I am always grateful when pastors and church members share with me topics of interest to them. Those suggestions tend to be viewed by more readers than my own ideas. I guess that says something about my creativity!

A reader recently indicated his curiosity and perhaps concern about how pastors are treated at Christmas time. In the course of posts similar to this one, I typically hear from one or two persons who are eager to point to pastors who feel entitled or who are treated too lavishly. Please hear me clearly. Those pastors are the clear exceptions. Most pastors receive little and expect little. They see their clear call to serve and to care for the congregation.

The Question and the Concern

So I asked a simple question on Twitter:

What do you do for your pastor at Christmas time?

For pastors, I asked what their congregations gave them at Christmas.

Though my survey was not scientific, it was nevertheless revealing. I am truly concerned about how congregations treat pastors. I thought the issue of the Christmas gift would at least be an indicator of such concern.

The Responses and the Heartbreak

There were two dominant responses, each at about 40 percent of the total. One of those came from pastors or church members who shared with me that they indeed did give a gift to their pastor during the Christmas season.

The most common gift noted was a cash gift equivalent to one week of salary. The pastors who received such a gift expressed deep appreciation for the thought. I sensed no attitudes of entitlement in their responses.

A second dominant response, from both pastors and church members alike, was that the pastor received nothing at Christmas time. Church members were more likely to comment on this attitude than pastors. One person said: “If it’s anything like pastor appreciation month, they won’t even know it’s Christmas.”

My heart broke as I read many of those type responses. My pain is not so much related to the failure of a church to give a monetary or material gift; rather it’s the failure of a church to acknowledge the gift that a pastor is during this season.

The Exhortation and the Inquiry

There are few hundred thousand pastors in America. The vast majority of them sacrifice and give for the sake of their congregations and for the glory of God. Many of them struggle financially and, often, emotionally. A gift of some sort would do wonders for the pastor and the pastor’s family. The amount or cost of the gift is not the issue here; it is the encouragement the pastor receives when he knows he is loved and appreciated.

As we approach these seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, please remember your pastors and staff. Please let them know in some tangible way how much you truly value them.

And I would also appreciate your help informing this issue. What does your church do for the pastor and staff? What do you think your church should do for these servants of Christ?


  1. Linda Morrow says

    My husband is a pastor for a very small congregation and we are truly blessed!!! We receive a Christmas gift of one week’s salary. We are truly grateful for whatever it is for we know it comes from the heart.

  2. David Highfield says

    The issue here is not so much Christmas gifts as it is the need for affirmation and appreciation of the pastor throughout the year. In one congregation they held a reception for me and my family each time I began a new year as their pastor. This included a modest gift for the family. What a blessing! Here’s the key: most often an affirmed and appreciated pastor is an effective and energized pastor. The above mentioned ministry was my most joyful and lasted 9 years. Every pastoral relations committee should have appreciation of the pastor on their agenda each time they meet. Including Christmas.

    • Jesus says

      Honor those who Good has placed to lead. A Pastor has many roles in a Church. He is Shepard, he is to teach, peach & serve the sheep as instructed by God. He is a Counselor, ‘He counsels many all hours of the day or week. He is a Doctor/Surgeon when he ministers to the sick. He is a Teacher, he educates his people through the Scriptures. He is an instructor/motivator to the people. He is a Speaker, a motivational one at that. He is a financial advisor, who must make wise financial decisions and invest properly the funds of the Church. He is a Pastor who is demanded to be available 24/7. How ungrateful it is by the body to bless the Pastor and the Pastoral family. Some Pastors love of of 100.00 a week less than unemployment. He who teaches is worthy of double honor. He who lives by the alter should be compensated by the Church.

  3. Cale says

    It usually ends up at about a third of a weeks salary. They divide a love offering between all staff. I am grateful. Had never heard the one week salary standard.

  4. says

    If the word “pastors” in the blog title includes associate pastors, then yes; otherwise, my experience is that senior pastors almost always receive more of whatever is given (appreciation, cash, cans of hams or yams, etc.), though 100% of the 72% of SBC congregations currently plateaued or declining are led by them. The best gift a church’s membership can give its ministry staff at Christmastime: consistent, godly followership beginning January 2. :-)

  5. Alyson says

    My husband pastors a church of about 150 people. They did nothing for him for Pastor’s Appreciation Month. It was disheartening. We were told that they don’t do PAM because it’s too close to Christmas an they don’t want to ask the congregation to give so close together. For Christmas, we receive a generous love offering that is split between the staff. It’s not a week’s pay, but close.

