Church Hospitality: A Short Guide
Church hospitality isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s essential. Here are 4 practical ways to prepare for the 2 types of guests you should expect.
November 18, 2020
Saying “Thank you” is a critical part of acquiring and sustaining donor relationships in your church.
Why is “Thank you” so important? Let's talk a little bit about just saying thank you and the power of a thank you. It's one of those things that you teach your kids from the day they can speak to say “Thank you.”
As parents, we understand that from the beginning. It's respectful, it's kind, it's thoughtful, and it's good for our kids' hearts. For whatever reason, as we get older, we can easily lose track of the power of a thank you.
As a church leader and as a pastor, somebody who's up on stage, who has that authority and respect, a thank you coming from you is so powerful. And in church life, finding ways to weave in thank you in just all kinds of areas can make a massive, massive impact.
Let's talk about a few ways just to say thank you.
When I say, "Say thank you," I mean expressing gratitude to people who are giving, serving, volunteering, attending events, sending their kids to camp, and doing all the things that go on in church life. Whether they're a church leader, a volunteer, a member, or even a first-time guest, finding ways to say thank you is very, very important. The Apostle Paul did this very thing in his letters. In Philippians, Paul is overflowing with gratitude and thanks to the Philippian church. It's that heart and that spirit that makes people feel so encouraged within seconds of reading the beginning introduction. That's what you want to get across to people.
When you say thank you, it's not just the casual "Thanks." This is a meaningful thank you. It's: "Thank you for serving in kids ministry for the last three months and sacrificing your time for getting here early or staying late to clean up, and dealing with potentially some hard kids or dealing with more kids than you should have had in your class." Offer a genuine and heartfelt, sincere thank you that's personal. Crafting a heartfelt thank you is fundamental to cultivating long-term giving relationships in your church.
The best way to do this is by saying thank you in person. It’s a fantastic idea to walk right up to your brother and sister and say: "Thanks for serving. Thanks for ushering. Thanks for hosting small groups. Thanks for cooking that great dinner." Whatever it may be, do it right there in person at church.
If you're in a smaller church, or a smaller town, or in an area where you have a bunch of members, stopping by the house and coming on by to say thank you is extremely powerful. You might even show up without calling first, which expresses a closeness and intimacy. You might text them and say you're coming by as well. But stopping by the house is another great way to say thank you. Inviting people over to your house, hosting them, having dinner with them, or going out to coffee with them to say thank you goes a very long way. Encouraging them that way. Saying thank you in person is no small thing.
Not every pastor has the ability to say thank you in person to everyone who gives. Some pastors must say thank you at scale. Writing a card is a great way to do this. I know people who have a stack of cards on their desk because half the battle with writing cards is you don't have cards on hand. If you have cards on hand, and they're in your drawer, or they're on your desk, and you're going to write, you could say to yourself: "I'm going to write five thank you cards a day." Even one per day works. Say to yourself: “I'm going to write a thank you card and I'm going to deliver it to them in the mail, I'm going to bring it to them in church, or I'm going to take it over to the house.” Write a card, personalize it, and say thank you in that way. It’s incredibly powerful.
You might also host lunch, dinner, coffee, or meetup at the church, but in a group setting. Maybe there's your volunteer group. Maybe it's your ushers, your first-time welcome team, your followup team, or your small group leaders. Just grab all those people and host a big dinner at the church. Thank everybody in that group for their service.
Another great way to do this is from the stage. When you're up on stage, people feel so encouraged when they get mentioned. Perhaps a group, individual, or family did something extra special. Perhaps they are in a rotation where one month they're ushering, and you thank all the ushers by name. Use the stage as an opportunity to say thank you specifically, personally, and often.
This is as simple as grabbing your iPhone, recording a 30-second video, and sending it to whoever you’re thanking—a group, a person, or a family via text, email, or posting it on Instagram or Facebook. People get a kick out of that. They love it. You took the time to send them a video. You did it digitally, so it lacks the person-to-person connection, but in today's time, that's fully acceptable and they'll be very encouraged.
Thank yous are extremely powerful. People are motivated by it. They feel inspired, they feel loved when you say thank you, and they're going to be more inspired to do it again. They may also be motivated to take the next step of service, or go to the next level of doing ministry in the church, whatever it might be. Say thank you often, say it early, say it with heart and you're going to make a big difference.
Thank yous make a great impact. I remember a time when the senior pastor in our church, he called me up one day and said: "Hey, let's go grab a coffee, Frank. I'd love to hang out at some point here in the future." This is probably 10 years into my being part of the church. And I'd known him for a long time. I'd been an intern on staff for a bit. I served in kid's ministry. I knew him super well and knew his family.
I remember him texting me, we went out to have coffee, and we talked about a lot of things. But he just wanted to say thank you. And he was super encouraging. He said: "Thank you for helping us with our church tech, and thank you for engaging with our youth, and being a devoted, committed member of our community." It was awesome. We're great friends to this day. As a matter of fact, he was over at the house a couple months ago for dinner. It's very powerful when church leaders say thank you, even when you're not on staff.