Christmas gifts for clergy, church staff

A neighbor of mine recently asked for advice on what to get her pastor for Christmas. I’m a pastor’s kid, so I was able to tell her that any and all gifts are most appreciated. Still, it might be helpful to ask the BJS community for great ideas of gifts to get pastors. What do you suggest or what have you heard of that’s a special way to show thanks for your pastor? A gift certificate for dinner? A gift basket? A Starbucks gift card? Cold, hard cash?

And what about others in the congregation that you want to show thanks to? Any great ideas for gifts for organists, principals, Sunday School teachers and others?


Christmas gifts for clergy, church staff — 38 Comments

  1. 1. A handwritten card of appreciation is always great and cherished by the pastor.

    2. Skip the pastor and get something for his wife, like a day spa mani-pedi or something like that. The pastor will be overjoyed that the member is thinking of his wife

    3. Offer free babysitting with a gift card to a favorite restaurant that the pastor and his wife might enjoy

    4. Offer free babysitting to the pastor’s wife anytime so she can simply get out of the house, go to the library or Borders for a bit of sanity for an hour or two

    5. If the pastor is a hunter – Cabela’s gift card. Or offer to pay for his license or tags next year. Offer to take him out in the field with you sometime if you hunt too.

    6. Gifts for his kids, probably not toys, they will have them, but usually clothes are needed (ask his wife) gift cards to Target or Kohls or something that can be used for kids clothes if you are unsure of what size they are, styles etc.

    7. Cash gifts are always appreciated too, especially if he has children, and especially if the pastor’s parents or inlaws live far away, necessitating airline travel or many, many hours in the car, and in the card encourage the pastor to stash it away to save for a trip to see family

    8. If members have a get away place in a warm climate, or a cabin up north, or something like that offer it to the pastor and his family for a vacation.

    9. A good book you’ve recently read, it doesn’t have to be new – regift it to him with a nice inscription. Perhaps fiction would be best so he can get his mind off of all the rest of the things he is dealing with for a few minutes

    10. A handwritten card with an invitation for the pastor and his family to come to your home for dinner, put some dates down as suggestions. But say there is no urgency if those dates don’t work out

    I’ve been blessed where I served and serve now with these and many more. Just a few ideas I’ve been gifted with. It is great to be a pastor. I am blessed.

  2. Mollie,
    Easy breezy=Epiphany!!! There are a great many different variations of it, but Myhhr, Frankincense, & Gold, is always….always the best. If not for Christmas for Epiphany!
    When do the adults or children or for that matter, some Pastors, hold those gifts, in their hands!
    They are so very easy but very expensive, to find!

  3. I’ll tell you a gift NOT to get a pastor: a book off the discount shelf at Borders (Barnes & Noble, etc)

    If it wasn’t good enough to be bought at full price, it’s probably not good enough to be given as a gift.

    ps-this goes for everybody-not just church workers


  4. We have a Staff Christmas Pool; members are invited to contribute money which is divided among the Pastors, church and school staff.

    Our ladies’ group hosts the Pastors and wives at the December meeting, and present them with a basket of “goodies”: food items, wine, candy, nuts and some things with the children in mind.
    This year someone lined the baskets with soft throws which the wives quickly claimed for times when they could “put their feet up”.

  5. Pastor Ball has hit most of the awesome ones. I’ll share one that we greatly appreciated. A parishioner had a week at their timeshare that they gifted to us. Any time and any location in the co-op. We were able now on two occasions to experience areas that maybe we wouldn’t have gone to on our own.

    Really for me, any gift of thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated.

    Actually I just thought of one more: For pastor and their families, we usually have to be away from our families at this time of year. It is one of the hazards of the vocation. Be thoughtful and appreciative of this. For me their is no greater joy than to “be a pastor” during the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany seasons. Yet realize that it may also mean our spouse and children won’t be around the Christmas trees of their parents and grandparents. Being appreciative of this means a whole lot to pastors and their families.

  6. I’m not a pastor yet and I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but might I suggest people avoid getting the pastor any more of the following:
    Santa kneeling before the manger.

