Common Mistakes Made In Selecting a Pastor Anniversary Gift

As much as we would like to think “it’s the thought that counts”, and we can be sure our pastor will be gracious and appreciative in accepting any gift; we ideally want to present a pastor with an anniversary gift (or gift marking another occasion, such as a pastor’s retirement) that shows some thought and care went into the process. To that extent, let’s briefly look at the most common mistakes made in selecting a pastor anniversary gift.

Gifts That Are Too Generic, Common, Trite, or Impersonal

These include all the classic “I don’t know what to get Dad for Father’s Day” type of gifts such as: neck ties, belts, wallets, shaving accessories, cologne, toaster ovens, coffee makers, etc.

Gifts That Are Kitschy or Tacky or of No Practical Use

Basically anything from a mall store like “Things Remembered”, or any engraved plaque, engraved clock, etc., is just cliche. Also anything that is essentially a “figurine” or “knick-knack” to be placed upon a mantel and be dusted periodically, should be considered clutter, and not a good choice for a meaningful pastor anniversary gift. Yes, even if you are “Magnolia Baptist Church” and it’s an adorable little ceramic magnolia which seems so appropriate in the moment… really, it’s not… be honest, you can do better than that.

Gifts That Are “Work” Connected

You would not give your spouse a vacuum cleaner, or cleaning supplies for your wedding anniversary, for obvious reasons, right? Why then would you give your pastor a smart phone (a leash), or lapel microphone, as his anniversary gift? You are not trying to send a message of “we love you, as long as you keep working for us”.

The Zero-Thought Gift

Cash and gift cards are the “I Give Up Gift”. We fall back to this as a last resort when we just cannot think of anything else. When given by themselves, cash or gift cards as stand-alone gifts represent no effort or thought on the part of the givers.

However, it should be noted that it is certainly appropriate and appreciated when cash or gift cards are given in addition to a more specifically thoughtful gift that is not necessarily expensive. Such a combination of “inexpensive gift… but also cash” is a great way of showing that some thought was put into the selection of a modest personal gift, and the addition of cash is provided to demonstrate that the intent was not to be cheap, but to provide thoughtfulness together with appreciative generosity.

Gifts That Seem Too Cheap or Seem Too Expensive

Having your congregation corporately give your pastor a very cheap anniversary gift such as a coffee mug, or pocket knife, or house plant, (or other generic, or kick-knack gifts, such as those listed above) sends a message that you do not greatly value your pastor’s work… or worse… that your pastor is easily replaceable. That is certainly not your intent, so it is not worth risking the implied insult that a cheap gift coveys. It is truly better to give no gift at all, than to give such a gift.

On the other hand, spending a very large amount on an extremely expensive gift, such as a multi-thousand dollar high-end wristwatch, or a new car, is only appropriate in two situations. One, is if your church has at least a few hundred congregation members going in together and splitting cost of your pastor anniversary gift, such that no one member or family felt obliged to contribute more than perhaps fifty to a hundred dollars at the most toward the congregation’s collectively generous gift. The other, is if there is one, or a few, very affluent members of your congregation, for whom spending a few thousand dollars on a gift for their beloved pastor is not really a sacrifice at all for them, and it brings them joy to do so.

Indeed, the primary budgetary expenses (including pastoral salaries, and building maintenance) of many small to midsize churches are often quietly and discretely funded entirely by one or two or three very affluent members who gratefully tithe from the huge incomes their businesses bring in, making up for the very modest collective balance of donations that come in each week from the remainder of the congregation. Many people would be shocked to learn how very common this is in thousands of churches in the United States, and around the world.