  6. Dave says


    Thank you for your article. Though I am not a full time or salaried pastor. I work a different occupation through the week. While most pastors pour their heart into preaching and teaching their congregations, most don’t expect more than appreciation. It sound like you are saying buy the pastor a present or a gift card for a meal out, or a cruise. While I am sure most would like to do this for their pastor, most people are barely making it themselves now a days. Companies have cut back on Christmas bonuses, or giving free turkey’s, or a weeks paid time off. This whole week in devotions I have read pastors don’t receive enough! I know 3 pastors from 3 different churches who this past year have gone on cruises. Know when the last time I went on a cruise? When I served in the Navy 20 years ago. I don’t mean for this to be a bashing on pastors, we should appreciate them. But most folks in the congregation are probably making $25,000 – $30,000 max a year. That does not leave much room after paying bills. I still enjoyed your article, do believe pastors should be appreciated for what they do.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Dave –

      I’m not sure where you thought my article implied that pastors should get a cruise for Christmas. Please read my words carefully. It’s not the amount of the gift; it’s the thought behind it. There is not a congregation on earth that cannot do something for their pastor, no matter how small. A generous heart finds a way to give. A bitter heart finds reasons to withhold.

      • says

        As a pastor, I agree with Dr. Rainer. Consistent and personal encouragement along with regular prayer support is worth its weight in gold. And, if you pray for me and my family, let me know. I may have some specific requests to share with you.

      • Dave says


        This was just used as an observation. I did say we should not do something for the pastor. It just should not be expected! I have attended churches that people feel like they are being chastised because they cannot afford to give. That is a wrong attitude by staff members. A pastor like every other occupation (is told) needs to remember, God is the provider.

  7. says

    My husband has been a pastor or on staff for many, many years….most of the time as bivocational. Sometimes people thought because he had a secular job that we didn’t need anything….not always true. It’s the idea of being appreciate, encouraged, and thought of that counts. Each congregation has done various things or nothing. Words of encouragement & appreciation as well as prayers are always appreciated. A greeting card whether store bought, hand made, or via social media is great. We always felt badly when we received a gift, but other staff were left out. It should be for all staff. Some churches had it in their budget or just gave something from the budget, sometimes arbitrarily set by the treasurer. Other times a love offering was gathered from the congregation. Last year the church we were serving had a large pencil drawing done of us (by a relative of a member) with the church facility in the background and framed. Sometimes individual families would give us a card with money. Fresh baked goodies were also much appreciated. Birthdays & anniversaries are another time that it’s great to be thought of….sometimes with a special church meal, or a cake with ice cream, a card and small gift geared to the person’s likes.

  8. Brian says

    Our church gives us a week’s salary as a Christmas gift and it is very much appreciated, especially by our children to whom it mostly goes! :-) Often there are restaurant cards and other gifts from individuals that also mean so much. Sometimes folks remember Pastor Appreciation Month and sometimes they don’t but I feel very much appreciated nonetheless. We try to give more to missions each year and I think the joyful habit of giving really becomes contagious. As we are often reminded, “You can’t out-give God!”

  9. Scott says

    I have been in the ministry as a youth minister and pastor, part-time and full time, for over twenty years. I have received so many gifts in mankids different forms, that have a wide range of value. But what I keep and treasure are the personal notes, that express love and appreciation for the service I give.

    These notes let me know, above all else, that I am truly appreciated, and how I have impacted lives. Even an expression of thanks over a sermon lifts me up. Of course, I am speaking of more than the regular “good sermon, preacher” that we all get most Sundays, I am talking about the words or messages that express how the word I shared was something that was badly needed and touched them deeply in some way.

  10. Mike says

    I have pastored churches where I didn’t receive anything for Pastor’s Appreciation Month or Christmas, and I have pastored churches where I did. My attitude towards any of this is Praise the Lord if they Do, and Praise the Lord if they don’t. It is always appreciated if they do, but I have learned that it is best to keep my eyes on the prize that awaits me and I’ll never be disappointed.

  11. Mark says


    I don’t anticipate a “church” gift from my congregation. This is neither good nor bad, it is what it is. That being said, I am very blessed throughout the year. One member gave me my weight in homegrown vegetables, others would give cards of appreciation and slip a little cash into them. Others would take us out to eat and one even gives us a free supply of eggs from her chickens. These “year long” gifts show appreciation in a way that reminds me to continually glorify God for His goodness and provision. Will they give me a Christmas gift? Who knows? Yet even if they don’t, I know I am appreciated. For that I am thankful.

