Giving Christmas to a pastor this season is as easy as making a phone call

Pastors get all kinds of Christmas gifts from parishioners.  Mugs, Lifeway gift cards, and those one-scripture-a-day books are standards.  Some churchgoers forgo gifts altogether because it can be an overwhelming experience to have to get something for your pastor.  Decisions about what to get and how much to spend are baffling, but giving Christmas to your pastor this season might be a lot easier than you think.

Not quite the "mug" I was referring to, but you know...

The truth is that most pastors desire things that no money can buy.  I’m not talking about loyalty or trust or love, though such things can go a long way.  I’m talking about the little things that make for a healthier congregation.

As you consider what to give your pastor this season, think about these ideas:

A wonderful gift is for you to take “ownership” of a ministry in your church.  We know cognitively that pastors can’t do everything or please everyone, but sometimes we don’t behave that way.  This season, why not take the initiative to volunteer in a ministry or constructively address one of your “concerns,” if any, at your church?

Pastors are truly blessed when they see people getting involved in the ministries of church.  It lets pastors know you take that whole “Great Commission” thing seriously.

Give the gift of honesty.  Are you at odds with your pastor?  Perhaps your pastor has offended you in some way and you have yet to tell him or her about it.  Offer to take your pastor to lunch and confront the issues with a compassionate approach.

You may think that this is too explosive.  Consider the alternative: When conflict remains deep beneath the surface, your pastor most likely knows something is awry.  It won’t take long before your pastor starts to lead by anxiety rather than by authenticity.

Also consider that no pastor can enact reconciliation in a situation if the pastor does not know about the conflict in the first place.  We clergy may be ordained and have the power of the Holy Spirit, but we are not mind-readers.  Most of us need to know what’s on your mind explicitly; we’re too ignorant to figure it out on our own.

Another gift is to let your pastor reclaim his or her vacation time.  If you notice that your pastor has not taken off on a Sunday in a while, why not encourage him or her to go away for the weekend with the family come January?  This offers rest and relaxation; if the pastor visits another church while away, it can also be a source of much-needed professional development and personal growth.

Churches suffer when pastors do not take appropriate time to care for themselves.  When the contract between pastor and church says that the pastor has two weeks of vacation, then let the pastor have two weeks of vacation.

In order to let the pastor protect his vacation time, set up a ministry team to handle phone calls while he is away.  Have a registry of local, like-minded clergy whom your church can call if there is a crisis or sudden hospitalization.   This gift will certainly alleviate burn-out and inspire sustainable spiritual growth in your pastor.

Give the gift of friendship.  One idea is to call your pastor to see how she is doing on any given day.  When you call, your pastor thinks that it is to discuss the business of the church.  Surprise her by, first, asking if she has time to chat for a few minutes; and then by stating that the reason for your call is to see how she is doing.  No more, no less.

Christmas gifts for clergy do not need to be elaborate.  With a little insight and a creative, cost-free approach, you can make your pastor’s season a joyful one.

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