What Your Pastor Really Wants for Christmas

This Christmas, forego the wooden praying hands, the cross-stitched Bible verses, and the clever bobble-heads. When we asked pastors what they wanted for Christmas, most of their answers fell into one of three categories: appreciation, rest, and time. So think twice before grabbing that last-minute Starbucks gift card; this list is for those looking to go a little bit deeper as they seek out the perfect gift for the preacher in their life.

1. Books, Books, Books

Pastors love books. But they don’t just love reading books. Like bloodhounds searching for raccoons, pastors love shopping, even hunting, for books! So don’t just give your pastor a paperback or an Amazon gift card. Give your pastor a book-buying experience. Here’s how it might work. Ask your pastor about his or her favorite bookstore or book publisher. Try Googling “latest catalog for Publisher X.” (We tried it with a few publishers, and it brought us to the order page for their latest catalog.) Order a catalog or two and hand them to your pastor with a check or cash gift and the following stipulation: “Must be used to purchase a book from one of these catalogs. Have fun shopping!” – Matt Woodley, Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois

2. A Vacation

The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but for pastors, it’s also the busiest. Imagine having to plan Advent, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's services and celebrations all in a row. And let’s just say spending time with extended family can be taxing. (Remember what happens to prophets in their home towns.) That’s why a vacation to look forward to would be an ideal gift for pastors to receive this holiday. Give us a few days off to rest, clear our minds, and get a fresh start for the new year. – Angel Maldonado, The Path Church in Atlanta, Georgia

3. Babysitting

Unless you have family living nearby, it is hard and expensive to find a babysitter you can trust. When someone from the congregation or staff offered to watch my kids for an evening so my husband and I could go out for a leisurely dinner or a movie, it was a thoughtful treat. Not only did it communicate care for my marriage and me, but it also showed my kids that these special people in the church liked them and wanted to be with them, which made my children feel more comfortable and loved when they were at church. Priceless! – Carolyn Taketa, Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, California

4. Subscription to an Audio Service

As a pastor, I don't have a lot of time. A subscription to Audible or music services like Apple Music or Spotify allows me to listen to my fill of music or books as I commute to visit my congregation members. Reading is a passion of mine, but I love multitasking while listening to a good audiobook. And there’s something about hearing the author read their book specifically to me that makes it even more engaging. – Stephanie Williams O’Brien, Mill City Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota

5. Throat Coat Tea and Altoids

There I was, standing in front of hundreds of people, building to what I hoped would be the epic climax of a sermon I'd spent hours crafting. As my audience leaned in, expectant, I opened my mouth … but nothing came out. It wasn't a technical difficulty. My voice was gone. It was shot from preaching at three consecutive weekend gatherings. In the years since that day, I rarely get up to preach without a mug of Throat Coat Tea in hand. And after sermons, I chat with folks up close, which comes with its own hazards, so I always keep a tin of Altoids close by. Those two necessities make great gifts for preachers like me—not for my sake, but for everyone else's. – Jay Kim, Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California

6. Tickets to a Game

Life is full, and ministry can be stressful. Attending a baseball game slows me down and allows me to take a deep breath. Because I enjoy making memories by participating in experiences—and because I love baseball—tickets to attend a Phillies game would be meaningful. They would allow me to turn off for a while and not have to be in charge. And if a few friends came along to enjoy that experience, it would be even more special. – J. R. Briggs, The Renew Community in the greater Philadelphia area

7. A Spa Visit or Massage

Pastoral work often means I spend a lot of time in my heart and head. I often forget the realities of my physical existence—that my spiritual anxieties hide in my physical shoulders and my emotional postures affect my physical posture. A massage reminds me I’m in a physical body. There are two therapists in my city who have massage ministries: physical therapy that includes prayer in various ways. So I always ask for a gift certificate to see one of them. God has brought unique healing through those sessions. – Mandy Smith, University Christian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio

8. Technology to Make Sense of My Notes

The top item on my Christmas list is a C-Pen Reader, a handheld scanner shaped like a big highlighter. I watched my seminary professor use one to scan a big block of text from a book; the words immediately appeared in his Word document. Usually scanners convert text into an image, but the C-Pen converts text into digital characters you can edit. This would help me prepare sermons, create teaching materials and handouts, write articles and papers, and answer theological questions from congregants. – Becky Miller, Damascus Road International Church in the Netherlands

9. A Quality Coffee Maker

Routines and rhythms are essential for pastors, but they require good stewardship of time and joyful elements that a foster encouragement for ministry. A quality coffee maker and some good coffee can provide these elements for morning devotions, daily study, and preparation in pastoral ministry. Also, pastors often lack the time for hobbies. Developing a passion for coffee is an excellent way to aid in pastoral ministry (caffeine for the pick-me-up) and provide a needed distraction as one grows to be a coffee aficionado. Discussions about coffee and sipping on some great java make for great conversations and excellent fellowship. And besides … coffee just tastes absolutely fabulous. Great coffee beans brewed by an excellent coffee maker make for a great cup of joe—and a perfect gift for pastors! – Doug Logan, Epiphany Camden in New Jersey

10. Notes of Encouragement

I’m not a gift guy. (Gifts are the last of my love languages.) Instead, I value words of affirmation. Notes, cards, and letters of encouragement are deeply meaningful any time of the year, but especially at Christmas. Let your pastors know briefly and specifically how you have been impacted by their ministry. – J. R. Briggs, The Renew Community in the greater Philadelphia area