I receive so many lovely, thoughtful gifts from parishioners. Some bring baking and special treats, others buy gifts (usually something small but meaningful) - all of it is quite delightful. Also, there is always a package from "Santa" at the door of my office when I arrive for the first service on Christmas Eve.
Over the years, I have sent cards of thanks to everyone who has gone to the trouble of giving me a gift. No one has given anything that I felt was inappropriate in cost or content, so I really just want to acknowledge that I appreciate their thinking of me.
This year, I received a LOT of stuff from my folks. I've had to keep a running tally of who sent what to our home. It's great. Now I need to keep up my end and send the cards (I would hate to seem ungrateful, or God forbid, have anyone think my momma didn't raise me right!)
What are your thoughts on gifts from parishioners and the appropriate response to them?
A "Gifted" Minister!
Singing Owl was the first to respond:
My thoughts on gifts from parishioners are HALLELUJAH and PRAISE THE LORD!
I received two presents from church folks this year, which is about how it usually is, so obviously the church I presently serve doesn't see it that way, and I'm sorry about that. Not because I don 't like presents. I do. Who doesn't like presents? But more because I think that Christmas is an ideal time to remember your pastor…to realize that they are extra-busy, extra-stressed, maybe wondering about the coming year and so on. I love receiving a gift of homemade baked bread or candy because I am sometimes too busy to spend time in the kitchen. Or a nice gift is a book, or a subscription to a magazine. Or a gift certificate to my favorite restaurant is nice too. One church I served long ago had a tradition of a Christmas money tree for the pastor. Considering the salary there, or lack of salary, that money tree was a godsend.
To me, receiving a gift says, "I'm thinking of you." Yes, I could say, "Don't give me a present. I do not need a thing. Put your money in the missions fund." That is fine too, but I personally think that most of us receive all too little encouragement or affirmation. Church folks should think of their pastors, one way or another, and take opportunities to say, "I care and am thinking of you."
As for response, I think that a written thank-you note is important. If I pastored a mega church and received hundreds of gifts I might change my mind on that, but so far that hasn't been a problem.
Our blogging sister from a A Church for Starving Artists adds: Dear "Gifted" - This is a tribute to your ministry and their love for you as their pastor. Sadly perhaps - but with the encouragement of your mamma - I'd say you still have to send thank you notes. I'd make them uber brief. Like 2 lines on a lovely postcard. And if someone comments on the brevity, say that you were blessed with so many gifts that it would take too much time from your ministry to them to write longer notes to everyone. ("I would love to write longer notes but I really want to spend my time doing my pastoral work.")
You are truly blessed!
And from a Wise Layperson ----
Things that would be good to check:
1) Is your vestry/ church supervising body aware that you receive gifts and do they have any rules you should be following?
2) Do you need to keep a list of all gifts given over time for tax records? Are there tax consequences you need to be aware of?
3) Do you have a plan for what to do with gifts that you feel uncomfortable receiving? What are your personal limits? How would you approach someone who gave you a gift that you felt was not appropriate?
As far as I'm concerned, thank you notes are always a good idea.
As long as the gifts stay small and appropriate, I don't see a problem. Folks like to give gifts to people who are important in their lives.
One thing to watch out for might be 'gift status'-- where gift giving gets competitive about who has given the Rector the 'best' gift. Be thoughtful about what you put on display and avoid making a big deal out of any one gift in public (or really in private). Also, if your momma raised your right, you already know not to compare gifts or gossip about how much you liked the gift from X and disliked the gift from Y.
Good manners can go a long way toward avoiding problems in the future.
So...three in favor of writing "thank you" notes, and my vote makes four. And you, dear reader - do you have any suggestions for our "gifted minister" - perhaps a creative way to express your thanks? Let us know what you think, and what you do!
May you live in God's amazing grace today and every day+