Unlocking the Power of Gratitude

Written by Bill Whitt
November 28, 2022

Gratitude is good for mental, physical, and spiritual health. Here are a few ideas to unlock the power of gratitude in your church.

The table could barely hold all the food — turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, gravy, green beans, and pumpkin pie. Mom sat the last plate at the table and called everyone to the dining room.  As we sat down, Dad read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  We grabbed the person’s hand next to us, bowed our heads, and gave thanks. Some gave thanks for family and friends. Others gave thanks for jobs. Another gave thanks for the church. This simple Thanksgiving ritual set the tone for the entire year with my family as I grew up.

Today, I want to encourage you to unlock the power of gratitude within your church family! I’m not talking about a big meal, an annual worship gathering, or even a service project, although those are important.  I’m talking about a renewed focus on gratitude throughout the entire organization all year long! How would it transform your church if the most pervasive attitude was heartfelt thankfulness to God and to one another? Gratitude is good for mental, physical, and spiritual health. It’s a vital part of trusting relationships. It helps church staff and volunteers stay inspired and motivated. But it doesn’t happen without intentionality.

Here are a few ideas to get your started!

Six Ideas to Unlock the Power of Gratitude

Handwrite Thank You Notes. We’re all drowning in emails, texts, and social media messages. Paper still has weight. I keep a pack of thank you notes on my desk to make it easy for me to write someone a quick note. I’ve found that it only takes a few minutes, but people will often keep the cards for years!  Remember, gratitude is the fuel volunteers run on, so don’t be stingy with the fuel for ministry! These may be the most important five minutes of your week.

Just Say It! Often, we feel gratitude but don’t express it. We cross paths with an employee or a volunteer in the hallway. We genuinely feel thankful for what they’ve done, but we don’t stop to say so. Andy Stanley gives us this reality check: “Unexpressed gratitude feels like ingratitude to the ones for whom you are grateful.”  Feeling gratitude is not enough. Don’t wait until later; speak up in the moment!

Give Meaningful Gifts. When you give a thoughtful gift, it demonstrates that you care enough to know what is important to a person. If you have a large staff or volunteer team, take note of each person’s interests. When you give a personalized gift, it will speak volumes about how much you value each team member as a person.

Bring Thanksgiving into Every Meeting. Imagine opening every council meeting by celebrating all that is going right at church! Imagine starting every staff meeting by making space for team members to express gratitude to one another. Meetings often descend into mind-numbing minutia. How can you help everyone stay focused on the big picture? How can you continue to push the church toward its mission and vision? Don’t overlook the power of gratitude!

Model Gratitude. I believe grateful leaders are great leaders. If you are trying to develop great leaders in your congregation, remember to model a key ingredient to leadership — the power of gratitude. As you mentor others, be profuse in your gratitude and praise. Ask them how they are showing gratitude to the teams they lead and to the people they serve.

Create a Plan. The best intentions die for lack of a concrete plan. If you don’t have a system, I guarantee gratitude will get squeezed out by the busyness of ministry. Can you set aside the first 30 minutes of each week to write thank you notes? Will you create a standing item on your meeting agendas? Can you start each mentoring meeting with some form of thanksgiving?  Find a rhythm that works for you and stick to it! The real power of gratitude is when it trickles down into every corner of the organization, and that only happens over time.

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