  12. says

    Our church gives each staff member a Christmas bonus each year that ends up being about $200. Our church is filled mainly with new believers so Pastor Appreciation Month is nowhere on their radar. They are, however, excellent at encouraging my family and me on a regular basis and having little or no church experience, they are also unaware that ministers have taken a “vow of poverty” as some of our previous churches believed. They compensate us well, offer regular affirmation, and enthusiastically follow pastoral leadership. What more could a pastor ask for? We feel blessed year round!

  13. Elizabeth says

    It should be mentioned that in a few churches I’ve known, often when gifts were given to the pastor by groups of individuals (say, a love offering for Christmas), the amount in the offering that week often declined by the same amount. What a dilemma for a pastor of a struggling church, knowing that accepting the gift would mean so much to his family, but hurt the church (since they will get behind on their bills) he cares for so much and has put so much of his life into.

  14. says

    Our church usually gives it’s pastors a suit, dress shirt and tie for Christmas. They have even given the pastors wives a gift card to a department store of some sort. The staff is very appreciative of the thoughtfulness.

  15. Dafydd says

    Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but here in Wales I’ve never expected any church gift for Christmas. However in one sense my church does something really special every Christmas morning. Rather than expect me to prepare another message for them, every family comes to church with some way of expressing their own joy of Christmas. Some families might bring a song to sing together. Other might bring a poem that they have written. Others might lead us in some devotional thoughts whilst others might bring a story for the children. It’s one of the most joyous meetings of the year, and all I have to do is provide the carols for us to sing. Many gifts are shared also, but no-one is singled out for anything special

  16. says

    I know this isn’t always possible due to church size, but I think one of THE BEST gifts church’s could give their pastors at Christmas is the freedom to visit their family without the guilt of leaving the pulpit open. We all travel whenever we choose, and for years I never thought twice about the fact that I could worship on Christmas Eve at any given church. That is until I got married to a PK. Because of the unwillingness of church members to allow my father-in-law to travel over the holidays unless we traveled over 2,000 miles to see them, we were not able to spend any time with John’s family at Christmas. It also meant my father-in-law was serving others (which he loves doing) constantly without the chance to enjoy being served. The church we attend now freely allows and even encourages our pastor to take 2 weeks off at Christmas. We work around it. We don’t have a Christmas Eve service. If we want to attend one, there are a gazillion churches that we can choose from that do. A few churches in our area even combine congregations to provide for people who are in town and fill holes for people out of town. Anyways, that is my thought. Give the gift of family. Amy

  17. says

    Tom –

    Thank you for this post and conversation as well as all you do for the church, her leaders and the world. Lifeway is a blessing.

    I have been in full time ministry for over 23 years. Some churches have given big gifts. Some have given small gifts at Christmas. For every one of them, pastor appreciation and Christmas, I feel honored and encouraged by them. Often what means the most to me is not what the church does as a whole but what individuals do at that time and others. A card and/or gift on a birthday, anniversary or special occasion mean much. As well a gift to my wife or one of our kids at a special time is a big deal I am thankful for.

    My current church I helped plant over 7 years ago does give Christmas gifts as I lead gifts for staff, and the gift I am given is currently a percentage of annual income based upon growth. The Christmas gifts is actually called a bonus. This has been something our key leaders have struggled with, making it a set figure or what ever it is, since we began. I am grateful for the gift.

    It saddens me when I see a church, any church, struggle as one of the comments stated above that the gift to the pastor was proportionate the same week’s offering decline. Much of the issue is education. Leaders have to educate the church as to tithing and honoring the staff.

    It is an honor to serve God through the church and to get to do this full time. I consider myself blessed. Christmas gifts make it even sweeter!

    James 1:5

  18. says

    My experience has been, that congregations who have been gracious in other areas of ministry, they have shown that same grace towards the staff. A church I served for 10 years would give a card shower at Christmas. Some people would include money in their cards and the amount our family received exceeded a weeks salary. Every year, one lady would include $50.00 in her card. That was overwhelming to me because she couldn’t afford that amount of money. That was one of the best gifts because she was teaching me about grace.

  19. George says

    Just wondering, if the Christmas gift to pastor subject to tax? Some say it is if exceeding $25 or in value. Other say exceeding $600 in value per year..

  20. J says

    This is always such a difficult issue for many of those who are serving as pastors – do u really buy the pastor appreciation month bulletin inserts? Do u RT the link to this article? How does either not appear self serving?

