13 Gift Ideas for Pastor Appreciation Month
When is Pastor Appreciation Month?
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Some church families make a big deal of pastor appreciation and some don’t mention it, so, despite being a churchgoer my entire life, I only became aware of it myself after marrying a pastor. In fact, on our first October 1 as a married couple my husband told me “Happy Pastor Appreciation Month!” and I laughed because I totally thought he was making the whole thing up!
It turns out, he wasn’t pulling my leg, and Pastor Appreciation Month is a real thing, recognized and celebrated by many Christian churches. It’s been a few years now, and the more time I spend living with my pastor, the more important it feels to spread a little extra love around to the pastors that make a difference in my life and the lives of my boys.
Technically, Pastor Appreciation Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in October–that’s October 11 in 2020, but, since it’s out there, why not take the whole month?
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Why I appreciate my pastor
I’m going to say it again, just to be perfectly transparent: the love of my life is a pastor, so I’m definitely biased. Hear me out, though.
I don’t go to work with my husband every day. In fact, I see very little of what he does firsthand, but I see the results of it in my community.
I see the fruits of his labor when he’s baptizing another young man or young lady in church on Sabbath.
I see it in the stacks of filled-in decision cards he brings home from weeks of prayer to pray over and follow up on.
I see it in the faces of kids all over the state who light up when they see him, and run over to say “hi” and ask him if he remembers them from camp meeting or youth retreat, or the Pathfinder campout.
I see it in the sparkle in his eye when he tells me how proud he was of the way his youth group handled themselves when working with refugees from war torn lands, with community children after a natural disaster, when they showed Jesus to the Lakota Sioux by simply listening to and sharing personal stories, and when they preach their teenage hearts out night after night in a kid-led evangelistic series.
Yes, these are the greatest of times to be a pastor’s spouse.
…there are other times I see the result of his effort, too.
I see it when he comes home long after he should’ve been asleep.
I see it when he heads off to comfort another family who’s suffered a loss.
I see it when he’s on the phone, yet again, listening humbly while someone who doesn’t have anything nice to say gets what they need off their chest.
I see it when he spends his “day off” (as if there really is such a thing) in meetings, with hurting families, or at youth events to show support, and squeezing as much time with our kids in as he possibly can.
And he’s not the only one.
Chances are, if you have a pastor, he or she is living a similar life. Sometimes it’s awesome to be a pastor. It’s rewarding and fulfilling. It’s incredible to spend your life working in partnership with God.
It’s not usually just awesome and incredible, fulfilling and rewarding, though.
It’s hard. There’s no set schedule. Days off (not to mention weekends or–dare I say it?–vacations) are difficult to come by. In order to be there for everyone else (which my husband loves to do, by the way), it’s tough to take care of yourself. To spiritually feed the flock, the pastor needs to be well-fed. Finding the time and opportunity for that is not easy and often means cutting time for recreation and relaxation, meals at home, and even much-needed sleep out of his or her schedule.
Pastor Appreciation Month 2020
As in all aspects of life, 2020 has made a big impact on pastors and how they do their jobs. It hasn’t been an easy year for anyone, and pastors have had to make some major shifts in how they minister on a daily basis.
Our church was closed to services for more than 3 months, and even now our services include required masks, no congregational singing, social distancing, cleaning between services, no in-person children’s classes, and basically no opportunities for fellowship and mingling before, during, or after services. This is important to keep everyone as safe as possible, but it has a huge effect on our pastors as well as our church members.
Visitations are different now, and giving a Bible study is different. This year there have been endless Zoom meetings rather than face-to-face interactions that many pastors thrive on, and it’s been harder for clergy to make meaningful connections with parishioners.
Just wrestling with the technology itself has been a huge added burden to many pastors this year, and the ones who are tech-savvy have been saddled with a lot of extra tasks. My husband has spent countless hours making and editing videos for church, Sabbath school, Bible study classes at our local church school, etc. Chances are, your pastor has been doing much of the same.
Add the financial stresses that so many families have been feeling in 2020 with job loss, forced time off, and everything else, and many churches are feeling the pain of budget cuts.
It’s not all doom and gloom, of course. 2020 has provided new and increased opportunities (and motivation) for pastors to reach people outside of their immediate congregations. Around here, creativity has soared! Times of high stress can be times that people turn back to God, which is a silver lining in the dark cloud of 2020, right?
All of this to say, this year is a GREAT year to show your hardworking pastoral team some love. The gift suggestions below are all either COVID-appropriate or have notes with suggested modifications for the pandemic.
Why is National Pastor Appreciation Month important?
I understand that most people are busy, work really hard, don’t get to spend as much time with their families as they like, and many have trouble finding a day off. I’m not trying to minimize what people in other vocations or professions are doing. I’m just sayin’, many of the pastors I know go and go and go without taking a lot of time to even think about, much less properly care for, their own well-being.
