To Thank or Not to Thank


Our church faced a significant general budget shortfall at the end of the year. In response to a plea to the entire congregation, a number of individuals who had already given consistently all year—gave very generously. Several deacons would like to send a handwritten note of appreciation to these specific individuals (in addition to a gracious thank you to the entire congregation both through the bulletin, from the pulpit, and again at the congregational meeting). Other deacons feel it is unwise to thank people—considering it a part of their tithe; not wanting to give more credence to those who can afford to give LOTS as opposed to those who cannot; etc. 

Any thoughts? 

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My thought: don't send notes.  Doing that necessarily sets you up for distinguishing gifts that are "greater" or "more important" than others.  These are gifts.  

If a particular deacon wants to say a verbal thanks to a contributor, fine, but even that shouldn't be a "planned exercise."

I agree with Doug.  Spiritually, you are up against and being tempted to run contrary to the Kingdom economy, which inverts the worldly economy of “bigger is greater” (See: the widow’s mite in Luke 21:1-4).  Setting a pattern of officially and particularly thanking “generous” givers (where generosity is judged mainly or exclusively by amount) is not a practice with will serve the congregation well spiritually.

Practically, you also run into the problem of where to draw the line if generosity is judged mainly by amount.  If you thank the person or family who gave an extra $5,000, do you also thank the person who sent in $1,000?  How about $500 or $100?  I tend to think the same goes for those who give in other various volunteer roles in the church – personal thanks are great, but singling out people for special institutionally sanctioned thanks who have served in a larger role is dangerous, and brings up this conundrum: It’s not a matter of “who should I thank?”, but rather more a matter of “who should I not thank?”. 

In the end, it seems to me that a general thanks to the congregation for their responsiveness is best, coupled with an even more prayerful and joyful thanking of God for his abundant provision.  In focusing your most opulent thanks on God, you can remind the congregation that it is God who provides both the means and desire for generosity and so you will reinforce where all of our glory and praise should ultimately be directed.