There are times when expressing thanks can actually be harmful to those we desire to affirm. Avoid these common misuses of expressing thanks:
When it takes the place of a relationship
Resources for showing appreciation to volunteers are abundant. No matter how many thank-you cards, gifts, or banquets you offer, there is no substitute for a genuine relationship with your ministry partners.
When it is uninformed
I recall the time that my well meaning and beloved pastor made a very public statement thanking me for my hard work and dedication. What he did not know was that I was really struggling in my work because of issues with the development of a new ministry I was assigned to lead. Over the years, his commitment not to micromanage the staff had caused him to become uninformed about their ministries. His public thank you, intended to make me feel good, actually had the opposite effect.
When it really means thanks for helping me
This one is subtle but extremely important to really living out the core value of the priesthood of ALL believers. People come to church shopping for religious goods and services; it’s a natural result of living in this consumerist society. We can unintentionally perpetuate the paradigm if we communicate that we (the professionals) are in charge of the ministry and we need volunteers to help us.
When it isn’t connected with vision
Saying thank you without reminding people about the vision can cause both the kingdom and organizational significance of ministry tasks to get lost. This is especially important for people who serve in less spiritual roles like parking attendants, data entry workers, ushers and greeters, or people who help with landscaping. We need to remember to share ministry success stories with our partners so that they stay connected to the bigger picture.
Expressing gratitude is a necessary component to effective leadership. Just be sure your message matches your intentions.