Pastors can use a little bit of help to operate at their best, which makes sense, because that’s what the good ones are doing for the people in their congregations, day in and day out. Let’s just give back a little!
Overall, pastors are pretty happy and have good relationships. You might hear a lot (I do) about pastors not having good personal relationships, etc., but according to a fairly recent survey by Barna, clergy are doing fairly well. Pastors, on average, have stronger marriages and lower divorce rates than most Americans, they perceive themselves as having good relationships with their kids, and their happiness isn’t deterred by (relatively) low wages (averaging $40,000 or less/year).
The caveat here is that all of these positives go downhill as a pastor scores higher for burnout risk. Pastors who have a support system and who are ministering in ways that fit their gifts and talents are going to be happier than those who don’t, and who aren’t. (Read more on this from Barna.)
So, why not be a little piece of that support system for your pastor? Honestly, it doesn’t take much to make a difference, and a little effort goes a long way to give him or her enough encouragement to energize them for another day, another week, another month…you get the idea.
What is the best pastor appreciation gift?
There’s good news and bad news.
Let’s go with the bad news first: if you’re looking for flashy and fabulous gift ideas for pastor appreciation month, you’re going to have to look farther down my list of suggestions, because this first one is pretty plain and unassuming.
The good news is that it’s free, and anyone can do it.
So, without further ado, my top suggestion for the best pastor appreciation gift is:
- a sincere note. Yep. Seriously. I ran this by a real pastor (and then I asked a few more) and he told me that the best gifts he receives from church members or the kids he works with (he’s a youth pastor-turned-children and family discipleship pastor) are cards or letters he’s gotten that specifically mention ways that the writer appreciates the work he’s doing. The specificity helps because it lets him know that people really are paying attention to the details of his ministry that he’s attending to, but may not feel like people are even noticing. It helps him to feel like his work matters, and that’s really all the extra little nudge he needs to be especially inspired and encouraged to wake up the next day and do it all over again.
If you’re looking for something to give as a group to your pastor, and a bundle of notes won’t suffice, my next 2 ultimate pastor appreciation gift ideas are:
- organize a meal train. We usually hear of meal trains for new parents, or people going through a really tough time (a great idea for both, by the way), but a meal train for your pastor and his or her family is also an awesome way to show appreciation for their ministry. I cannot take credit for this idea. One of my readers, Paula Anderson, gave it to me, and I just couldn’t wait to update the post to include it (with her permission, of course)! What Paula’s church (Family Worship Center, in Cadiz, KY) did was have everyone sign up to provide a meal one day in October (they asked ahead of time about food preferences, when the family (Pastor Mike and Denise Rambo) was planning on being out of town, etc.). Then on the day each church member signed up, they either delivered a meal or a gift card to a favorite restaurant to their pastor and his family. Isn’t that awesome? This pastoral family was still using gift cards into the next year, and even ended up blessing people who needed help by sharing the cards with them. The way the gift was initially presented was creative, too. The parishioners made a calendar (advent calendar style) to hold the gift cards and/or notes from each giver, so that the family would be prepared for what to expect each day. This gift idea is an incredible option because it is such a blessing, is as expensive or inexpensive as each family wants to make it, and is a shared endeavor by everyone in the church. You can check out the details in Paula’s original comment below!
- a weekend off. Find coverage for each of your pastor and his or her spouse’s weekend duties. Arrange for a guest speaker, find a different Sabbath School teacher, ask the head elder to cover vespers, and find a different hostess for potluck. Plan in advance! Put it in the bulletin, and gently remind your fellow church members to please redirect their phone calls to the deacons, elders, or (even better) to wait a few days and take care of it on Monday. Offer to watch the kids! Don’t be offended if they don’t show up to church. Don’t ask them what they’ll be doing. If they DO show up, greet them, treat them like plain old church members, and don’t ask them to take care of anything last minute.
Here are some other great pastor appreciation month gift ideas that real ministry families have received and really loved (or mentioned they would like to receive):
- a grocery or gasoline gift card. This gift was mentioned by many ministry families. Practical for every pastor and available at any price point, this is a great gift for an individual or a group of any size to give. To make it especially relevant for 2020, consider giving a membership to a grocery delivery/curbside pickup service like Instacart or Shipt. Just remember to include a sincere note (or many) with the card to make it extra special!
- a date night. If your pastor has a spouse, provide concert tickets and/or a gift card to a nice restaurant. Plan for childcare, if necessary. Your pastor and his or her spouse will love the special time together, especially if church members know not to call during this time! COVID-friendly option: Send them boxed date (or subscription)–here’s a faith-based option.
- a mini-vacation. One pastor’s spouse I asked mentioned that this was among her family’s favorite pastor appreciation gifts. This is perfect for taking gift #2 to the next level. Throw in a place to stay, a gas card or two, and some spending money (and/or childcare), and you’ve got a fantastic and memorable gift sure to recharge your pastor for more great ministry.
