Let’s say you gave someone a gift that you knew she would like. Maybe it was something that could really help her. If she didn’t say thank you, how would you feel? Would you think she was rude? You would never do that, right? Me neither.
Stop. Rewind. Start again. I would never do that to a person who handed me a gift in person and searched my face for a reaction to the gift. But if I can download something quickly from the internet, I very often grab and run without any thanks or acknowledgement. Since it is posted on the internet, I don’t think about the person who put it there.
The Lord has been talking to me about this.
So many great resources are available on the internet today, but they come at a price. I’m not talking about the cost of ordering and downloading. I’m talking about the time and patience it takes to find stuff, order or download, and respond.
I never really master computer skills. As fast as I learn one skill, ten other new ones I need to know take their place. It’s a constant learning curve. When I find something I want, I don’t want to mess around figuring out how to add a comment or acknowledge the source of an image or quote if I’m not obligated to do so. I want to grab and run, just like a greedy child.
Internet sites are impersonal. Why should I thank an internet site? Would I thank Amazon for sending me a book I ordered? Never.
But I have learned something from my own website. I offer free programs, lessons, scripts, and recipes. Somehow a combination of my new blog and an offer of easy-to-produce Christmas programs for small churches has brought me more traffic than ever before. This month alone I’ve had over 900 different people viewing my various Christmas programs. I’ve received four comments during that time, plus a few comments and some likes on Facebook.
Would I want to answer 900 comments? No. I realize that many people who view my site may leave with nothing that helps them. When something is free, many people will download it, but not end up using it. I’m glad people can download my stuff, make changes to fit their ministry, and use it for God’s glory. It’s gratifying to realize that I can write something for my own ministry and then multiply the effectiveness of my work by allowing others to use it. It would be encouraging to know, however, how some of these are being used. I love hearing that some ESL class in Brazil is using my lessons.
My own website has made me notice that many of the websites I benefit from are not huge impersonal companies. They are ordinary people who share. Whether they charge or not, they offer information, images, programs, books, songs, and a myriad of other things. They help me and they might like to know I enjoy using their materials just as I do.
Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have believed how the internet would change my life but now I grumble because I can’t grab free stuff a little faster. I don’t want to slow down long enough to figure out how to add a comment or write a review, but I need to.
Recently my husband read a new book that gives fresh thought into how Baptist distinctives play out in practical matters of a New Testament church. He found this book so helpful in our church planting situation and it was written by Dr. Kevin Bauder, a former classmate of ours. Amazon offered the book, but not one reader had reviewed it yet. Amazon reviews are like gold to a writer. I said, “Dear! You must write a review!” And he did. Because he has been married to a writer for thirty-five years, he understands how important those reviews are.
So I’m not saying you have to leave comments on every internet site you visit, but when you find something really helpful from an individual or small company, consider your response. In a few moments you could not only really encourage your source, you might also be able to help them. Here are some of the best ways to do that:
- If you use an image, especially a free image, give credit to the source if possible.
- If you read a book that you especially enjoy or appreciate, write an Amazon review. If nothing else, at least “like” it on Amazon. You can also post reviews on other sites.
- If you use a program or script or Bible study, add a comment to the author’s page to tell them how you are using it.
- Add a short comment or a “like” to a post that helps you.
- Add a link to your Facebook page or use other social networking to spread the word about the item you found.
My fear is that this sounds like I am looking for praise for my own writing. That makes me hesitant to post this. But most authors and originators of material today struggle to build an audience for their material. If they promote themselves they look arrogant, but if they don’t do any promotion their products don’t get used. Christians who want to expand their ministry build an audience as a way to increase their effectiveness.
I know I need to do better at writing internet thank-yous. I want to express appreciation and help authors and originators at the same time. If you feel the Lord nudging you do to the same, I hope you find these suggestions helpful.