New Guy #7: How To Write Thanks You Notes That Make People Cry

 

Long title, but pay attention.  Growing up, the worst thing about birthdays, Christmas, or any other gift giving event was the agony of thank you notes.  I didn’t like them, my writing could be mistaken for drunken wingdings, and, honestly, I’m a bit lazy.  I NEVER enjoyed writing thank you notes…and my parents didn’t care.  So write them I did.

Fast forward a few years, and the pain of writing thank you notes still exists on some levels, but the joy and intentionality of them have grown.  Even before it was “cool” to say “leaders write thank you notes,” the little handwritten notes have been a part of what I do.  Birthdays, Christmas, gifts and the like all warrant thank you notes, but here are a few other times in the past year I’ve written thank you notes in student ministry.

  • Parents who helped out with an event.
  • School teachers who welcome me when I come on campus.
  • Our media team when they go above and beyond for a project.
  • Local businesses who gave to an event.
  • 1-3 volunteers a month.
  • This May, I wrote a thank you note to the spouse of all of my volunteers.  More on that later.
  • A small handful of bloggers from ORANGE 2012 who had a significant impact on my time there.
  • During April/May, I brought in people to guest speak at our Student Ministry, and the speakers got a thank you.

Yes, every single one of my married volunteers (whose spouse did not volunteer in our ministry) got a thank you in the mail last week.  Our volunteers sacrifice a lot to be a part of our ministry, but their spouses are sitting home with the kids after a long day at work, or, a long day with the same kids, and their better half is hanging out with students and loving on them.  Weeknights are crucial in a marriage.  Volunteers’ spouses sacrifice a lot, give a lot, and serve a lot by allowing their husbands and wives to be gone for a few hours each and every week.  I wanted them to know that I knew it was a big deal, that they’re sacrifice wasn’t for nothing, and that I was grateful for their contribution to the ministry.  This week at church, one of my volunteer’s spouses came up to me and said, “I just want you to know…” and broke down.  “I just wanted you to know…how much your note meant to me.  It’s been hard, and a challenge, and that note was much needed.  Thank you.”

Does every thank you note hit home?  No.  But does that mean you don’t send them? No.  Granted, the wife that came up to me Sunday probably had STRONG levels of quality time and words of affirmation in their love language profile.  The note I sent her wasn’t eloquent, crazy, or unbelievably well done.  Here’s an example of what the note I sent to spouses are, and then I’ll hit a couple quick keys to quality thank you notes.

Hey Jane Doe,

I just wanted you to know that I am so grateful for all you’ve done for our student ministry this year.  I know week nights are really big for families, and your husband has been out almost every Wednesday this school year.  There’s no way I could know how big of a sacrifice that is, but seeing your husband engage with students who come in needing a positive influence is so huge.  It’s not always easy, it may even be frustrating, but your sacrifice has greatly helped our ministry.

Thank you for all you do!
Austin

  • Handwritten. No exceptions.  I have mankind worst handwriting, so I take my time.  Printing off thank you’s is cheap. Don’t do it.
  • Shortish.  You don’t have to write a novel.  3-5 sentences is it.
  • Personally, I don’t worry about grammar.  I don’t want it to read like a third grader wrote it, but it’s also not a dissertation.
  • Personalness.  That may not be a word, but make it personal.  Even when it’s hand written, it’s easy to make thank you notes feel like you’re just a scribe going off a master copy.  Make it real, make it personal, use names.
  • Make sure they know it’s from you.  Whether by return address or signature, don’t leave them guessing.
  • The more often you write, the better you get.  Just like any habit, the more the better! Don’t over-saturate 3 volunteers, but try and make a goal of writing 1 a week to start with!  I try and write 2-3 every Monday morning.
  • Structure tip.  Start with what you’re thankful for, or what you’ve noticed.  Throw in a couple sentences of personalness, and end by reaffirming the action/quality/characteristic.

 

Just my thoughts.  I love writing thank yous, and I think it makes a huge impact on your ministry.  So give it a try.  It’ll get easier.

7 Comments

  1. Austin, I love this.  Create the personal touch!  I have gotten out of this habit, and I am trying to re-establish it in my youth ministry!  You are a rockstar! 
  2. Austin, I love this.  Create the personal touch!  I have gotten out of this habit, and I am trying to re-establish it in my youth ministry!  You are a rockstar! 
  3. I got a thank you note from a volunteer the other day and thought of this post, i need to get into this practice so badly!
  4. I got a thank you note from a volunteer the other day and thought of this post, i need to get into this practice so badly!

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