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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  • corey mcgrail says on

    Thanks for your wise words about expressing appreciation for our pastors! I’ve recently become an elder at my church and just this morning received an email asking my perspective about how much to give our pastors and church staff for their year end Christmas gift. Since there is not a biblical mandate for giving Christmas gifts, I needed some wisdom in this area. I came across your article and love the idea of giving a gift equal to one week of the pastor’s annual salary. Thank you for leading the way with your wisdom and experience, and for helping an elder from a little church in upstate New York!

  • Bella Smith says on

    My husband is a pastor and he did not even receive a card for Christmas this year. He did receive individual cards and small gifts from some members. He is a good pastor and I am extremely frustrated. So much, in fact, I am taking a month off from being there. How a congregation can ‘forget’ to give their pastor at the bare minimum a card is beyond me. He gives his all and does a good job. He goes above and beyond.

  • I do not expect anything as a church staff member but being on staff at multiple churches I have learned one thing regardless of whether I expect it or not the lack of a gift or a pat on the back tends to stick with you. It helps to know that your church is there and cares rather than just expecting you to show up do a job and go home then repeat mindlessly. Sometimes I am shocked myself at how much it sticks with me, even with other staff members are not recognized. A supportive church is a healthy church and a supported and encouraged pastor is ahead of the game.

  • Rev. Dr. Timothy D. Johnson says on

    My wife and I have been at our current pastoral assignment for 11 full years starting on 12 now. We love our church very much, but within the past 4 to 5 years it has been discouraging for us because we receive no gift at all during the Christmas season. Last year on the Sunday evening before Christmas at the very end of the service our church board secretary called us forward and sheepishly said “I present this on behalf of the church body and board but, I almost feel embarrassed to give it to you, please just open it until you get home.” We accepted the card with sincere thanks (even though his comments seemed odd to us at the time). We thanked everyone for their love (thinking there was a gift of some kind in the envelope). When we opened the envelope after getting home we found it was just a Christmas card signed by the board secretary alone. There was no gift of any kind. It was humbling, and disheartening to say the least. We don’t expect much, but even just a small amount would have been appreciated since our congregation runs around 100 in attendance. It hurt and…as we approach Christmas 2016…It hurts even more, because we are 4 days from Christmas and we have received nothing again. Makes us feel unneeded, unwanted, & it screams loud and clear “WE DON’T VALUE YOU AT ALL!”

  • ToBeHonest says on

    I found this forum looking up “congregations who do not acknowledge their pastors.” With that being said, for the past several special holidays such as Christmas, Pastor Appreciation Day and even his birthday the church my husband pastors has not acknowledged him. Whereas before they have. Giving to the family and the pastor monetarily is one thing, but not even saying thank you? I have to say we are getting weary in well doing. They’ve never even acknowledge my birthday or our anniversary. We are going on 3 years at this little church and it’s heartbreaking that we feel taken for granted. We don’t do this work for the money but it would be nice if we could have a dinner or something for us. When we were under our former Pastor, the church was so good to them and showered them with gifts and love. (At a different church) I just keep thinking, I would have never treated my pastor this way.

  • Scott c hughes says on

    The church I left this past summer was wonderful giving us a great bonus every year. It was usually around 600-800. This year we went to a much larger congregation and there was nothing. It was a bit heartbreaking to go through that change. However, interestingly, a couple of families gave to us sacrificially with gifts equalling a couple of hundred dollars. The families that gave were sacrificing.
    I was told the reason there is no bonus is that the former pastor had burned bridges and they couldn’t get people to give. Sad. God provides.

  • Jamie Sparkes says on

    I have been a Ministry Trainee at a Church in Liverpool, UK for 2 years. The Church is 7 years old and I was involved in the planting of it. We have about 100 in the congregation (including children).
    My wife and I buy a gift for our Pastor and his wife each Christmas, Birthday and Easter. We also try to remember his 3 children’s birthdays also (all over 18 now).
    We will buy personal and specific gifts including clothes, cinema/restaurant vouchers, books (or book vouchers) or money. This year I am buying him a Jumper, Juggling Clubs (long and funny story) and I hope to give him a financial gift too.
    The Church leaders regularly review his wages and occasionally give a one off gift but he is very hesitant to accept it.
    I have never expected anything from the congregation and have never received anything but the Church is supporting my family financially through training and a small living allowance.

  • I think one of the real problems is that Pastor shy away from teaching this stuff to their church for obvious reasons. As a result our folks become undeveloped in this area. Our network just has it written in their guidelines that a pastor should receive 2 weeks Christmas bonus, that way he does not have to go begging to his council/elder board.

    BTW I pastor a growing Pentecostal church (400+) in South London, UK.
    Great article though Thom.

  • Thank you for this article. My husband and I pastored for over 20 years and were so blessed by the people that we served . I remember in our first few years of ministry,at Christmas time, being so overwhelmed that people would think to buy us a gift, I was truly taken-a-back (did my family do that for our pastor, growing up? I don’t think so 🙁 ). In the years following, it still made us feel so loved and appreciated, but now we had kids – and they in turn saw the love from people. Those acts of kindness spoke volumes to them, and it touched our hearts so deeply too. We now are in full time ministry serving many churches with a healing /discipleship program that my husband and get to sit under a wonderful pastor ourselves now. From the example we witnessed from our congregations, we now pass this kindness onto our pastor and his family.

  • I am more curious as to what a good gift would be from the pastor to the congregation. I have about 25 and I would like to get them a little gift. What would you suggest?

  • One story…Several years in a row, our church gave us a cash offering that we then used to make our Christmas trip home to grandparents. In fact, we never budgeted for the trip because of the Christmas offering. One year, they decided to buy us a kitchen appliance instead. As grateful as we were, it threw our plans for going home in a turmoil. Of course we couldn’t let them know how it affected us. They were just being thoughtful.