Gift This, Not That: A Gift-Giving Guide for Your Pastor

Don’t add to your pastor’s surplus of Christian bookstore paraphernalia — try these gifts instead.

Christmas has a unique bustle in a pastor’s family. When I was growing up as a pastor’s kid, the number of church events requiring my dad would triple, church budget concerns would be at an all time high . . . and gifts would start flowing in.

Every December, a pastor’s family comes into a surplus of popcorn buckets, fruit baskets, and Christian bookstore paraphernalia. I could start my own niche Christian shop just with the nativity scenes my family possesses: a light-up manger, Precious Moment Mary, Lego Baby Jesus — you name it, we’ve got it.

If you’re a churchgoer, you are not obliged to get your pastor a Christmas gift, but if you want to show your appreciation through gift-giving, here are some ideas of what to get and what to avoid.

1. Gift this: a charitable gift

Want to get your pastor something demonstrative of your mutual faith? Give a gift in their name to a ministry they advocate for. World Vision’s gift catalog is a great place to start. Thoughtful and helpful to those less fortunate, this will also show you’ve been listening to the sermons on faith-in-action.

Not that: a decorative cross

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.03.40 PMInspirational Himalayan Cross Lamp? I don’t think anyone can read by this dim light, and believe it or not most pastors don’t routinely keep a shrine or altar in the family den.

Or this . . .

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.10.25 PMGuess what? They have this and its twin in mahogany.

2. Gift this: an encouraging card

Make or write a note in your own words. Pastors are always being asked for something in one way or another. Encourage and affirm the work that you see your pastor doing. I assure you, your generous words are priceless, life-giving, and a sweet treat to hear.

Not that: a plaque

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.12.54 PMNothing says I personally appreciate you like a flowery, mass-produced plaque, amirite?

3. Gift this: a museum pass or home goods gift card

If you’re an art lover, think of giving your pastor a museum pass where they can experience beautiful works of religious art with their spouse or family. Or get them a gift card to a local art or home goods store. That way, if they wish to hang art in their home, it will suit their taste and space.

Not that: religious artwork

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.14.01 PMClassic or cliche? (Helpful hint: if they have this in their office, they don’t want it at home.)

Or this . . .

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.16.10 PM

Always ask: “Do I want this on my wall?” or “Do I want a Sea of Galilee themed guest bathroom?” If the answer is yes, maybe your pastor feels the same way, but just in case, go with the gift card.

4. Gift this: coffee for a cause

This is definitely a gift that keeps on giving — coffee that is good for more than one cup, but is also doing life changing work in Rwanda, such as Land of a Thousand Hills coffee.

Not that: generic pastor mugs

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.18.23 PM

This says: “I was afraid to get you anything not covered in scripture.”

Every American pastor loves a good mug, but I would avoid generic cutesy dishware. They’ll need to store it, and probably have a generic churchy mug they drink from in their office already. If you must get a mug, purchase it from Land of a Thousand Hills or another charitable distributor of dishware.

5. Gift this: dinners and date nights

Holiday costs add up, and your pastor’s family may need a little supplement to buy holiday dinner groceries. A gift card to a grocery store is always helpful when you don’t know what else to get. Does your pastor have kids? A gift card to a nice restaurant, movie tickets, or a local show/concert would help give the pastor some time alone with their spouse.

Not that: nativity scenes

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.20.33 PM

Or this . . .

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.22.03 PM

Or this . . .

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 1.23.33 PMIs any pastor missing a nativity scene? I know, nothing says “Merry Christmas, Pastor” like a six-foot Nativity scene with a Woodstock Jesus, but . . .

Your Pastor will gratefully accept the plaques and spiritual artwork because you gave it, but it is just another earthly treasure to store. Most importantly, any gift you give should demonstrate your love for that person. Pastors are people, too.

Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Katherine McClintic
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  • Carstonio

    Although I’m not religious, I agree with McClintic and can imagine that any pastor would appreciate her gift suggestions. Christian bookstores are selling tribalism, as though belonging to a religion was no different from following a sports team. The gifts that McClintic rightly decries have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with allegiance. The same principle applies to the stores’ book and music offerings, which are by approved evangelical companies. Good luck trying to find a CD of Handel’s Messiah or any of Bach’s sacred works, or copies of Dostoevsky’s novels.

    • Katherine McClintic

      So true!

      and this…

      “Buying light-up crosses for a pastor is like buying Redskins merchandise for Sean McVay” Can I tweet that? Great comparison!

      • Carstonio

        Feel free!

  • John M. Harris

    For the record, I am completely fine with a coffee mug.