Health and Growth

Pastor Appreciation Month: 4 Critical Rules & 10 Killer Ideas

Use these key tips to crush pastor appreciation month. Don't botch it and make your pastor feel burned out.

Pastor Appreciation Month: 4 Critical Rules & 10 Killer Ideas
by

Paul Maxwell

October is Pastor Appreciation Month.

Your pastor is probably underpaid, overextended, suffering from shift work syndrome, and hasn’t had regular working hours his entire career.

What do pastors get for their hard work?

According to Payscale.com, the average pastor’s salary is $48,828 per year.

And yet, the average pastor goes into $60,000 of debt to get a seminary education.

Most pastors don’t go to seminary to become rich.

Travis Collins writes in his book For Ministers about to Start...or about to Give Up that 75% of pastors experience “severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear and alienation” during their ministry.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Sometimes, all it takes to keep pastoral burnout at bay is for a church to crush Pastor Appreciation Month.

Here are guidelines for how you and your church can excel this October in showing your pastor that he/she is appreciated, loved, and respected in your church.

4 Critical Rules for Pastor Appreciation Month

Pastor appreciation gift guidelines:

First, don’t be sheepish about giving pastors gifts. In fact, you should by pushy about it. Pastors usually are wary of receiving gifts, but pastors appreciation month is the perfect opportunity to bulldoze their misplaced sense of guilt and say: “No, we insist!”

Second, It’s important that when you give an individual gift, the gift isn’t about you. For example, a bad example of a pastor appreciation gift would be a two-hour coffee meeting with me. That is a burden, not a gift. Don’t give the gift of work.

Third, give a gift from as many people as possible. The more people you include in the gift, the higher quality gift you can give a pastor. For example, instead of buying a pastor 20 $20 gift cards to Starbucks, one person could take it upon themselves to coordinate the purchase of a $400 espresso machine for the pastor.

You might wonder: “Wouldn’t he want $400 in Starbucks gift cards?”

Trust me — he/she wants the espresso machine.

Fourth, let your inner capitalist run wild. Just because the pastor might make a mediocre salary, that doesn’t mean you should buy him a mediocre gift. Bless the pastor buy asking yourself: “How could we make him feel extraordinarily appreciated? How could we make him feel truly blessed?”

It’s not that you can’t give him a $5 gift card if that’s all you can contribute. But with the possibility of pooling resources and intentional forethought, you could easily make a list of things your pastor would prefer over a gift card.

While we’re on the topic, let me preface our idealist with a list of gifts you absolutely shouldn’t buy.

  1. Anything with a Bible verse written on it (he's/she's the pastor; it would be like buying your boss a stapler for Christmas)
  2. Coupons to your services at a discount (that’s a reverse gift where you get something)
  3. A thank-you email over 200 words

10 Killer Ideas for Pastor Appreciation Month

Most people think about Pastor Appreciation Month as an opportunity for individuals to express appreciation.

Here’s the deal:

The more organized you are as a church, the more meaningful you can make Pastor Appreciation Month for your pastor.

In fact, you should do both.

This is why we’ll break our 10 killer ideas for pastor appreciation month into individual and corporate gifts.

Individual:

Here are the 5 most meaningful gifts you can give for Pastor Appreciation Month.

1. Handwritten letter

This is very low-budget. This option exists so that you have no excuse not to give anything.

A handwritten letter or note also provides an opportunity for kids to participate. Take time at home to make this a craft for your kids. It will teach kids the value of expressing gratitude to those who serve in the church, and it will teach them about the sacrifice pastors make in dedicating their lives to ministry.

2. A favorite meal

Pastors love to eat (maybe a little too much—but hey, you can bring that up on New Year’s Eve, not Pastor Appreciation Month).

Buy a pastor a gift card to his favorite restaurant.

Cook him his favorite meal.

Order takeout on their behalf.

Again, a free meal shouldn’t turn into: “I bought you dinner out with me and my wife — and by the way, we need counseling!”

No.

The gift of a meal is: “What’s your favorite pizza place in the area? Mario’s? What’s the best night for me to buy your family three pizzas from Mario’s so that you’ll have leftovers?”

3. Tickets

Pastors rarely get the chance to go anywhere.

Get them tickets to an event they would enjoy.

A local professional sporting event.

A concert by their favorite band.

A Broadway production down in the city.

Just make sure to check with his secretary that the dates work with his schedule.

4. Services

This is an opportunity to do something for your pastor that they would never do for themselves.

  • A house cleaner
  • A landscaper
  • A tailor
  • A consultant
  • A financial advisement
  • A special medical appointment

If you are a professional, it is appropriate to offer your services for free.

Just make sure you don’t offer a 20% discount to your services so that you end up profiting from Pastor Appreciation Month. Make it a genuine gift.

If you’re going to give your pastor a gift or service that you offer, make it pro bono.