    Whether it’s a tree ornament, a wall decoration, a window decal, or a paper weight, he probably has a few already.

  7. Does anyone have any passive aggressive gift ideas for a pastor who’s on the seeker sensitive, church growth bandwagon?? 🙂

  8. There is a book titled “Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement” or something like that. You could get him that. Or you could get him Jim Pierce’s book titled “Wittenberg Confessions” (Blue Pomegranate Press/Church and Ministry Publishers) which has testimonies of people who converted to Confessional Lutheranism.


  9. All of the above gifts are truly good. As a hunter I would appreciate something in that area; as a reader of many books I always find that a good gift. But the bestest [I know it is not a word] gift I have ever received was one from a confirmand the first Christmas after her confirmation–a small card hand written with the following words: “Pastor, I just appreciate you so very much!.” That was it and it still brings tears to the eyes!

  10. @Rev. Roger D. Sterle #15

    Exactly. When I get down, pastors do get down, I have a bunch of cards and notes given over the years and I love to read. And then I’m not so down anymore.

    So dear laypeople, write your pastor a note, not an email, but a note, a card, a letter and let him know how the Ministry of the Word he has given has made a difference.

  11. Don’t forget the St. James Ecunemical Calendar of the Christian Year. This is published by the Fellowship of St. James, who also publishes Touchstone Magazine. The calendar is beautifully illustrated with woodcuts and engravings by such artists as Gustav Dore, Jules Schorr von Carolsfeld, and many others. It notes all the feast days, commemoration of the saints on both eastern and western churches, and much more. At only 11.95 (less if ordered in quantities), it’s a real bargain. Elegant, appropriate, reverent.

    Check it out at


  12. Here’s the link to the preview of the St. James Calendar I referenced in #19 above.

    Johannes (NOT on commission!)

  13. Agreed, personal notes are great.

    Gifts I’ve received that I have enjoyed are CPH gift cards, cash (as impersonal as it sounds), and CDs of excellent “churchly” music. Not the conetmporary stuff, but rather albums from the Ft. Wayne Kantorei, from Concordia-River For…er…Chicago, and the like.

    One item I often receive that I wish I hadn’t is food items. Whether they’re home-made or store-bought, I simply receive far, far too many sweets as gifts for Christmas. I simply can’t eat them all (or I’d need a new, larger alb) and they end up going to waste. I always feel bad throwing them away, but I know I’d feel worse if I were to try to eat them. Please don’t bake your pastor cookies for Christmas.

  14. A note saying you appreciate his work and that you will, by the grace of God and in the strength of the Lord, stand beside him and watch his back when the evil one attacks.

  15. Two ideas:
    1. There are a lot of whimsical gift ideas at (especially some of the shirts i.e. the green one that says “What does this mean?” and actually has the entire small catechism printed on it).
    2. I have heard of a few congregations that give their pastor a mandatory week off after Christmas (and Easter as well) that doesn’t count against their vacation time. They even take care of finding the pulpit replacement and making sure that he has no planning to do (i.e. hymns to pick or service to organize) during those particular weeks. I would certainly consider that a gift for both myself and my family.

  16. While I don’t have any specific ideas, some general guidelines might be helpful –

    1.) Be Sincere – Don’t get your pastors and teachers gifts just because you think you should get them gifts. You can usually spot those “I-don’t-know-a-thing-about-you-but-feel-I-have-to-get-you-a-gift” gifts a mile away. (Like the time I received a box of steel wool pot-scrubbers.)

    2.) Be Considerate – While regifting is an art and can be an expression of greatest sincerity, don’t give your pastors/teachers something that you wouldn’t want yourself if you received the same type of gift. (For example, one parish I know welcomed their seminary graduate pastor-elect with a food shower. He received many great new items to stock his shelves, along with several boxes of powdered goods (Jello, cake mix, and the like) that had expired several years prior to his arrival – one box of cake mix was even older than that pastor-elect!)

