I was one of those rare youth workers who early on was taken under the wing of a veteran youth worker. Of the many things Les taught me, the power of gratitude is one that has stuck with me and helped me become a better youth worker.
One of the realities of our ministry world is that we can’t do everything by ourselves. Early in our ministry at a new church, we are constantly reminded of that. But over time, one of the things that can happen is that we lose sight of thanking the people that help us do our ministry. An occasional slight isn’t a big deal. But over time, it is easy for us to forget to be thankful and quit saying “Thank you.”
So one of the habits I have tried to cultivate for myself is weekly writing 5 thank you notes. During the course of any given week, I am reminding myself of all the people who help make my ministry possible and thanking them for it. Some examples of notes I write:
Weekly: In our ministry, different people provide dinner once a week for our youth group. Different parents and groups sign up and help make a big part of our ministry possible. Are you thanking people who are doing that in your ministry? It certainly makes it easier to recruit when people see and feel the value of what they are doing.
Periodically: I am constantly looking for moments when a student demonstrates unique gifts and helps the group. Likewise I am looking out for leaders who are doing something remarkable. In both cases, my ability to reinforce the positive things that are happening go a long ways. (And definitely include students in your thank you note lists!)
Above and beyond: In all of our ministries there are moments when people go above and beyond to help make your ministry possible. Especially in those moments, you need to express thanks! For example, our financial staff person works really hard to make the ministry for the rest of our staff as easy as possible. Most the time, I can forget that. So when I need a check written at the last minute and by any reasonable standards it shouldn’t be do-able, our person has always come through.
It is one of those moments that deserve our thanks. Other examples:
- When your pastor preaches a sermon that is especially meaningful
- When the cleaning person doesn’t complain when you left an especially filthy room
- When a person with no connection to the youth ministry other than they are a congregation helps out
- When people help scholarship students for events, trips
The practice of writing these notes has helped me be mindful of two significant things. First, any ministry is not done in a vacuum. As I write these thanks, I also thank God for the people that have been placed in my care and help make ministry possible. Two, I am reminded that God is ultimately the one providing all the pieces that are needed in any ministry. It can become easy for me to think it all relies on me and my effort and these notes remind me otherwise.
So I encourage you to get a set of notes, start a list and let people know you are thankful for them and how God is working in them in partnership with you!