December 14, 2012

Christmas Gifts from Your Church?

There is a great article in Ministry Matters about what pastors would like from their churches for Christmas. Actually, that's a good question for spouses too.

Some churches are generous in their thoughtfulness of clergy families. But others, not so much.

In one of our churches the ladies of the church thought they would do something nice for the staff and their families. But they had a large number of staff and this meant a lot of people, so they elected to have a dinner in our honor in the church fellowship hall. Just us and no church members, other than the servers. They took the cheap way out. Not because they could not afford to do something better, but using the basement was just more convenient for them.

Actually, I was doing pretty well with all this, because I had such low expectations, until the wife of our choir director said to me under her breath, "Like this is supposed to be special for us?! This is no different than the Wednesday night church dinners we have to eat every week." And indeed there was the same cook, the same paper on the undecorated tables, the same plastic silverware, and my husband was asked to say the prayer.

I hadn't quite thought of it that way, but she was right. Then I ate the entire meal served with a side dish of anger. The church ladies were well-meaning, except they hadn't gone to the trouble to think or ask what would be nice for us.

But there are happier stories too, like the little church that gave, what seemed like a lot of money, so we could enjoy Christmas. Then there was the generous soul who bought us a color TV, so our little girl could watch Sesame Street in color. Yes, that was the reason.

I know we're not in ministry for the money or for what the church can do for us. I know we are supposed to be above all that, but sometimes it's refreshing to experience a giving and generous church. Too many church people are only too happy to take all they can or stand by while others do the mission and ministry.

Generosity is a fruit of the Spirit. Rich in Spirit. Rich in generosity. I pray that you have a generous church and a generous heart this Christmas.


PS. Don't forget to check out that Ministry Matters article!


  1. Oh me. There is an older couple in our church that seems to hold by the "more is more" philosophy. Whereas a single ornament or something, nicely wrapped, would be a nice gift (though definitely not something we need, since we have more than enough ornaments!) they instead fill baskets and bags with numerous little unrelated items. Ornaments and magnets and a stocking hanger and books and stuffed animals for the kids, and a scented sache, and on and on.

    Then when I react with frustration (privately at home) and immediately take many of the items to a donation box, my husband berates me for being ungrateful. Yes, it's the thought that counts, but while it's nice they're "thinking of us," they're not actually putting thought into a gift. Just throwing junk at us!

  2. Through 5 appointments (9 different churches, mind you) we have received many different and varied Christmas gifts from many different congregations - usually the church as a whole has given a love gift. Many many many people have gifted us with trinkets - both cherished and not-so-cherished. Always our private response has been the same (or close to the same): "at least they thought of us." In some churches this has been coupled with shock at the concept of being thought of in a parish where we were so clearly not welcome or wanted. But always, "at least they thought of us. It could have been nothing or worse.... something negative." I challenge us all to find the positive in the gifts we receive this Christmas (since we are in the business of spreading GOOD news). Most parishioners are stumped when it comes to giving gifts to their Pastor and family - someone they may feel close to but don't really know too well. Let's walk in their shoes for a moment and give grace accordingly.

  3. Still a trip to France would be nice too!

  4. Where is the gratitude? Who cares if its the same meal as a Wednesday night? It was a meal prepared for you. They could have been home making a meal for their own families. How about a simple "Thank you"

  5. At least, at least, at least. Doesn't anyone ever get tired of being the least?

  6. Whose birthday is it we celebrate at Christmas? Who should be getting the gifts?