The other day my secretary came in with the mail. In the stack was a hand addressed envelope with my name on it and in the return corner it showed that it was sent by a former bishop of my area. I have gotten letters from bishops before, but usually they are on official letterhead and have a preprinted return to his/her office. This one was written out in ink. Even before I opened it I had a warm feeling that someone I admired had actually taken time to write me a note.
Upon opening it, I saw a very nice note commending me for a book I had recently written and the impact it had on him and he felt it would have on the church. He noted a couple of other nice things and signed off. It probably was no more than seven or eight sentences long, but it was one of the nicest things I had received in a long time and it sure felt good. It was a great way to start my day. It probably did not take him five minutes to write the note, but the good feeling stayed with me all day long. Actually, I guess it stayed with me longer than that because this was over a month ago and I am writing about it to you today.
His note helped me remember again the power of a sincere thank-you note. I do not do it nearly enough, and I must get better. I need to eat more vegetables, walk more miles, read my Bible more regularly, and write more thank-you notes.
Non-profits are well aware of the power of the note and they generally have a rule that when someone gives a gift they are thanked in 24-48 hours. With some of them it is a template note, but with most it is handwritten. Just the other day I sent my college $100.00 and I got a handwritten note of thanks by the end of the week. It was nice to get and will make me feel better about writing another check and maybe an even larger one.
We are terrible in the church for not thanking persons. Oh, we thank people in person when we run into them or see them at church, but very few laypersons report to ever getting a handwritten note of thanks from their pastor. I know that I give the church 100 times the gift I give the college and volunteer my time much more there than the college, but seldom do I get thanked. When I do I travel about doing seminar work I often ask, “How many of you have ever gotten a handwritten note of thanks from your pastor?” I see only a couple of hands out of a hundred present.
We must do better. Starting this week why don’t you write ten thank you notes a week? Just five or six sentences will do, but make it sincere and personal in thanking someone for their giving or serving in a specific way. Do this each week and after one year you will have written 520 thank you notes to the church family. If you have an associate then have that pastor do the same and you double the number of thank yous. Yes, it will have a positive impact on financial stewardship, but it will also contribute significantly to the education, mission, and caring ministries of your church. A thank you note is a powerful, but simple tool that needs to be more regularly used by nearly all of us in the church.
One last note: Email is not the same. It needs to be handwritten to be most effective. The power is in the feeling that someone took real valuable time and concentrated on YOU with a note.