Pastors and Christmas Gifts

I am always grateful when pastors and church members share with me topics of interest to them. Those suggestions tend to be viewed by more readers than my own ideas. I guess that says something about my creativity!

A reader recently indicated his curiosity and perhaps concern about how pastors are treated at Christmas time. In the course of posts similar to this one, I typically hear from one or two persons who are eager to point to pastors who feel entitled or who are treated too lavishly. Please hear me clearly. Those pastors are the clear exceptions. Most pastors receive little and expect little. They see their clear call to serve and to care for the congregation.

The Question and the Concern

So I asked a simple question on Twitter:

What do you do for your pastor at Christmas time?

For pastors, I asked what their congregations gave them at Christmas.

Though my survey was not scientific, it was nevertheless revealing. I am truly concerned about how congregations treat pastors. I thought the issue of the Christmas gift would at least be an indicator of such concern.

The Responses and the Heartbreak

There were two dominant responses, each at about 40 percent of the total. One of those came from pastors or church members who shared with me that they indeed did give a gift to their pastor during the Christmas season.

The most common gift noted was a cash gift equivalent to one week of salary. The pastors who received such a gift expressed deep appreciation for the thought. I sensed no attitudes of entitlement in their responses.

A second dominant response, from both pastors and church members alike, was that the pastor received nothing at Christmas time. Church members were more likely to comment on this attitude than pastors. One person said: “If it’s anything like pastor appreciation month, they won’t even know it’s Christmas.”

My heart broke as I read many of those type responses. My pain is not so much related to the failure of a church to give a monetary or material gift; rather it’s the failure of a church to acknowledge the gift that a pastor is during this season.

The Exhortation and the Inquiry

There are few hundred thousand pastors in America. The vast majority of them sacrifice and give for the sake of their congregations and for the glory of God. Many of them struggle financially and, often, emotionally. A gift of some sort would do wonders for the pastor and the pastor’s family. The amount or cost of the gift is not the issue here; it is the encouragement the pastor receives when he knows he is loved and appreciated.

As we approach these seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, please remember your pastors and staff. Please let them know in some tangible way how much you truly value them.

And I would also appreciate your help informing this issue. What does your church do for the pastor and staff? What do you think your church should do for these servants of Christ?

Posted on November 23, 2013

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Tom,

    I don’t anticipate a “church” gift from my congregation. This is neither good nor bad, it is what it is. That being said, I am very blessed throughout the year. One member gave me my weight in homegrown vegetables, others would give cards of appreciation and slip a little cash into them. Others would take us out to eat and one even gives us a free supply of eggs from her chickens. These “year long” gifts show appreciation in a way that reminds me to continually glorify God for His goodness and provision. Will they give me a Christmas gift? Who knows? Yet even if they don’t, I know I am appreciated. For that I am thankful.

  • I have pastored churches where I didn’t receive anything for Pastor’s Appreciation Month or Christmas, and I have pastored churches where I did. My attitude towards any of this is Praise the Lord if they Do, and Praise the Lord if they don’t. It is always appreciated if they do, but I have learned that it is best to keep my eyes on the prize that awaits me and I’ll never be disappointed.

  • I have been in the ministry as a youth minister and pastor, part-time and full time, for over twenty years. I have received so many gifts in mankids different forms, that have a wide range of value. But what I keep and treasure are the personal notes, that express love and appreciation for the service I give.

    These notes let me know, above all else, that I am truly appreciated, and how I have impacted lives. Even an expression of thanks over a sermon lifts me up. Of course, I am speaking of more than the regular “good sermon, preacher” that we all get most Sundays, I am talking about the words or messages that express how the word I shared was something that was badly needed and touched them deeply in some way.

  • Our church gives us a week’s salary as a Christmas gift and it is very much appreciated, especially by our children to whom it mostly goes! 🙂 Often there are restaurant cards and other gifts from individuals that also mean so much. Sometimes folks remember Pastor Appreciation Month and sometimes they don’t but I feel very much appreciated nonetheless. We try to give more to missions each year and I think the joyful habit of giving really becomes contagious. As we are often reminded, “You can’t out-give God!”

  • My husband has been a pastor or on staff for many, many years….most of the time as bivocational. Sometimes people thought because he had a secular job that we didn’t need anything….not always true. It’s the idea of being appreciate, encouraged, and thought of that counts. Each congregation has done various things or nothing. Words of encouragement & appreciation as well as prayers are always appreciated. A greeting card whether store bought, hand made, or via social media is great. We always felt badly when we received a gift, but other staff were left out. It should be for all staff. Some churches had it in their budget or just gave something from the budget, sometimes arbitrarily set by the treasurer. Other times a love offering was gathered from the congregation. Last year the church we were serving had a large pencil drawing done of us (by a relative of a member) with the church facility in the background and framed. Sometimes individual families would give us a card with money. Fresh baked goodies were also much appreciated. Birthdays & anniversaries are another time that it’s great to be thought of….sometimes with a special church meal, or a cake with ice cream, a card and small gift geared to the person’s likes.

