Health and Growth

4 Common Grammar Mistakes Churches Make

There are many common grammar mistakes you can with the English language. But here are four common grammar mistakes your church can make.

4 Common Grammar Mistakes Churches Make
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“We will provide snakes.”

Yes, this is a random way to begin a blog post. But, instead of letting parents know that we’ll provide snacks, I accidentally included the above sentence in a brochure promoting an upcoming church youth trip.

To add insult to injury, I was new on staff at a local church serving as their director of family and youth ministries. By the time I made this goof, I had only been on the team a couple of weeks. So I didn’t make the best first impression with parents.

Looking back on this mistake, I can laugh it off now. But at the time, I was a hot mess after I realized the mistake I made. Like many staff members of churches, I didn’t have someone else review what I wrote before going public, and I thought I had sealed my fate.

Since it’s challenging to self-edit your work and catch every mistake, it’s probably a good idea to have someone else (or to use a service like Grammarly) review what you wrote, your bulletin, or what you plan on adding to your church’s marquee. If not, you could end up sending the wrong message, like myself and others, including:

All jokes aside, as a church leader, you are regularly communicating with people in formal and informal settings, and it’s essential to aim for clear communication in what you say. Whether you’re preaching, writing an email, blog post, or social media update, or promoting an upcoming event, it’s essential to aim for clarity in your messages.

There are several ways you can improve your church’s communications. And one important thing you and your team will need to keep an eye on in your communication strategy is common grammatical mistakes.

Overlooking grammar in internal communications may not be that big of a deal for you and your church, or doing so in informal communications, such as texts, phone calls, and emails. But when it comes to sharing any message with the public, it’s a good idea to review your grammar. Sharing messages full of errors with the public full of errors may cause your church to lose a level of credibility with others.

There are many common grammar mistakes we can make with the English language. But here are four common grammar mistakes churches often make.

#1. Incorrectly capitalizing religious terms

Let’s be honest; when it comes to reading the Bible, it can be difficult to understand at times—especially for men and women who are new to the faith. The Bible is full of words and phrases we do not commonly use today, and there are several phrases that are easy to mess up. Here are some of the more common capitalization mistakes:

#2. Shouting at people

Do you want to emphasize your point? Or, do you want to offend people?

If you want to get people upset, then use ALL CAPS. You may not realize this, but using CAPS in your writing implies that you're shouting. Unless the person or group you’re sharing with is hard of hearing, you may want to avoid using caps in your messages.

Now, if you just want to emphasize your point or call attention to a keyword or phrase, all you need to do is italicize that word or phrase. As a word of caution, use italics sparingly. Overindulging yourself in the use of italics will make your writing lose its punch.

In case you didn’t catch what we’re implying by using italics, it’s not necessary to bold or underline your statements or to end your sentences with a litany of exclamations points.

It’s easy to get excited when you’re talking about Jesus. But you only need to use one exclamation point if any at all. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke."

#3. Adding too many spaces after a period

Today, you should only use one space after a period. We understand this comment may ruffle some feathers. But it’s a common practice expected today.

The use of two spaces after a period was introduced when typewriters hit the scene. You see, on typewriters, you can only use one font, and every letter was monospaced, meaning that they took up the same amount of space on the page. So, to differentiate between the spacing between letters and sentences, a two-space rule was introduced.

Now, with computers, adding two spaces after a period is no longer necessary. Over the years, people have moved to only using one space after a period, and most—if not all—style guides suggest using a single space after a period.

#4. What verse from the Bible are you quoting?

Citing verses is tricky.

From citing a standalone verse to quoting passages from the Bible in a sentence, you need to know the several ways to cite a verse properly:

If you are using a verse from the Bible as a standalone piece, such as introducing a blog post or at the top of a fundraising letter, then here’s what you’ll need to do:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” —1 Corinthians 10:31

In this scenario, notice the single space after the quotation mark and the use of a quotation dash (a.k.a., horizontal bar). In informal settings, you can get away with using an em dash (—). But we suggest going with the quotation dash if you’re working on something formal or public, like an advertisement.

Also, when you have a verse standing alone, you are not required to abbreviate the book of the Bible you’re referencing.

Here are other verse citation situations you will come to:

Paul writes, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

In this example, it’s important to point out that the period (or whatever punctuation mark you’re using) follows the Bible reference, not the verse itself.

What’s also important to highlight is that when you use a parenthetical citation, such as (1 Cor. 10:31), you must abbreviate the book of the Bible. Click here for a complete list of abbreviations.

How can we "do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31)?

There will be times when you will need to reference a verse in your sentence directly. With the example above, you will need to follow the same rules as before—include your punctuation mark after the reference.

Your turn

It takes time to learn all of the ins and outs of grammar and how to correctly reference the Bible. But as a church leader today, it’s more important than ever to aim for clear communication today considering all of the messages we are sharing in person and online.

In the meantime, there are three steps you can take that will protect you from making one of the mistakes above or others.

First, read out loud what you wrote. After you write your sermon, an update on social media, or an important email, take the time to read your message out loud. Doing this will help you to pick up any mistakes or clunky language.

Second, be consistent. This point is especially true for your church’s communication. Regardless of what style book you use or denomination or network your church is affiliated with, aim to be consistent in using whatever benchmark you choose.

Third, get a proofreader. As we mentioned above, it’s nearly impossible to catch everything yourself. This isn’t an issue of pride or a lack of grammatical training. Your brain may actually let you make a grammar mistake even if you know better. So, if you have an important message or something that will be seen by the public, such as a bulletin or promotion, then have someone else proofread what you wrote.

What common grammar mistakes make you cry? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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4 Common Grammar Mistakes Churches Make