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Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Gifts

Here's a question from one of our Ring members who wonders how you do things at your churches.

Do your congregations give Christmas gifts to the pastor and the rest of the church staff? Does it come "from the church" and therefore is paid for out of the church budget? Is it a free-will offering collected and somehow dispersed among staff members?

A wonderful past edition of Ask the Matriarch addressed the awkward offer of gifts and/or favors from parishioners, but this perhaps has a different feel. Please share your church's practice in the comments!


  1. Guess, I'll be first. Our Women's Association gives gifts to all the staff. Hmmm.... maybe not all the staff. I don't think the music director (my husband gets a gift)- but I know the secretary, sexton, and I all get financial gifts. They raise funds throughout the year in various ways and this is one place their funds goes.

    I don't know that most of the church even knows this happens. I generally get a few other gifts at Christmas time from parishioners every year. Nothing too extraordinary really, just nice tokens of appreciation. I did receive a generous box of fruit, candy, etc. from the family of a woman I buried last year; this after a VERY generous post funeral gift. I think I'll read that matriarch post now.

  2. Small Church makes no official gift to staff, which consists of yours truly and the very part-time musician. If the latter gets a present, it's because I get it for her (usually a crisp $50 bill or something along those lines--she's young and can use it), but it's hard to say whether I'm doing that as pastor or mother of piano student.
    The Ladies' Guild gives a modest gift. The Mens' Club did my first few years, but it is now defunct, so that won't happen.Both those gifts came out of jointly raised money and were allocated by a vote of the groups involved.

  3. In our first rural church (>200 members), we were given holiday checks from members-- anywhere from $25-50. Some would give us delicious homemade food gifts.

    In our new assingment we serve a church of 300+ members in a growing suburban area and we have not received any financial gifts. A few people have given us cookies or fudge. I was somewhat surprised because we're in a more affluent church.

    Our closest friends serve a church of over 3,000 members as an associate and they get LOTS of gift certificates for dinner out, spa treatments etc. It's unreal. A vastly different exerience than we have and yet the churches are within the same metro community.

    I find this fascinating.

  4. My congregation somehow magically collects money which they give me as one gift on Christmas Eve every year. They don't do anything for the rest of the staff, but I give all the staff small gifts.

  5. THere is one person here who always gives me a personal gift of money at Christmas. ANd the UCW usually makes a gift to the family at their December meeting. But the congregation as a whole doesn't for Christmas--they did take up a collection for our wedding though.

  6. The situation here is the same as Prisca's - there will be a couple of bottles of wine, a box of chocolates perhaps, but that's it. I suspect (being cynical) that unless the clergy do the co-ordinating, the congregation are incapable of sustaining a conversation with each other for long enough to plan anything - and anyway they are sure that working here is gift enough for anyone!dth

  7. In the Presbyterian church if the session (church board) voted a Christmas gift or "bonus" to a pastor it would be a "change in terms of call" requiring calling a congregational meeting and getting approval. So you don't see this done "officially".

    PCUSA pastors do get gifts of money from individual members--sometimes in lieu of "official" bonuses when several get together and pass the proverbial hat. Of course small gifts of books, CD's, food, etc are usually given by thoughtful members.

  8. My church 'secretly' passes the hat and divides the donations among me and the two part-time staff members. I have no idea what their 'rules' of division might be. A couple of people will give baked goods or such. I give small gifts to the other staff members.

  9. There is no official gift from the congregation here at Little Church on the Corner.

    Some members of the congregation generously share cookies, jam, and other delicious stuff, which is really sweet and nice.

    I also get lots of really lovely cards from people thanking me for my ministry through the year.

  10. I do also receive gifts from a few couples/families in the church, usually a gift card or gift certificate.

  11. No gifts from the congregation. One member did send me a Christmas card specifically to "Our Minister and Family", which I thought was unusual, but sweet.

    Office Admin and I exchange small gifts, in fact we just did, since she's not working any more this week!

