Appreciation that won’t end up with a yard sale tag

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Brian and I had some really close pastor friends. You know, the type of friends who come along a handful of times in your life. The ones who are both authentically compassionate and incredibly funny. When we first got together, we would have to schedule weeks in advance, because we had to fit them into a block of time that was large enough for us to clean the house and cook a meal before they came.

Then, slowly and surely, we quit pretending like we lived in the pages of Real Simple magazine. We would allow each other in the door, even when our homes were covered with pet hair. Then we stopped cooking meals and ordered Chinese food. Then, we didn’t need six hours to prepare for a visit, so we began to see each other more frequently.

Finally, we ended up watching TLC together on Sunday night (honestly, it was a show about cleaning out closets). I think we were all too tired to change the channel. The four of us just sat, in that comatose state that one enters into after a really, really big Sunday. The last barrier had crumbled. We didn’t even have to entertain each other any more.

I miss them. I knew how lucky we were at the time. I realized how amazing it was to have friends like that. I also knew that we were all just beginning, and the three of them were exceptionally gifted pastors. Between the four of us, two were happily employed (that’s often the sad case with clergy couples), so it would not be long before someone moved.

They left first. We promised a thousand times that we would visit…but…it’s been years now….

Okay. The point of this post was not to mourn my good friends, although I’m in thick of it now. The point was to tell you about the yard sales. They were moving, and we were broke, so the four of us began to gather our stuff together, pricing the odds and ends, and putting them on rickety card tables to sell (maybe we did actually learn something from the closet program). But here’s the thing: We couldn’t combine the sales. We had to have two of them because they needed a way to anonymously sell the gifts that their congregations had given to them.

One of them, especially, had been given boxes and boxes of stuff that was wonderful and sweet, but when we asked, “Is it worth moving?” We had to shake our heads. (Just for the record, my congregations have been extremely good at gifts. And I’m not just saying that.) But in her collection, there were snow globes, Pooh bears, Noah’s arks, stuffed animals, Jesus dolls, bird figurines, and fish on plaques that sang “Take me to the River.” You get the idea. She didn’t even have kids, but her parsonage was full of things that could never really make it into a moving van.

This all comes up because The Presbyterian Outlook reminded me that October is Pastor Appreciation month. Which is not celebrated in our church (is it anywhere?). Just in case it is, you know that pastors are grateful for anything that our parishioners give. And certainly, a drawing from your five year old will be utterly cherished. But if you’re wandering around, looking for some guidance in the clergy department, here are some of my favorite gifts:

(1) Food gifts. In our house, these are the tops. We get giddy when Harry and David come to visit our porch. And if the return address says Wolfermans, well, we’re in heaven. I completely agree with Michael Scott on The Office, the gourmet basket is the way to go.

(2) Gift certificates. They’re given a bad rap, but I love them. The key is, make it to a place where the pastor already shops. For instance, before you invest in a massage certificate, make sure that the person would actually do it. I get one from Amazon for Christmas, and I always use it.

(3) Nice religious things. Alright. I’m going to be frank, and I hope I don’t come off as too crass, but it must be said: If you’re going religious, then you’ll have to spend some dollars or you’ll end up with kitsch. You probably don’t want to buy your pastor the stuff that’s next to the cash register at LifeWay. I would suggest James Avery. Beautiful, artistic, and my husband loves it as much as I do.

What about you? What was your worst gift? What was your best? Is there anything on your secret wish list? If there is, it’s time to ‘fess up, and be anonymous if you must. If there are pastors being appreciated this month, the good people out there need your guidance.

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13 thoughts on “Appreciation that won’t end up with a yard sale tag

  1. You’re right, not enough people acknowledge Pastor Aprecaition Month. We have a Session meeting tomorrow and I’ve dropped a note to our Clerk to remind him.

    I love honest guidance for gift giving, so thanks for the ideas!

  2. Nice, Rob.

    I don’t mind that it’s not celebrated in our church, actually. They’re really good at daily appreciation. I get emails and verbal comments thanking me for my work quite often. They don’t critize too much either. So, I feel incredibly grateful to them.

  3. I try to be sure to apreciate our pastor on a regular basis. I know that she catches a lot of negative comments whether deserved or not. It’s important to acknowledge a job or jobs well done.

  4. The best gift I could receive is someone saying, “What is one thing that I could do for you this month that would make your job easier, or take one thing off your to-do list?”

  5. Had an overwhelming experience at a baby shower this past weekend – the best gifts a congregation gives are the love they show my child and child to be! Particularly if it’s through a beautiful hand-made quilt or sweater.
    I also love so many of the gifts given by my friends whom the rest of the world calls “challenged.” Three such women gave the baby a white porcelain Humpty Dumpty night light with holes for light and a cord, but no mechanism for a light bulb whatsoever. But they were so excited! And I cherish it…
    Gift cards are always a favorite. And I also appreciate tickets to an event – symphony, theater, ballet – that I would not be able to afford otherwise.

  6. Now are you saying that the singing fish is a great gift for a pastor or not? My church is really good at giving me gifts and compliments. I have been places where the critics were many and the praise was as dry as the Mohave. It is nice to be appreciated.

    Peace,
    Brian

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  8. LC,

    Absolutely. The quilts are the best. There was nothing like watching my small church love my baby when she was born. Our congregations are amazing at raising children.

    Oh, oh. Just check out the Clergy hat! It’s to die for.

  9. I came from a place that did celebrate it to a place that doesn’t. Where we were before, I got gift cards to restaurants, ties, cards with checks in them, and other things. Last year here, two people sent me cards, which I appreciated very much! No one else said anything, which, I have to admit, has been discouraging.

  10. I got cards and stuff from my first churches, but they were small and way better at appreciation (they just appreciated that someone would be their pastor). I’m all for tasteful art … do you get any? Just had a presentation of the St. John’s Bible at Church tonight…talk about tasteful. I am yearning for a print.

  11. Yes! I have gotten tasteful art. Really wonderful pieces. When I left Rhode Island, they gave me these watercolors of the bay. I keep them over my desk so I can daydream….

    Are gifts generational? They seem to be. I got wonderful gifts from smaller (and older) congregations too. In Louisiana, I think they sort of saw the gifts as making up for the pay. Which…you know…at least they were attempting to make up for the pay!

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