you cards

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Generosity starts with a grateful heart.

Gratitude is foundational to generosity.

How can churches say thank you? Sending a thank you card is an easy starting point.  Churches can do this! I met with Susan Graham Walker from the United Church of Canada today and she gave me a thank you card that they have created for congregations.  Yay!  It's encouraging to see the national church making it easier for congregations to share their gratitude.

Eleven ways to use thank you cards

Here's 11 ways these cards could be used, I'm sure you can think of more:

  1. Begin meetings with gratitude - each member of council (or elders, deacons etc.) write one card at the beginning of each meeting to express gratitude for someone in the church
  2. Thank church custodians who keep the building welcoming
  3. Thank seniors who faithfully give despite have difficulty attending worship services
  4. Thank students who volunteer
  5. Thank donors - don't wait until the end of the year, send a thank you now and a receipt later (with another thank you)
  6. Thank members - pastors could send out three cards a month to thank members for their involvement
  7. Thank clergy - church members could send an encouraging note to clergy, teacher or denominational leader
  8. Thank Sunday School teachers
  9. Thank church admin staff who keep the church running
  10. Thank people who make coffee (perhaps this should be in the next list, but I hold this gift in special regard because people will forget a bad sermon but remember a bad cup of coffee....)
  11. Thank people who contribute to the church by baking, shoveling, encouraging, sharing, listening, singing, playing music, smiling, dancing, praying, speaking, reading, debating, affirming, welcoming, organizing, giggling, doubting, crying, hugging or simply by their presence.

Imperfect is fine

Simple, short and sincere will be fine.  Long works too.  Quote Scripture if you like.  Tell stories if you can.  Try not to stress about the content: an imperfect thank you card still expresses gratitude.

The author Laura Ingalls Wilder also wrote a newspaper column.  She wrote about a boy who had to write about what he was thankful for.  His mother sent him on a walk around the block to reflect.  Wilder noted that being able to walk and having a mother was already much to be thankful for.  Congregations who worship God and pray together have much to be thankful for too; sometimes we overlook the obvious.

We are called to be the church!  Thanks be to God.

 

 

 

 

Thank-you letters for people who didn’t give

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If you give a wedding gift, you expect to receive a thank-you note.  It’s common courtesy.  If you don’t give a gift, you generally don’t get a thank-you note.  Obvious, right? However, in church giving often nobody gets a thank-you note.  Nobody gets thanked.  Really.  In many churches, donors get an annual receipt with no thank-you letter.

Gratitude makes a springboard into generosity

I’m proposing here that everybody gets a thank-you note. Here’s why: gratitude generally and thank-you letters in particular make a good springboard into generosity.

When I propose sending thank-you letters to donors, some church members object. Not everyone gives; not everyone will get a letter. In this way of thinking, silence around giving seems fairer somehow.  Silence is certainly easier, but generosity is too important to keep the lid on it.

How can we encourage generosity if we don’t talk about it?

If someone doesn’t give, they don’t get a receipt and they may never be personally asked to give. This situation is not unique to faith communities – does your organization have board members who don’t give?  It’s a fundraising concern for charities of all kinds. For churches, it’s a discipleship question as well: how can we promote the spiritual practice of generosity if we don’t talk about it?

In the spirit of the KISS principle (Keep it Simple Steward) I offer a sample thank-you letter for people who didn’t give (in a receiptable way).  This idea comes courtesy of Sherri Grosz from Abundance Canada.  I’m thinking of annual receipt time but with a little creativity, this letter could work in other contexts, like after a fundraising event.

Sample letter

Dear <name>,

Thank you for your support of Peach Blossom.  We are glad you are part of our community.  So many people take time to listen, to shovel the snow, to wash the dishes after a meal or to share a friendly smile.

Many people contribute cash and food to our monthly food bank offering that helped many families in our neighbourhood have healthy food to eat.  Children and adults donated $1,872 to our Christmas giving project to buy coats for refugee families arriving in Canada.  Likely you have been part of these projects and we are thankful.  Perhaps you put money in the offering plate and we didn’t know your name.  Again, we are grateful.

This is the time of year when we send out annual receipts to our donors.  These charitable receipts can be used for income tax purposes and depending on your situation, can reduce the amount of income tax you need to pay.

If you would like a tax receipt for your donations in future, we have options.

Envelopes: please donate cash or cheques using the enclosed envelopes, or ask an usher to help you find one. Write your name on the outside and also designate your giving: “food bank”, “Christmas project” etc.

If you don’t designate, we’ll assume your donation supports the general work of the church.  Throughout the week, our building provides a welcoming space used by musicians, recovering addicts, knitters and more!  Your donations benefit many.