- signature item. Some pastors love ties, some pastors love cool socks or fun headbands, others have an affinity for a certain snack or treat. If your pastor has a signature item, get your church together and give your him or her some of what they’re excited about! Note: this is not a good idea if you’re not absolutely sure about what the pastor is going to enjoy.
- Audible.com membership. Many pastors are readers, and even if they’re not, they’re probably listeners. Especially if your pastor has a multi-church district or a long commute, an Audible Membership is a great gift to help him or her multitask by “reading” between visitations, on the way to the office, or even while exercising.
Pastor Appreciation gifts for children’s ministry
Part of discipleship parenting is recognizing those who help to shape the spiritual development of your children. If you have pastors in your life that are positively influencing your child’s Christian walk, get your kids involved in showing appreciation for their positive leadership! If you’re a children’s ministry leader or volunteer you may also want to celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month with the kids in your class. Here are a few youth pastor/children’s pastor gift ideas:
- handmade cards. Once again, pastors love to know that they are, indeed, appreciated! Have the kiddos make cards and hand deliver them to the pastor. If you have a whole group, maybe you can throw in a special song for the presentation! My son has a list of 10 pastors (yep, 10!) that we will be making and delivering cards (and maybe baked goods) to for Pastor Appreciation Month. Skip the hand delivery for 2020, and just drop it in a special collection box at the church.
- assorted goody bag. One year, my husband received a bag full of things that the children he works with had gathered with him in mind. It included snacks, special bookmarks, cards, notes, keychains, and pens. Each child had been asked to choose something special to bring, and it was fun for my husband to look through everything and smile at the thought behind each item. This gift idea is not the most practical, but it’s easy to put together and can work well for any age group.
- yard work. Older children or youth could offer their services to mow lawns, rake leaves, or shovel snow at the pastor’s home. This will save the pastoral family some effort and will add some precious family time back into their schedule!
Some really ambitious church groups have given pastors (and their families) larger gifts based on what the families need, or because they knew the pastor was on the verge of retirement, and they wanted to do something extra special for Pastor Appreciation Month. Here are a couple more gift ideas for groups with more financial resources:
- all-inclusive vacation. One pastoral spouse told me that when her husband was about to retire their church family gifted them with a 6 night vacation, with hotel reservations made and prepaid, gas cards, and extra spending money. The gifts were presented on Saturday and the first reservation was for Sunday night! They loved their trip, and were so humbled and thankful that the church family had chosen to show their appreciation in this extravagant way! Because of travel risks and restrictions, it may be best to give a “staycation” this year–nix the hotel, add some gift cards and a day pass or two to local (social-distancing friendly) attractions, and put the church elders on duty so that the family can relax.
- meet needs. If you’re at a loss for what to gift for Pastor Appreciation Month, just ask the pastor’s family what they need! A pastor’s wife shared that one of her husband’s congregations gave them money toward a new van. It turns out that it was just enough to buy what they needed when they added it to the insurance money from their previous van! The same pastor had also once been blessed by the gift of a brand new guitar when the one he used in church had begun falling apart. Even if you don’t think you’ll raise enough funds to cover a need that your pastoral family has, whatever you give is sure to be a blessing for them!
Pastors don’t expect a gift
Quite a few of the pastoral families I heard from have never received a gift (or any special recognition) during Pastor Appreciation Month, and even the ones who have don’t expect pastor appreciation gifts.
If you don’t feel moved or led to do something special for your pastor, there’s no need. They’re not sitting around waiting to be formally appreciated. But if you feel that they’ve made a difference in your life, church, or community, I’d challenge you to reach out and tell them you are thankful for how God is working through him or her! It would be a pleasant surprise for any of us to hear that, wouldn’t it?
It just can’t hurt to brighten your pastor’s day.
Happy Pastor Appreciation Month!
You don’t have to do much to celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month, but get out there and do it! Even if you can’t get a simple note together, you can take a moment after church next week while you’re shaking your pastor’s hand (or giving a COVID-friendly masked smize and wave) to tell him or her how much you appreciate their sermons, their spiritual mentorship, their attention to grieving families, their organizational skills, or the tact with which they run church board meetings. Just tell them!
I hope you’re feeling motivated to make a tiny bit of a fuss over your pastor, and that you’ve been inspired by something in this post to make your planning a little bit easier.
If you’re reading this and thinking that it’s too late: it’s not. If the gift you’ve chosen takes more time to plan than you have left in the month, it’s okay! It just has to be presented in October, even if the actual event takes place a few weeks or even months from now, your pastor will have something great to look forward to.
Let us know how you celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month!
Leave a comment below letting us know how you’ve shown appreciation (or what your plan is) to your pastor this October!
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