That was my first Christmas gift as a pastor.

A farmer gave our family a basket of corn from his harvest. It meant a lot. We were struggling financially, so the gift of food really helped. But, even more, it was an act of love from a hardworking man. I appreciated his heart as much as I appreciated the physical gift.

I know pastors and church staff pretty well. I know many of their needs, hurts, hopes, and challenges. May I be so bold to suggest some Christmas gifts for them that may not be typical? I have a feeling you could really encourage these servants of God.

1. A commitment letter of specific prayer. This letter is not just a promise to pray, it is a promise to pray with specificity. I received such a letter from Frances Mason. I loved that senior saint so much! In her letter, she not only promised to pray for me, but she promised to pause for a couple of minutes every day at noon! She also promised to seek others to join her. It became a movement of over 100 people in my church. And it was some of my most rewarding years of ministry.

2. A commitment letter to stand by the pastor or staff. One of the greatest heartaches of church leaders is not the critics, but those who are silent in the midst of criticism. It means so much when a church member lets a church leader know he has his or her back when attacks or criticisms have little merit.

3. An anonymous letter of love, support, and cash. When you send cash to a church leader without identifying yourself, that leader realizes you gave the gift with no desire for recognition. I’ve seen church leaders cry tears of joy when they receive such gifts. By the way, the amount of the cash is not nearly as important as the effort itself.

4. A gift card plus a childcare certificate. This gift is obviously unique for pastors and staff persons who have child care needs if they go anywhere. If you give a restaurant or theater gift card, make an “official “ certificate for childcare services to go with it.

5. A letter that highlights how that pastor or staff person made a difference in your life and in the church the past year. One of the most rewarding gifts a church leader can receive is a letter with specific recognition of how that person made a difference the past year. Church leaders are certainly grateful for generic expressions of appreciation, but they are particularly moved when someone takes time to add specificity. Imagine how pastors would be so encouraged if they received a letter or email that highlights “20 Ways You Made a Difference This Year.”

Notice that three of the five gifts are neither financial nor material. But they are all expressions of love.

And that means more to these church leaders than you could ever imagine.

Thom Rainer
(Photo : Courtesy of Thom Rainer)

This article was originally published at on December 14, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at