5. A gift card

I know we criticized gift cards earlier, but they are actually a great individual gift. If a pastor receives cash, he/she may feel obligated to spend it on somebody else. The point of pastor appreciation month is to help the pastor get the care he needs to feel valued and refreshed to continue doing good work.

The beauty of the gift card as a pastor appreciation gift is that the pastor is forced to practice self-care.

And pastors are notoriously bad at this. Pastor appreciation month is your opportunity to prompt pastors to do something good for themselves without the gift of feeling like they should spend it on someone else.

But if you do get a gift card, aim for something more than Starbucks. Certain gift cards can go a very long way. A few examples of gift cards that will bless your pastor 10x as much as a Starbucks gift card are:

  • Massage
  • Movie theater
  • Their favorite local restaurant

Better than coffee out is a coffee gift card to their favorite local local espresso spot. This way, they can actually use the gift card to enjoy a date with their wife or a relaxing Monday morning.

Group gifts:

Even better than individual gifts are group gifts.

Remember: 40 $10 Starbucks cards vs an Espresso machine.

Mobilize a group of people, come up with a good gift that everyone is willing to give, and pitch in as much as possible.

Include a card with the gift that includes everyone’s name.

6. One Sunday Off

Coordinate with your church leadership to pay for a speaker (or elder) to preach one Sunday during Pastor Appreciation Month.

Your pastor will appreciate a full week off.

Remember: Your pastor never gets to just attend church.

This takes a spiritual toll.

This gift allows your pastor to exhale and experience church as a regular Christian without taking on the burden of a full sabbatical.

7. A Bible Study Software

Most pastors are bombarded with ads for Logos Bible Software, Olive Tree, and Accordance.

He looks upon them with envy.

Don’t let your pastor struggle with envy.

Get him a Bible study software that enables him to do his job more efficiently and effectively.

Make sure it’s the one he/she wants. How do you know which one it is? Ask directly. Ask the secretary. Do you what you need to do to find out.

Is it Accordance or Logos Bible Software? If he already has one of these, you could pay to upgrade him to a certain package that he has always wanted.

8. A weekend getaway

Someone in the church has a cabin or time share somewhere.

If that person is you, consider offering a week in your vacation spot to your pastor.

Chances are that they may feel like they informally don't have permission to go away on vacation because of the needs of the church.

Let them know that they needrest and time to decompress from church as much as anyone needs time away from work.

Get your pastor a weekend getaway, either with his whole family, or with just his or her spouse.

Pro tip: If you get a couple’s getaway, make sure you offer a trusted family to babysit kids for the weekend so that a gift doesn’t become an expense.

9. A bonus check

Offer your pastor a bonus check.

The only risk of a bonus check is that it could become an unhealthy precedent for the practice of pastor appreciation month. In other words, if the pastor comes to expect a gift each year, different gifts can have different meaning.

But if he gets a cash bonus one October, he will expect something similar next October. As a general rule of thumb, if you give a cash bonus, make it for an amount less than the value of other gifts you might give.

And yet, a pastor will really appreciate a bonus check.

In the corporate world, depending on the industry, a bonus check could be anywhere from 1%-5% of a person’s salary, depending on the growth of the company and the resources available in the church.

The financial security and sense of belonging that a pastor has in a church will only refortify his commitment to and resolve for the ministry of the church.

A happy pastor is an energized and effective pastor.

10. Tithe.ly ChMS

Finally, and this may be the best gift on the list—get your pastor the gift of Tithe.ly ChMS.

This church management software allows your pastor to transfer his 72 different administrative processes into a single place.

  • Tithing
  • Event management
  • Worship practice
  • Retreats
  • Small groups
  • New visitor contacts
  • Push notifications

Tithe.ly ChMS does it all in the same place so that he doesn’t have to frantically manage 1,000 google docs and sift through 20 Gmail threads just to find out where Small Group #7 meets and what food still needs to be brought.

Get Tithe.ly ChMS for your pastor.

You’re buying your pastor more than a church management solution.

You’re buying him time and energy.

This is worth more than a bonus check, a software, and a gift card.

Get Tithe.ly ChMS as a gift to your pastor from your church, and you give him the gift of administrative ease.

This way, he can focus more on the real ministry rather than the administrative tasks that often weigh down 80% of his time.

Over to you

Remember, this October:

Don’t skimp on Pastor Appreciation Month.

Make it a month they will always remember.

Make it his Christmas season (since most Christmas seasons overwork pastors with double sermon duty).

  • Focus on giving to your pastor, not getting from him
  • Ask his secretary or family what gifts he would enjoy most
  • Mobilize a large group of people to give a high-quality gift
  • Get him Tithe.ly ChMS
Author: Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. He lives in Fishers, IN with his beautiful wife and rowdy wheaten terrier.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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Pastor Appreciation Month: 4 Critical Rules & 10 Killer Ideas