We’re coming up on that time of the year when we start thinking of what to get people who have been a blessing or inspiration to us a little something to say “Thanks” or “We love you” and for many people, that includes their pastor. As a former pastor who has nothing to gain from writing this article at all, I thought it might be a help to share some thoughts from a pastoral perspective and even share some ideas to help you come up with something that is helpful and not a waste of your money.
First, let me tell you what your pastor does not probably want or need….
1. Most anything purchased at a Christian bookstore that isn’t a gift certificate. Schlocky “Christian” art, paperweights and wall plaques with poems written to pastors by some unnamed author, a quilted Bible carrier, etc… just simply isn’t what your pastor needs or wants. It’s like getting your kid’s school teacher something that has the word “teacher” or an apple on it or worst of all — a coffee mug. It just isn’t needed and it ends up in a garage sale or a good-will box shortly. Even buying a book for him isn’t a good idea — he probably already has it or won’t read it. Unless they’ve specifically said, “I want this book” — they probably already have it or won’t read it.
2. Fruit and cookie tins. They’ll get a couple from someone, you can count on it and one or two a season isn’t bad. I mean, really — who doesn’t like a good selection of cheese and summer sausages? But 30 of them is a bit much. So we re-gift or send them to the food bank. I know they are easy and quick, but they also tend to communicate — “Here pastor, I couldn’t think of anything thoughtful for you, so here’s a bowl of fruit I picked up at Publix at the checkout counter. Enjoy.”
3. A Bible. Guess what. I know this is shocking, but your pastor already has a Bible….or THREE DOZEN. He’s probably covered in that area. I’ll never forget getting flown half-way across the country one time to speak at a place and was gone from my family for several days and my honorarium for the trip? A $50 Bible. $50 I could have used. A Bible? I had plenty. I still have it — in it’s original box. I don’t know what to do with it. They engraved me name on it. I can’t regift it. So I keep it. LOL.
OK…now I’ll get more serious and make some practical suggestions:
1. A gift card. Seriously — a gift card to just about anywhere is always nice. It’s like “free money”. I loved getting gift cards because I would buy things that I normally would not buy. Some fancy-schmanzy cup of coffee at Starbucks, a book online at Barnes and Noble, a new fishing rod at Bass Pro Shop or some new tool at Lowes. It’s just fun to spend a gift card. If you gave me money, I’d pay a bill with it or give it away. A gift card, I would always use.
2. A family night basket. One thoughtful family once gave us a basket wrapped in cellophane that had microwave popcorn, a 2-liter of soda, a table game and a video rental card in it and it was really thoughtful and fun for the whole family. We loved that.
3. A Kindle or some other electronic reader. Your pastor would probably never ask for it and wouldn’t splurge for it, but he might just want one. (Find out from his wife if he wants or has one.) Now you probably aren’t wanting to spend $300 bucks for a Christmas gift for the pastor, so consider having your entire Sunday School class or department or some other group going together. Someone gave me one several years ago and I use it constantly. I can have 1,500 books on it at any one time. It saves time, space and money as the books are cheaper than buying them on line. Some people want a hard copy book in their hands, but if your pastor is 40 or younger, I bet he’s wanting an e-reader of some kind.
4. A restaurant date with his wife. Put a gift card to the Red Lobster or some other fine-dining establishment in an envelope and a coupon good for childcare at your house and let the pastor and his wife go out together. There’s a good chance your pastor isn’t from your town so he may not have family where he can dump the kids — so make it possible for it to be a date night with his wife. It’s a good investment.
5. Season tickets somewhere for the family. (Again, this is a group gift.) One year, a group at my church in Charlotte got together and gave us season tickets to Carowinds. We probably wouldn’t have gone even once — too much money. But with season tickets, we would often visit — sometimes for just an evening or to visit the water park or my wife would take the kids. They were a great gift that we enjoyed an entire season. Brilliant idea.
6. Car Washes. The pastor has to have a clean car for things like funerals, etc… and Saturdays — when most people have time to wash their cars are usually filled with weddings, ball games, getting ready for Sunday or week-end services. A deacon in my Charlotte church once gave me a year’s supply of car washes and a case of tire black for Christmas. Over the course of a year, it saved me hours of time and mucho dinero and was one of the coolest, most unique gifts I ever received.
7. A night away in a hotel with his wife. One year, someone gave me my wife and I a trip to a bed and breakfast for a night. It was such a nice break and something we’d never have done on our own. It probably cost $100 and included a certificate for dinner, but it was really a nice time for us.
8. Something for the wife. It was always honored to have someone do something nice for me, but if someone did something nice for my wife — well, that was just the best. So if someone gave a gift to my wife instead of me, I really loved that.
9. Gas. Pastors use a lot of gas. Go ask his secretary for his keys and take it to the gas station, gas it up, vacuum it out and wash it and give the keys back and he’ll be blessed.
10. A letter. It isn’t about money or price. Really. Believe me on this. Sure….pastors have needs and bills like anyone else, but it’s not about “stuff”. Write a nice letter. Give him a jar of homemade jelly. Give him a few pictures of the church and his ministry. Simple and cheap stuff mean a lot as well. Pastors often lead with their hearts, so if you want to bless him — touch his heart. They’ll keep a letter and a photo. They’ll appreciate something made with your own hands. They’ll love you for being personal. Don’t think spending money is what it’s about.
If you feel like this post is inappropriate and that pastors should be giving gifts. Look, you tithe and he gets paid and that should be enough. Then seriously, if you’ve read this far, please don’t get him anything. He doesn’t want it. He didn’t sign up for the ministry so he could get your stuff. Don’t stress about it and don’t feel obligated. Honestly.
But if you, like we will do with our family this year, want to bless your pastor and his family, I hope you’ll consider some of the ideas I’ve shared in this. He’ll be delighted with whatever you do to express your love and appreciation — I just wanted to say a few things that he probably wouldn’t say in a million years.