One of the things that I’ve found helpful across campus life that makes a huge difference is saying thanks in creative ways. People like to know that they’re appreciated, and that serves to create more impactful, meaningful relationships that allow ministry to permeate campus culture.
I’ve found this particularly helpful with both students and collegiate employees. So many expectations are laid on students that thanksgiving, a core facet of many religious traditions, isn’t something that they often receive. To be appreciated for the work that they’ve done, whether through handwritten notes, small gifts, or public recognition can make a big impact, not just in the work that they’re doing, but in their identities as people of faith.
In a similar fashion, faculty and staff cover so many relationships, whether with students, one another, and community interests that being thanked can make a relationship stand out as one of meaning in the midst of a slew of daily tasks, syllabi, and institutional memos. It’s not hard to offer thanks, but it’s powerful to those who don’t often receive it in noticeable ways.
In both of these situations, I mean more than just a simple thanks at the end of an event or meeting. Follow up is incredibly important. We love to know that we’re thought of not just in the moment, but when we’re isolated in the library for homework, in our offices for grading, or in meetings for way too many things. It’s those moments when a thank you appears in an inbox, or a note appear in the mail, that helps us to know we’ve made an impact. To reverse that logic, thanking people serves to reinforce the faith formation and service learning that are so central to our ministries. Without those thanks, we’re missing opportunities to highlight our core values.
Moreover, it’s powerful within us as faith leaders to remind ourselves that we’re called to embody the faiths we share on campus. We’re not just called to create communities of thanks, but to be thankful ourselves. These small habits can help to shape our identities as well, making us appreciate more the good that we see in the world. Giving thanks for those that we work with on campus can help to shape campus culture, lives of faith, and our very selves in ways that best represent the good news we have to offer as campus ministers. Take every opportunity to give thanks, and we just might become a more thankful people.
The Rev. Andrew Tucker
Lutheran Campus Pastor at Radford University and New River Community College
Christ Lutheran Church, Radford, VA