Not All Thank Yous Are Created Equal
(How to Honor Different Generations)


Not All Thank Yous Are Created Equal
(How to Honor Different Generations)

by Jessie Cruickshank

Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space. Learn more here. 

I believe that honor is the currency of the Kingdom of God. This means that giving honor is important to both God and people. Honor can be kind of a big idea, and there are people with opinions about what honor looks like. What I know is that when someone serves as a volunteer or leader on my team, my ethic is to show that I value them and celebrate their contribution.

From ‘OK, Boomer’ to ‘Oh Yay! Boomer’

One thing I have learned is how I show them value and celebrate them needs to be specific. What makes the high schooler in my youth ministry feel valued does not have the same impact on April, my church friend in her 70’s. I grew up in a time when churches had “volunteer celebration dinners” and work places had “birthday Friday.” Each of these were a general group party to celebrate individuals. This type of celebration was created and championed by the Baby Boomer generation (those born 1946-1964). Boomers love parties, and they are happy for an excuse to have one.

Connecting with Gen X

But these types of generic parties do not mean as much to the younger generations. The Gen Xer’s (those born 1965-1979), don’t really find value and appreciation from going to a group party. They are, in general, a little less optimistic and little more cynical. For my Gen X friends, I celebrate them with either prophetic words or something funny and snarky (like a sarcastic GIF or card). These items make them smile because they are either useful (in the case of the prophetic word) or they’re funny and don’t even attempt to be useful (like the card I sent a youth leader that said Underachievement: Because soaring with the eagles requires so much more effort). I would not have sent that card of a Boomer or to a Millennial ( 1980-1996) that I don’t know well because neither tend to like sarcasm. I have to be careful about which cards I send to whom. But when the right person gets the right card, it really makes their day and they feel known and valued.

How to Love a Millennial

Millennials (born 1980 – 1996) also greatly value appreciation that is shown specifically to them. While the Gen Xers will put up with a generic party, it can actually upset Millennials and hurt their heart. What communicates value to a Millennial is something that demonstrates that you see them, specifically as a person, and not generally as a “volunteer.” If a Millennial is invited to a party “for everyone”, they are more likely to think that they are still unseen, and thus not actually valued. This can make them resentful of all the time, effort, and money that has been put into the event when all they needed was someone to say, “Hey _(name)_!  I really like how you did _(specific action they did themselves)_. I can see _(specific quality)_ in you and it means a lot to me that you share that with us!” Celebrating Millennials is not expensive. A precise word of affirmation is free to give. But it does require actually knowing them, and that is point.

Should I give a gift card?

Gen Z (born 1997-2011) is much more pragmatic than the generations before them. For the Gen Z’s in my world, I give them gift cards (like for coffee or cash cards). I give them items that have practical value in the world and that can help them in very real ways. Gen Z, in general, are not going to find as much meaning in cards (although they will appreciate your heart in giving it). They (again, in general) would rather see you spend less money on paper to be recycled and more on having a cup of coffee with them to spend time with them.

Each of the people around me has likes, dislikes, and things that show them value. My heart is to celebrate them in the best way possible, to show them that I know them, like them, and care about them enough to communicate in the right way. It is a spiritual work to celebrate those around me and show them honor. It is how I show love to Jesus because his love language is “that which I do to the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). The more I celebrate others in the little things, the more blessed I feel and the more blessed Jesus is as well.


Jessie Cruickshank

Jessie Cruickshank is an ordained Foursquare minister, serving the body of Christ in multiple capacities through organizational discipleship. She is a philosopher, neuro-ecclesiologist, disciple-maker, speaker and author. You can find more of her work at or follow her on Twitter @yourbrainbyjess.