  • Thomas,

    Thank you for your article. Though I am not a full time or salaried pastor. I work a different occupation through the week. While most pastors pour their heart into preaching and teaching their congregations, most don’t expect more than appreciation. It sound like you are saying buy the pastor a present or a gift card for a meal out, or a cruise. While I am sure most would like to do this for their pastor, most people are barely making it themselves now a days. Companies have cut back on Christmas bonuses, or giving free turkey’s, or a weeks paid time off. This whole week in devotions I have read pastors don’t receive enough! I know 3 pastors from 3 different churches who this past year have gone on cruises. Know when the last time I went on a cruise? When I served in the Navy 20 years ago. I don’t mean for this to be a bashing on pastors, we should appreciate them. But most folks in the congregation are probably making $25,000 – $30,000 max a year. That does not leave much room after paying bills. I still enjoyed your article, do believe pastors should be appreciated for what they do.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Dave –

      I’m not sure where you thought my article implied that pastors should get a cruise for Christmas. Please read my words carefully. It’s not the amount of the gift; it’s the thought behind it. There is not a congregation on earth that cannot do something for their pastor, no matter how small. A generous heart finds a way to give. A bitter heart finds reasons to withhold.

      • As a pastor, I agree with Dr. Rainer. Consistent and personal encouragement along with regular prayer support is worth its weight in gold. And, if you pray for me and my family, let me know. I may have some specific requests to share with you.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        Thank you Brandon.

      • Thom

        This was just used as an observation. I did say we should not do something for the pastor. It just should not be expected! I have attended churches that people feel like they are being chastised because they cannot afford to give. That is a wrong attitude by staff members. A pastor like every other occupation (is told) needs to remember, God is the provider.

  • My husband pastors a church of about 150 people. They did nothing for him for Pastor’s Appreciation Month. It was disheartening. We were told that they don’t do PAM because it’s too close to Christmas an they don’t want to ask the congregation to give so close together. For Christmas, we receive a generous love offering that is split between the staff. It’s not a week’s pay, but close.

  • If the word “pastors” in the blog title includes associate pastors, then yes; otherwise, my experience is that senior pastors almost always receive more of whatever is given (appreciation, cash, cans of hams or yams, etc.), though 100% of the 72% of SBC congregations currently plateaued or declining are led by them. The best gift a church’s membership can give its ministry staff at Christmastime: consistent, godly followership beginning January 2. 🙂

    • Youth and Children’s pastors seem little appreciated when it comes to bonuses. While guest ministers take away large offerings for preaching for one hour, youth pastors get a small token and give countless hours. Just my 2 cents worth. Value the people who labor in your church week after week.

  • It usually ends up at about a third of a weeks salary. They divide a love offering between all staff. I am grateful. Had never heard the one week salary standard.

  • David Highfield says on

    The issue here is not so much Christmas gifts as it is the need for affirmation and appreciation of the pastor throughout the year. In one congregation they held a reception for me and my family each time I began a new year as their pastor. This included a modest gift for the family. What a blessing! Here’s the key: most often an affirmed and appreciated pastor is an effective and energized pastor. The above mentioned ministry was my most joyful and lasted 9 years. Every pastoral relations committee should have appreciation of the pastor on their agenda each time they meet. Including Christmas.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Good word David. Thank you.

    • Honor those who Good has placed to lead. A Pastor has many roles in a Church. He is Shepard, he is to teach, peach & serve the sheep as instructed by God. He is a Counselor, ‘He counsels many all hours of the day or week. He is a Doctor/Surgeon when he ministers to the sick. He is a Teacher, he educates his people through the Scriptures. He is an instructor/motivator to the people. He is a Speaker, a motivational one at that. He is a financial advisor, who must make wise financial decisions and invest properly the funds of the Church. He is a Pastor who is demanded to be available 24/7. How ungrateful it is by the body to bless the Pastor and the Pastoral family. Some Pastors love of of 100.00 a week less than unemployment. He who teaches is worthy of double honor. He who lives by the alter should be compensated by the Church.

  • Linda Morrow says on

    My husband is a pastor for a very small congregation and we are truly blessed!!! We receive a Christmas gift of one week’s salary. We are truly grateful for whatever it is for we know it comes from the heart.

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