You open the mail box and see another pile of mail. The Pricesaver coupon magazine, in tatters by now, dominates the cluttered little area as you reach your hand in. As you pull out the daily dose of junk mail and bills, you wonder why you’re always eager to open the box every day.
And then you see it. A little beige envelope. You know it’s not a bill … or junk mail. You quickly pull it out of the fray and see a name on it that you recognize but would never expect to see on an envelope in your mailbox. You hold it up and furl your eyebrows, wondering why it’s been sent.
As you read it, you can’t help but smile and relax. A sense of value fills your heart. A feeling of being appreciated and that who you are and what you do means something to someone. Perhaps most of all, you feel a sense of gratefulness that someone thought of you and took the time to write a personal note expressing their sentiments.
In this day of high-tech connections, there is still nothing quite like a hand-written note. In fact, I think more than ever a hand-written note communicates a tremendous message of thoughtfulness, caring and appreciation and, in my opinion, is the best connection tool for appreciation in our arsenal.
Here’s my practice of writing notes as a children’s pastor (yours might look different depending on the size of your ministry, environment, etc.). My goal – 10 notes per week, including:
- Three notes to children. I can’t tell you how many parents have told me stories of the day they received a note from their pastor. They carry it around, read it to their friends, cherish it. Not because it was from “Greg Baird”, but because it was from their pastor. Keep these notes simple. Keep them focused. Keep them short. And when you see them at church, be sure to follow up with them to reinforce the connection.
- Three notes to parents. Imagine the impact on parents when they receive a note that says, “Billy is an awesome kid! I love the way he loves God & expresses it in Kids Church. I’m praying for your child and for you as you continue to invest in his spiritual formation. Please let me know how I can serve you, and I look forward to seeing all of you on Sunday!”
- Three notes to volunteers. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our ministry … appreciation is vital! Thank them, encourage them, let them know you are praying for them, and offer to serve them in any way you can. You’ll be surprised at how many of those notes you’ll find sticking out of your volunteers’ Bibles on Sunday mornings! They appreciate it when you appreciate them!
- One note to staff. If you lead a staff, leave a note on one of their desks or in their in-box per week. If you are a staff of one (been there!) then write a note to other staff members—other pastors, administrators, maintenance crew, etc. You can always find people to say thanks to!
Ten notes is my goal and habit, but you work out a system that works for you. The key is to have a system in place. And here a few more tips that I’ve discovered about writing notes:
- 75% of the content can be the same. I created a sort of “template” for each group (kids, parents, volunteers), and just added a small personal touch to each. I had to get over a sense of being insincere, but once I realized that I really did mean what I was saying, I realized it was perfectly ok to say things similarly in each note—and far, far better than not sending a note at all.
- Set aside time for note writing just like any other task. It’s on my calendar!
- Get help if you can. If you have administrative help (paid or volunteer), ask them to prep the notes—get each group ready with address & stamp—so all you have to do is write the note and give it back to them to send. I know, sounds mechanical, doesn’t it. Do it a few weeks and you’ll wonder why you never did it before! You’ll realize the intent and sentiment is exactly the same, whether you systematize the process or labor over each individual note.