This month in stewardship: December

November 14, 2019 by Robyn Davis Sekula

In my mailbox recently, there was a sweet hand-written note that had the return address of my church. I opened it up out of sheer curiosity and found an absolute delight inside.

I had filled out my stewardship pledge card and dropped it in the offering plate – and what I had gotten in return was a thank you note written by a child. This adorable note thanked me for being part of the church and told me their favorite thing about our church. It was simple and sweet, and unforgettable.

My church business administrator had already let me know my pledge was received earlier this month by email, which confirmed that it was collected and appreciated.

So, for one pledge, I had been thanked twice.

That’s 2 out of 7 of the thank you’s it takes to make someone really feel “thanked.” Research shows that a person has to be thanked 7 times before they really feel it. From the perspective of a stewardship team leader, that sounds exhausting.

But let me give you a few ideas for how to say thank you in creative ways.

First, a personal, hand-written note of some kind is mandatory. MANDATORY. You cannot skip this. In today’s age of electronic communication, it’s tempting to believe that an email is all that’s necessary, but wow, it makes such an impression to receive a hand-written note.

Who writes those? Divide it up. Ask members of your session to write a few each. Ask older children in your church to write a few. Ask to have 20 minutes of time at youth group one night and ask each person to write five or so. Break this task up any way you’d like, but do not skip it. If you’re a pastor, no, it’s not your job to do them all – and if you’re on the stewardship or generosity team at your church, you shouldn’t ask them to. This is a terrific job for a volunteer.

Second, someone from your church’s office, finance team, etc., needs to provide an official thank you and acknowledgment that the pledge card was received and has been officially recorded.

If you only do those two things, you’ll probably do more than a lot of congregations! You’d be surprised how often that gets skipped. As a donor, you’re left wondering, “Was my pledge received?” It becomes a negative experience very quickly.

Here’s one more thing you can do: Call them. My university calls me every year just to thank me for my past gift. They don’t ask for more money – and that’s key. This is just to say thanks. They usually get my voicemail and just leave a message – but that’s OK. I still hear it, and it still feels good to be thanked. In a church setting, you want to make more of an effort to actually reach a person, as it affords an opportunity to check in with someone.

Other thank you’s do not have to be as personal. There are a few more ideas:

  • Place a thank you to the congregation in your church bulletin. Thank everyone for contributing, and state where you’re at with the stewardship pledges.
  • If you’re the pastor, thank the congregation from the pulpit. You can do this prior to the offering, during your sermon or at other moments during the service.
  • Include a brief thank you note or letter in your quarterly statements that you send to members of the congregation. This also serves as a reminder for those who have not pledged yet this year.
  • Buy a cake that says “Thank You” at the conclusion of your stewardship season. Invite the congregation to gather after church and share a piece, verbally thanking them for their pledges and future contributions. Everyone likes cake!

It’s easy to put all of this off until January – but don’t. You need to say thank you for pledges much sooner than that. Thank people quickly, personally and often for their generosity. Don’t leave them wondering if their gift was received. It’s in the wondering what’s happening that we lose faithful people, even those who have been in our churches for years.

What does your church do to say thanks to those who pledge future gifts? Tell us your stories – we may include them in a future column.

Thank you, as always, for reading!

Robyn Davis Sekula is Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the Presbyterian Foundation. You can reach her at or (502) 569-5101.