What to give & what NOT to give your pastor for Christmas

A pastor told the story of a woman in his church who was a chain-smoker. She gifted his family with a batch of cookies that threatened anyone who ate them with lung cancer. They tasted just like stale cigarettes!

The following week, she asked him how he liked the cookies. “Mary,” he quipped, “Cookies like that don’t stay around our house long!”

If you’re Googling Christmas gift ideas for your pastor, you might stumble across Gayle Crabtree’s online article, Top 7 Worst Christmas Gifts for Pastors or Clergy. She explains each one but, for starters, they are:

  • Christian Books and DVDs
  • Framed Art Prints
  • Ties
  • Anything that has to be fed (including plants)
  • Reference materials
  • Wine

In another post, Ms. Crabtree recommends gift cards as the best gifts for pastors and clergy. Pastors typically don’t have upper class salaries, so financial help with practical things will mean more than something decorative or funny, especially if it allows them the opportunity to choose their preferences:

  • Christian bookstores, online booksellers
  • Dining, coffee shops
  • Car repair, gas cards, oil changes
  • Lawn care
  • Grocery and clothing stores
  • Movies

Consider pooling resources with your small group or others in your church to provide something truly useful and wonderful, such as:

  • 12 (or more) babysitting coupons for monthly date nights in the new year
  • A romantic one-night get away, including hotel, dinner and childcare
  • Attendance costs for pastor and spouse at an uplifting conference
  • Cash for something you know they need but can’t afford (airfare to see an ailing parent, down payment for a car, much-needed home renovation project, braces for a child, etc.)

More than anything, pastors and clergy–and their spouses–are in need of affirmation and encouragement. Your handwritten letter of appreciation will do far more for their spirits than any token or obligatory gift offering, so consider including more than a “Merry Christmas” with your gift. As the saying goes, what comes from the heart touches the heart.

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Church leaders are about to work on the special days you get to spend with your family, so, please, do remember them in ways that don’t require them to rehearse a tactful, smoky-cookies kind of thank you!

If you’re a pastor or clergy member, what’s the best (or worst) gift you’ve received for Christmas?