October 9 is Pastor Appreciation Day, and the whole month is Pastor Appreciation Month—but finding creative pastor appreciation gifts can be tricky. What do you give to a person whose calling is to spend himself for others?
The key to good gift-giving is tapping into what the recipient values, even if it’s not what the giver values.
Here are four suggestions of how to show your pastor some appreciation, written from the perspective of someone who’s actually done pastoral work.
1. Ask him a serious question that shows you were listening to his recent sermons.
Asking your pastor a serious question shows you were really listening to what he said in a sermon. I won’t deny that I enjoy hearing, “Boy that was a great sermon.” But what matters far more to me is that people grasp and welcome the truths I preach. The questions I treasure the most sometimes come weeks after a given sermon or Sunday school lesson, because they show that God’s word has made an impact. You can’t fake this. You have to actually listen and reflect, or your questions will not feel like a gift to him.
If you’re struggling to come up with something to ask, here’s a suggestion: take a truth he preached recently and try to apply it to your life. That should do it. If you try, and that occasions further questions, ask those questions. Asking how to apply a given truth is a great way to show you were listening without seeming to criticize him for something he said wrong or failed to say.
Your pastor has put years into studying the Bible; he’s given his life to teaching it to you. Thank him by giving him the reward which motivated him to get into this business: show that you are learning and growing under his ministry.
2. Give him books.
My relatives don’t always like to buy books for me because they hate to guess at what I might want at that moment. That’s why capitalism invented gift cards. They’re a win-win. If you give cash, pastors will feel guilty spending it on books instead of food and clothing for their children. But everyone knows that kids over a certain age can’t eat books, so if you give a gift card for books to your pastor instead of money, he can buy books without feeling guilty.
Naturally, I lean toward suggesting a Logos digital gift card. I spent my own money just the other day on Logos books (I bought a little series I’d been eyeing), but there are some on my wish list that I would sort of feel guilty getting for myself—unless someone gave me a gift card!
Logos books make your pastor a more knowledgeable and effective shepherd, making a Logos digital gift card a win-win-win-back-atcha. Have your pastor’s email address ready to send your gift on its way.
3. Offer to babysit his kids.
Paul David Tripp wrote a whole book dedicated to the simple proposition that pastors are people too, that they’re church members who need the ministry of the body. Whether your church is big or small, don’t presume that your pastor’s needs are being taken care of. Offer to babysit his kids.
If you’re unsure what to say, call up your pastor (or his wife) and use this sample script:
You: “Hi, Pastor X. We were wondering if you could use some free babysitting anytime this week or next. We’re free most evenings, and we’re keeping Fridays clear for you.”
Pastor X: “[Sound of fainting pastor hitting floor but hopefully not striking his skull.]”
You: “Pastor X? Pastor X?”
4. Ask him what you can do to serve.
Pastors definitely want to hear, “Can you help me apply your sermon to my specific situation?” But there’s one other question they’d all love to hear. Seven words. Super simple. “What can I do to serve here?”
Some ministries fill up fast, with plenty of volunteers. Some languish. Committing to the Saturday morning nursing home service or the Sunday morning set-up time are likely to be thankless jobs garnering no public plaudits. But Jesus will not fail to reward a single cup of cold water given in his name—and your pastor will also be thankful.
Your pastor will also be gratified to see you growing: my most meaningful prayer times with other Christians, by far, have come in the trenches of church ministry. We got into ministry to serve hurting people, and we discovered that by focusing our love on the same hurting people, we were drawn closer together in healthy ways.
Your pastor wants to see you grow, and to see the church uniting around spiritually healthy activities. Asking him if you can volunteer for a ministry in the church will encourage him in two ways: it will help get something done that needs to get done, and it will make him feel as if you are bearing fruit—which, again, is why he got into this line of work.