Online: Did you know that you can give to Peach Blossom online using your computer or smart phone?  You will receive a receipt via email. Please visit our website at…

Through your bank account:  Regular monthly giving makes it easy to give and is now about 40% of our donations at Peach Blossom.  We are thrilled when people support the church in this way!  Please email... or call…

Thank you for being part of our congregation! We appreciate you. If you need help doing your taxes, or would like to meet with someone to talk, we are here.  Please call at …

Blessings to you,

Peach Blossom Church

P.S. Did you know we are hosting afternoon tea next Tuesday and Saturday afternoons?  It’s a great chance to chat.  Guests welcome!

Make it your own

There’s a 100% chance that this letter needs to be changed. Go ahead and borrow this template if you like, customize it to make it your own.

I am trying to keep this template fairly generic; I’d probably make this letter even ‘churchier’.  “Did you know that you can give to Peach Blossom in your will?” would be a good addition and a great topic to discuss at the afternoon tea.

Invite me over

Here’s another suggestion: invite me to come speak to your congregation, denomination or small charity. I have lots of ideas to share and I’m really good with questions. Talking about money need not be scary! “Jesus talks about money; we can too!”

Gratitude interrupts fear

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Gratitude interrupts fear

It's easy to be scared.  Even in church.  If the rest of our lives seem out of control, then it's tempting to want church to be a predictable place.  Our routine could be sitting in the fourth pew with a hymnbook or having an espresso just before the worship band gets going. In my home church, we get upset if there is no coffee after the service.  We want church to be a comfortable place. (There's scant theological basis for this desire, but that's another blog!)

Fear of talking about money

Stewardship, fundraising, money, giving, fundraising - call it what you will - this is my work.  And people get uncomfortable.  Money is a scary topic. There's powerful taboos against talking about money in our North American culture. It's easier not to talk about giving.  Wait until the financial situation gets really bad, then send the treasurer up to the front.  Tip: a year-end guilt trip is not a long-term stewardship solution.  I'm sure you knew this already. So, where to start in talking about money?

Start with gratitude

Christians give in grateful response to God's generosity to us.  Gratitude makes a wonderful starting point for stewardship. A generosity assessment (contact me for info here) begins with a short survey asking people to name three things they are grateful for about their church. Then the church can celebrate together.  And build on a foundation of gratitude as they learn generosity together.

Three ways to start now

Say thank you. It's impossible to be too grateful.  Here's three ways to say thank you:

  1. Call. Tell someone at your church that you appreciate them. Call, email, send a hand-written note, reach on on social media - whatever.  If you know they are a donor, thank them for their support.  Repeat often, as grace abounds.
  2. Pray. In worship, take time to thank God for people at your church who mow the lawn, maintain the website, make coffee, clean up, teach Sunday School and more.  Thank God for people who contribute money to keep the church going.  Repeat often, as grace abounds.
  3. Tell stories. What is God doing among you? The bulletin, website, church newsletter provide a forum to tell stories.  Celebrate the small moments too. Did the church office take a call this week from someone who needed a listening ear?  How long has the AA group been meeting in the church basement?  Be grateful for these interactions, and for people who share their time, talent and treasure. Repeat often, as grace abounds.

There are more than three ways to be grateful; the Psalmist reminds us that every day gives us new opportunities.  In a world that tells us scary stories, practicing gratitude interrupts our fear.  Gratitude reminds us that God gives us all we need and that we can always afford to be generous.

 

We can always afford to be generous

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How and why Christians give is definitely changing, that's certain.  How can churches and denominations respond? I've summarized a lot of my research into an easy-to-read article in the Canadian Mennonite.  It's the story of Peach Blossom church, a composite of many congregations I've met in my travels.  Do we treat our donors like horses or like cows?  Should we say thank-you in church?

http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/we-can-always-afford-be-generous

I needed to leave out a lot of material - the full article is on my About page - link below.

Data on Canadian Christian giving trends is scarce; it's hard for my Mennonite self to say this, but this longer paper is really a goldmine if you're interested the state of Christian giving in Canada.

Whom do you trust?

Happy reading!  Do be in touch if you'd like to chat more!

Three things a church can be thankful for, even in tough times

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We're reminded to be thankful in all circumstances.  But sometimes our circumstances can seem overwhelming! I offer this short reminder of three things a church can always be grateful for:

God. God doesn't change.  God is faithful today, next Tuesday, next week and next year.

Worship. Our congregation can gather to worship.  It's easy to take this for granted.  Even without a building, strategies, programs or goals, we can worship.

Hope. We have hope.  God is faithful, we can worship and we are not alone.  We have hope.

There's lots more that we might add to this list.  I'm sure you can think of some already, I've intentionally left some glaring omissions!  I hope you find encouragement in whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

Peace

Lori