Several years ago, somebody somewhere decided that October should be designated “Pastor Appreciation Month.” While rarely complaining out loud for fear of offending well-intentioned church members, many pastors would just as soon pass on this kind of appreciation. First, there is the difficulty with October—a notoriously busy church month in which an added appreciation luncheon is, well, not necessarily appreciated. And second, as one pastor has said directly: “Pay me as well as you can, treat me fairly, and I will feel appreciated.” A $25 Starbucks gift card, while well-intentioned, will probably not increase any pastor’s sense of self-worth, must less decrease their load of student debt.
There are deeper issues surrounding such rituals of appreciation, however. One church board member, on hearing about Pastor Appreciation Month, responded, “that’s great, but what about ‘Building and Grounds Committee Chairperson Appreciation Month?’” In the mutuality of ministry among pastors and church boards, how do we express appreciation everywhere it belongs—and do so in truly appreciable ways?
In “The Gift of the Magi,” writer O. Henry tells a classic tale of a penniless but loving couple who secretly sell their most prized possessions to buy each other gifts: the wife sells her beautiful hair to buy her husband a chain for his treasured watch, while the husband sells his treasured watch to buy the wife a comb for her beautiful hair. At the story’s end, the gifts unwrapped before them, the hapless husband turns to the hapless wife: “Dell, let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present.… And now suppose you put the chops on.” And O. Henry, in turn, says to the hapless reader:
The magi, as you know, were wise men—wonderfully wise men—who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
- Why are “these two” the wisest, of all who give and receive gifts?
- What is a wise gift for a church board or congregation to give to its pastor(s)?
- What is a wise gift for pastors to give to their church board leaders?