    3.) Be Conscientious – Try to be aware of the likes and dislikes of your pastors or teachers when you give them gifts. Your banana-nut bread may win blue ribbons at the state fair, and you may pour your heart and soul into making the perfect loaf for him, but if your pastor detests nuts… If you are particularly close to your pastor/teacher, offering a gift that challenges him in a new direction is fine, but be careful that it is not a direction he has already tried and dislikes.

    4.) Remember: We Are People, Too – Pastors and teachers, while holding a unique calling and living under “glass house” scrutiny, are still just ordinary people.

    Hath not a [Pastor] eyes?
    Hath not a [Pastor] hands, organs,
    dimensions, senses, affections, passions?
    Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons,
    subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
    warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a [layman] is?
    If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh?

    Use the same criteria and methods for your pastors and teachers as you would anyone else on your list.

    5.) West Wing Wisdom – President Josiah Bartlett once told his daughter, “The only thing you ever had to do to make me proud was come home.” Because pastors and teachers are regular people, we do like to know we are not just boxing at the wind and our efforts are not in vain. I must reiterate comments made by Pastor Fisk, Pastor Sterle, and Pastor Ball about how great the gift is to give a comment of gratitude or to just “come home” to the means of God’s grace that they administer.

  17. Somebody mentioned timeshares. We may also have air miles that can be used to buy tickets in their names or other types of points that work for hotel vouchers.

  18. @The Rev. BT Ball #18
    “So dear laypeople, write your pastor a note, not an email, but a note…”

    If my e-mail is worth treasuring, the office has a printer. 😉
    (I’ve been thanked for one on occasion.)

    @Matthew Gunia #21
    “Please don’t bake your pastor cookies for Christmas.”

    [Wait until the grey days of February, when he and the office staff will be hungry again!] 😉

  19. @Rev. Michael Mathey #23
    “1. There are a lot of whimsical gift ideas at …”

    Be sure you know your man!
    I once thought a collector of beer steins might be amused
    at a pair of “Old Lutheran” glasses inscribed, “Sin boldly!”
    Boy, was I wrong!
    [Absolute end of “gag” gifts from yours truly.]

  20. helen :@The Rev. BT Ball #18 “So dear laypeople, write your pastor a note, not an email, but a note…”
    If my e-mail is worth treasuring, the office has a printer. (I’ve been thanked for one on occasion.)
    @Matthew Gunia #21 “Please don’t bake your pastor cookies for Christmas.”
    [Wait until the grey days of February, when he and the office staff will be hungry again!]

    Hey, I hear you Helen, email is good, but handwritten stuff, better.

  21. Mollie,

    Thanks so much for even posting this question. Most congregations are very generous, but there are some folks could use some encouragment on this area.

    I would say gift cards and cash are always appreciated, and getting the wife something is fabulous, they are often forgotten folks.

  22. @The Rev. BT Ball #29
    Hey, I hear you Helen, email is good, but handwritten stuff, better.

    You haven’t seen my handwriting! 😉
    But I will take your advice; I have one to compose.

    [It works both ways. I re-read a vintage note from a Pastor friend again last week.]

  23. If your Pastor is planning to attend the Symposia at Ft. Wayne, a CPH gift card will delight his heart. Call Ft. Wayne and ask for the bookstore – you’ll get the card in one or two days (and attend Symposia – it’s like watching your children at Toys-R-Us when they attack the CPH tables!)

  24. My favorite gifts include a note indicating that the member has given a gift to a confessional mission organization — there are a few.

  25. @Rev. Steve Bagnall #35
    “My favorite gifts include a note indicating that the member has given a gift to a confessional mission organization — there are a few.”

    That’s an interesting thought.
    I normally ‘keep things separate’ because I have carried some causes from one place to another for years and it just seemed simpler. (Putting funds through the church treasurer takes up his time and delays the gift.)

  26. A gift sent directly to the Lutheran Heritage Foundation will be recorded as a charitable gift for tax purposes.

    Disclaimer: My wife works as LHF.

    It will also likely get you on the mailing list for the most wonderful newsletter in the world.

    Disclaimer: My wife creates the newsletters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.