  12. We don't get gifts from "the church" so mmebers drop by with a variety of gifts. We get food, candels, Christmas ornaments, nice stuff. I did a blanket newsletter thank you last year, but this year I'm trying to do individual notes.
    Also, this is cool. Staff does nto exchagne gifts, we each give money and help out a family in need for holdiays. I love that part and it saves the awkwardness of buying gift for the one male (sr pastor).

  13. Oh, but in case any of my church members happen to ask y'all, the spa treatment package would be greatly apprecaited! :)~

  14. As with many of the above comments, my congregation secretly passes the hat. I am under the impression that it happens sort of haphazardly, as the first year, they presented cards (with the collected cash)to me and the sexton, but had forgotten the minister of music! That was remedied. I give gifts to the minister of music, the sexton, and the secretary, usually gift certificates, as I enjoy doing so, but I always do wish there were a budget for this. I also get various Christmas cards sent to my house, usually specifically "for our Pastor," and this year, several members also sent separate cards they'd picked out especially for my daughter. Some small gifts come my way, too, but I'm still looking for that spa gift certificate!!

  15. When I first got here, nothing was given to any staff. Now, all (non-ordained) staff is given a $75 gift card and that is built into the Personnel budget. This includes the admin, the sexton, the CE Director and the two organists who take turns being here on Sundays. All of those employees are part time.

    At first we gave them checks, but the math got a bit onerous when trying to figure out taxes, etc... Our accountant assured us that although $75 gift cards are over the official amount for not being taxed, we will never be called on it.

    I think that it is essential for employees to be shown that they are appreciated for all they do during the year ESPECIALLY in the church where December especially takes a lot of time and effort.

  16. There is no official gift giving here for staff, although I receive small gifts from some of the members like (last year) restaurant gift certificates, a ham, a pie, a drawing of Jesus with the children, cookies, handmade tree ornaments. I give some "personal" gift to the church secretary, organist, preschool director and four teachers. I keep my gift spending within the limit my accountant gave me. :-)

    I do get Christmas cards from almost everyone, some with lovely comments.

  17. You know...I'm not a rev, but as a layperson I have NO IDEA how or if this is handled...I think I need to find out! And be a part of it!

    Thanks for the reminder!

  18. Wow. I should refer some of my whiny friends to this post.
    I get the proceeds of a collection taken up a couple of weeks before Christmas. I think it's supposed to be secret, but the envelopes with my name on them laying on the floor after the service sort of give it away. It generally ends up being a pretty sizeable amount.
    The congregation gives $30 gifts to the secretary, custodian and organist, which isn't much, but they are all very, very part-time.
    I have friends who are offended every year when they get the $300 check that the church budgets for their Christmas gift and no other money from individual members. Their protests tick me off, but they've come from a church that gave sizeable bonuses.
    I think that gifting is one of those things that is just sort of in the consciousness of the congregation or isn't.
    Relatedly, do y'all send personal Christmas cards to individual members? I do this for everyone, but didn't one year. I noticed that I not only got less cards, but less cash :)

  19. I don't expect much, and that way am always blessed. One year it was gift cards to the grocery store from a couple of families (they put in the card "order your Christmas dinner on us"). Another year I received a gift card for my favorite local bookseller where I buy a lot of my sermon-inducing books. That was anonymous, so I had to work it into a sermon. Honestly, I just prefer hugs and "thank yous" instead of nitpicking and Monday a.m. critiques of the sermon... but that's just me...

    tired pastor2

  20. I don't think St. Larger has a tradition of giving gifts officially at all (not sure about St. Smaller). But to make a long story short, this year we gave $25 checks to the Sunday School teacher and assistant, the sexton, the pianist, and the secretary (inside Christmas cards which I wrote). They gave me one too, which was a surprise. I was unsure how to react--it's not that I wasn't thankful for the thought (and the realization that a small gift is appropriate and appreciated), I guess I just hadn't been thinking ahead about how to respond.

    I do think some congregations have an established tradition of passing the hat (like the church I grew up in) and others just don't and probably won't any time soon. Kathryn's comment about the congregation's short attention span for planning stuff made me chuckle.

