Our organization has chosen to adopt four habits that will help us to honor Jesus and participate in His mission here on earth.
These four habits are:
Today we will look at the third organizational habit – Attitude of Gratitude.
In order to talk about gratitude, I must first share a story about a turning point for me early in my ministry.
When I was a young youth minister I had fallen into the trap of complaining about the lack of funding in my youth ministry budget. I thought, if I had more money I would be able to offer more subsidies for youth events and more scholarships for kids to go to camp. If I had a bigger budget I could greatly increase the quality of our service programming for teens and help to modernize our aging youth environments. If I had more money, we could offer more dynamic retreats and youth rally.
I would complain about this to some of my friends who were also youth ministers. Truth be told, as a young youth minister I found that this was somewhat common with other young youth ministers whenever we gathered together. I certainly do not want to generalize this behavior for all young youth ministers everywhere but I am simply sharing with you my experience. Not to make excuses for us but looking back I believe we liked to get together and air our grievances about ministry because it was the place where we felt like we had a voice. With our peers, we felt like we could be heard.
Then something unexpected happened.
One year at a youth conference, while sitting at a table with friends and other youth ministers I had just met, the conversation found its way into complaining about elders and budgets. Before it was my turn to talk I had listened to three youth ministers who served at large Texas churches share their budgets with the group. Their funding was abysmal. In fact, all of their budgets combined together totaled less than what I was appropriated. One youth minister had to have multiple fund raisers to have any money for ministry programming.
I kept quiet. I chose not to share. I realized two things: 1. Youth ministry in general is underfunded. 2. Instead of complaining I should be grateful.
I don’t know who shifted the conversation, it may have been me because of the guilt I had felt for my ingratitude, but we then began to talk about what God was doing in our churches. That’s when I realized that God was doing more with their “little” than I thought he could do with my “much.”
The youth minister who had to raise his own funds actually shared how those fund raisers helped give youth and parents a deep sense of ownership in their ministry.
Not only had the conversation shifted but the Lord had used it to shift my heart. It shifted from ingratitude to gratitude.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey
Oprah got it right!
Even before she got it right. One of Jesus’ followers, the Apostle Paul, got it right.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
Ephesians 1:16 (NIV)
Being grateful in all circumstances allowed Paul to be joyful in all circumstances.
Being grateful in all circumstances allowed Paul to be content in all circumstances. Whether he was sick or well; free or imprisoned; shown hospitality or beaten; at sea or shipwrecked; unhindered or given a thorn in the flesh – Paul was grateful!
Gratitude gives you the strength to resist bitterness, envy, and entitlement. When you have an attitude of gratitude it is very difficult, if not impossible to feel anything else. Also, it will most definitely silence your complaining.
Our organization is choosing to have an attitude of gratitude. We are continually learning what it means to give thanks.
We ask ourselves, “What am I doing today to be thankful?”
Whatever we do, it must be tangible. We encourage each other to cultivate an attitude of gratitude by doing these five practices. (You should try these too.)
- Thank someone publicly.
- Send thank you notes (cards, email, text – include a gift card).
- Call someone to tell them that you appreciate them.
- Say “thank you” in person.
- Write down your blessings and thank God for them in your prayers (we practice this in our weekly staff meetings by sharing “God stories”).
When I practice these habits of thankfulness not only am I developing an attitude of gratitude – I am preventing bitterness, envy, contempt and entitlement.
When I am grateful, I am choosing to give encouragement to someone else and give glory to God.
When I complain I fail to thank people and give God the credit He deserves. When I complain, I am choosing to love what I don’t have more than what I have. What kind of message am I sending?
Know this, whether you are grateful or complaining there is always a recipient.
Think about it. What would you rather people receive?