FIRST-PERSON: Pastors & Christmas gifts
NASHVILLE (BP) -- I received a query from a person recently who indicated his curiosity and perhaps concern about how pastors are treated at Christmastime. On topics similar to this, 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.
On Twitter, I then asked a simple question: What do you do for your pastor at Christmastime? For pastors, I asked what their congregations gave them at Christmas. Having long been concerned about how congregations treat pastors, I thought the issue of the Christmas gift would at least be an indicator of such concern.
Though my survey was not scientific, it was nevertheless revealing.
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 Christmastime. 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 of 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.
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 the Christmas season, please remember your pastors and staff. Please let them know in some tangible way how much you truly value them.
Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column is adapted from a post at his website, www.ThomRainer.com.