First off, know your pastor (and his wife, don't leave her out, as a matter of fact, include the PK children, they often bear a brunt of ministry suffering too.). Know what your pastor enjoys or needs, don't assume. Find out what his (their) hobby is, look at a magazine dealing with such, and see what the latest trendy gadget or tool is. If you find difficulty in this, provide him with a gift certificate to make his own choice.
In knowing your pastor you can make the expression of appreciation achieve its greatest potential, and you will avoid the fax pas of completely missing the mark. I know of pastors who have hinted to their spouse for something they greatly desired, only to be disappointed by a greater expense being made for something they really did not desire. Don't buy him a set of books of someone who greatly differs in theology. I am a woodworker, one of the best gifts could be several board feet of oak, walnut, or plywood all to let him build to his hearts content. A golfer may be overjoyed at receiving green fees for a select golf course in the area. If he is a sports fan, git him the best seats possible for a major league team.
Next I would like to give a list of things that often make for a convenience in the pastors life.
- Books are always in demand.
- Gift certificates to Wal-Mart are a plus.
- A night away for his wife and he would go along way also, sweeten the deal and provide babysitting and dinner out. One thing our church has done is provide a night out with free babysitting by a rotation of families within our church every month for a year.
- Give him a budget to redecorate his office, I endured three years of burnt orange shag carpet with brown paneling walls
- Find a luxury he would enjoy but not purchase for himself, maybe an iPod, GPS, or subscription. Pastors love fine writing instruments, perhaps a Mont Blanc or custom made pen?
- Is he a history buff? Try going to historicprints.com/shop and get him an antiquated Bible leaf or communion token.
- Is his wife a scrap booker? Send her on a shopping spree/
- Thinking about his kids, gift cards here work best, let them shop, or better yet get involved in their lives, take them shopping, buy them a cd or video game and buy them lunch.
- How about a gift for the whole family, I like grilling, so a bundle of meat for the grill can be a huge boon to your minister (Remember, the Levies were to get a portion of the offerings, meat included)
One of the great markers of appreciation is meeting needs. How about a year's worth of automatic car washes, or four free oil changes? If your church can afford it, how about paying off one of his debts? Does he have any outstanding medical bills? Now this is one of the more difficult areas as pastors will not normally make much of their needs. Someone close to the pastor will need to feel this one out.
Another area of pastor appreciation can be taking the family out to dinner, or having them into you own home. The fellowship is often sweeter than any item.
Now much of what we think of when we talk about appreciation involves gifts. However, many pastors love experiences, kind words by letter, and time with people they love. Seek the Lord in this area, it could pay great dividends.
Let me emphasize that this should not be something just for the month of October. Real appreciation expresses itself in ways every week. Love your pastor, care for Him and God will care for you. Just as Rahab cared for the spies and David would not life his hand against God's anointed, you too will be blessed by any blessing you first give to your pastor and his family.