    So I can appreciate the sentiment that it can be disheartening to come to PAM and not have anyone write a card let alone give a gift. And I also can relate to the idea from a very early comment – “most often an affirmed and appreciated pastor is an effective and energized pastor.”

    So thanks for writing this article though many in congregations will never see it. And until that happens I don’t think much will change bc pastors, bc they’re serving out of a sense of calling and desire to glorify God not to serve themselves, will not talk abt this. Most are genuinely seeking to live selflessly so they won’t talk abt it. They need an advocate within the congregation but many do not have one.
    Just .02

  21. Jerry says

    On the downside…one Christmas the church began to talk early about making this the best Christmas ever for the entire staff..which was a bit weird. The best turned out to be enough for me, the pastor, and the Ed Dir’s families to share a pizza dinner. It was a dysfunctional congregation beginning to deal with a multitude of immorality issues among lay leaders and was probably the best of which they were able at the time.

    On the upside, in our seminary pastorate, we began on Nov 1 and had no washer or dryer. The Sunday prior to Christmas they presented us a state of the art new set. We were blessed and shocked. The church blessed us all our years of ministry with them.

    Churches need to do something for the pastor and staff families this time of the year. We are never more like our Father than when we engage in two heavenly activities: giving and forgiving (John 3:16)…He loves us so much He GAVE His Son in order to FORGIVE our sins in order to GIVE us eternal life (my paraphrase). The cycle of His love is found in the continuous interaction of these two. As a denominational worker, I now have the opportunity to try to influence my church family to “err” on the side of generosity and forgiveness as a lay leader.

  22. Ray says

    One story…Several years in a row, our church gave us a cash offering that we then used to make our Christmas trip home to grandparents. In fact, we never budgeted for the trip because of the Christmas offering. One year, they decided to buy us a kitchen appliance instead. As grateful as we were, it threw our plans for going home in a turmoil. Of course we couldn’t let them know how it affected us. They were just being thoughtful.

  23. Tim says

    I am more curious as to what a good gift would be from the pastor to the congregation. I have about 25 and I would like to get them a little gift. What would you suggest?

  24. says

    Thank you for this article. My husband and I pastored for over 20 years and were so blessed by the people that we served . I remember in our first few years of ministry,at Christmas time, being so overwhelmed that people would think to buy us a gift, I was truly taken-a-back (did my family do that for our pastor, growing up? I don’t think so :( ). In the years following, it still made us feel so loved and appreciated, but now we had kids – and they in turn saw the love from people. Those acts of kindness spoke volumes to them, and it touched our hearts so deeply too. We now are in full time ministry serving many churches with a healing /discipleship program that my husband and get to sit under a wonderful pastor ourselves now. From the example we witnessed from our congregations, we now pass this kindness onto our pastor and his family.

  25. says

    I think one of the real problems is that Pastor shy away from teaching this stuff to their church for obvious reasons. As a result our folks become undeveloped in this area. Our network just has it written in their guidelines that a pastor should receive 2 weeks Christmas bonus, that way he does not have to go begging to his council/elder board.

    BTW I pastor a growing Pentecostal church (400+) in South London, UK.
    Great article though Thom.

  26. Jamie Sparkes says

    I have been a Ministry Trainee at a Church in Liverpool, UK for 2 years. The Church is 7 years old and I was involved in the planting of it. We have about 100 in the congregation (including children).
    My wife and I buy a gift for our Pastor and his wife each Christmas, Birthday and Easter. We also try to remember his 3 children’s birthdays also (all over 18 now).
    We will buy personal and specific gifts including clothes, cinema/restaurant vouchers, books (or book vouchers) or money. This year I am buying him a Jumper, Juggling Clubs (long and funny story) and I hope to give him a financial gift too.
    The Church leaders regularly review his wages and occasionally give a one off gift but he is very hesitant to accept it.
    I have never expected anything from the congregation and have never received anything but the Church is supporting my family financially through training and a small living allowance.

  27. Scott c hughes says

    The church I left this past summer was wonderful giving us a great bonus every year. It was usually around 600-800. This year we went to a much larger congregation and there was nothing. It was a bit heartbreaking to go through that change. However, interestingly, a couple of families gave to us sacrificially with gifts equalling a couple of hundred dollars. The families that gave were sacrificing.
    I was told the reason there is no bonus is that the former pastor had burned bridges and they couldn’t get people to give. Sad. God provides.


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