    As for Christmas cards...I am torn. Maybe ten parishioners have sent me very nice Christmas cards. Do I send them ones in return? Do I send one to everyone? Nobody? Ack!

  21. It's varied in the different churches I have served. In one church, the individuals gave gifts, no "from the congregation" gift (and one of those gifts was a manicure/pedicure gift certificate!! Bless that family forever!). My first year here, the board got together and gave me a gift, as did members--again, small items like ornaments, gift cards, jam, etc. Last year, nothing from the board, but again, individual gifts. This year is shaping up the same way.

    I'm the only employee, but I do try to remember the volunteer administrator and the musician. We also give cards (with gift certificates if we can) to the host church secretary and sexton, as they often go the extra mile for us.

    Spa treatments!? Bookstore gift cards?! Sigh.

  22. OK, should have looked that over before I posted--

    I give small gifts to the administrator and the musician; a token, really, but they know what reality is!

  23. I send out Christmas cards on behalf of the church to church members. I sign my name since I can't catch the once-a-month cleaning lady.

    Thanks to QG, I now know that the Session giving checks to me, the part time musicans and the cleaning lady are out of order. The Session collects money for my gift from whomever wishes to participate. I find the gift very generous and appreciate it. I will thank them for it at the Christmas Eve service.

    If your church does nothing for you, I'm not sure what to suggest. Some churches have generous spirits, others do not. I prefer the generous not because the gift at Christmas pays off my mortgage and gives us a 10 day cruise (it doesn't--by a long shot) but because being thankful is a spiritual act.

    The Presbyterian Outlook announced that October is pastor appreciation month. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to tell my congregation this info.

    I am fortunate that my congregation is gracious and kind to me year round. They tell visiting preachers that they are proud to have me and grateful that I am their pastor. Is that the best or what?

    Bottom line: if you receive a chewed on drippy dog toy, be grateful. If you don't receive anything, make sure your staff receives a gift and a written note thanking them for their service through the year.

  24. I don't really care all that much about a gift (good thing since it ain't happenin'.) However, wouldn't it be nice if the manse committee fixed the leaky faucet? But I love 'em - I really do:)

  25. At least you have a manse... I am still living in an apartment - 2 bedrooms, 4 people, while they figure out where to house me since the manse is a Sunday School house now and I didn't really want to appear in my skivvies during the curriculum meeting...

  26. In my former church the senior pastor and staff were given Christmas gifts, and they were out of the church budget.

  27. There's a pass-the-hat collection that's distributed among the staff, somehow. I was amazed at the generosity the first time I opened the envelope. Some folks deliver cookies or other treats.

    In the past the staff has given small gifts to one another, which felt weird and awkward -- only because we never knew what to get each other. This year, instead of getting one another gifts) we're going out for lunch (which will come out of the budget) and as a staff taking a collection for a charity.

  28. We have a secret "pass the hat" system here,so I received an email reminder from the Deacons. Thank goodness for technology. Its a small church.
    Our last church was about 2x the size and I never heard about anything there...although I think I brought fudge one year.

  29. being thankful is a spiritual act. Thanks for the reminder St C ...

    Bless you all! You are appreciated across the miles yours truly.

  30. This is my first Christmas in this congregation. I have received small gifts and a few very nice gift cards from members, but I would be very surprised if I received anything official from the congregation. The Office Manager and Nursery School teachers and I have exchanged gifts, and I have something for the Director of Music. I know other members have also given gifts to these staff members. Again, nothing official has been given.

    I have served in two other congregations. Neither of them gave anything special for Christmas In the second congregation (much larger than the one I currently serve), members donated money they would have spent on cards toward a designated ministry. Very few people gave me anything.

    I've discovered that cards with heartfelt sentiments (and yes, affirmations that my ministry is meaningful to them) are so of the most treasured things I've received. That's not to say I would object to the spa treatment :)

    I haven't sent cards to members, but my family hosts a fairly elaborate open house for the whole congregation. It is our Christmas gift to members and friends, even if some can't or don't attend.


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