At Grace Lutheran Church, a humble, 130-member congregation in Northeast Minneapolis, the youngest members are learning an important lesson when it comes to giving thanks.
On several Sundays throughout the year – before and after the 10 a.m. service – school-aged kids gather around tables, outline colorful "THANKS" in big bubble letters and diligently sketch cartoon covers for thank-you cards, all while snacking on cookies and juice. The cards are collected by pastor Emmy Kegler, who presents them to anyone who has given money to the church.
"I want to encourage our kids in gratitude and generosity," says Kegler. "They get to do the fun part of making cards, but they also get to say 'thank you' and give away their own work."
The thank-you notes are key to helping Grace Lutheran stay connected with financial supporters; Kegler also wanted them to be a reflection of the congregation.
As members began developing a habit of thanking individual donors, inviting the kids to illustrate the church's gratitude was a natural fit. "Having kids design and draw the covers of the cards was a way to remind our givers of who we give for – not for ourselves or people like us – but for the most vulnerable and the least. Bringing kids and youth to the center of what we do as a Christian community is not just about passing on the faith, it's about remembering Jesus' call to welcome everyone."
Passing on gratitude
Grace Lutheran and Thrivent member Sylvia Radford is raising two daughters, ages 11 and 14, in the church. She appreciates the lifelong lessons that a simple gesture in gratitude can bring, and observes how involving kids in the work of the church makes them feel part of the church family.
"Positively impacting the world around you does not have to be difficult and painful," she says. "It can be fun. Learning that you can enjoy being useful is an important lesson."
Radford hopes their handiwork will eventually translate into a larger perspective on generosity for her girls. "My dream is that this program can be a stepping stone to a social norm of gratefulness and giving," she explains. "We have many helpers during our lives. We need to learn to say thank you to those who have provided help, and in turn, help others around us."
Counting blessings counters stress
Pastor Emmy recognizes that every monetary gift – whether it arrives in a donation basket or a deposit via Thrivent Choice® – is a meaningful one. "Taking time to sit down, read over our list of givers, and handwrite thank-you notes has become a spiritual practice for me. Money is a major stressor for pastors and church staff, but that anxiety can be confronted and reduced if we create practices that center us in hope rather than in fear."
This summer: Put your faith into action
Want to thank your donors for their generosity? Thrivent members, apply to lead a Thrivent Action Team to create your own handmade thank-you items. Eligible Thrivent members, you can show your gratitude too, by directing Thrivent Choice Dollars® to your church.