Whether you take your cues from St. Nicholas or a trio of Far-Eastern mystics, you will probably buy a gift for someone this December. And, starting where Santa starts (“makin’ a list”) can be difficult for ministry families who know dozens, if not hundreds, of people with “nice” after their names.
As I’ve said here before, ministry women are relational. We feel like those in our ministry are truly our family, so it’s hard for us to give a gift to one person but not another. At Christmastime, we may be afraid of being perceived as playing favorites, not reciprocating the gifts given to us, being stingy, forgetting someone, or misusing our money.
Is that a “Bah-Humbug,” I hear?
Hang in there.
This week, I’d like to share some wisdom I’ve learned about who to include on your list this Christmas; next week (12/5), I’ll be posting suggestions about what to give.
A List with No Names
I have a friend in ministry who has started at each new church with a firm policy: no bridal showers; no baby showers. She loves the women in her church, but she never attends a single shower. This saves money and also protects her from being used for comparisons (She went to my shower but not yours; or she gave me silver but gave you dish towels.) Her consistent and clearly stated gifting policy has kept her from slighting others.
Maybe this Christmas is your year to say: “We’ve decided we are only giving Christmas gifts to our family members.”
A List with Every Name
Another friend gives a single Christmas gift to every family in her church. It’s a church of about 100 people, and each year she thinks of a little something and buys or makes enough for each family to get one. This shows love and thoughtfulness; I have no doubt the people in their church are pleased to be remembered equally.
Perhaps your ministry is a manageable size for this bountiful approach.
A List with Categories
Other women in ministry (myself included) give a gift to every person in a particular group. Making decisions based on categories, like deacons, musicians, or shepherding group members, allows you to limit your list without picking and choosing individuals. With the gift, I include a note saying, “Thank you for your work as an elder.” or “Thank you for serving our kids by teaching Sunday school.”. This tells people why they are on my list and communicates that I’m not initiating a gift exchange.
This may be your year to select one or two categories of people to receive your holiday gifts.
Whatever list you make, gifts are never obligatory. As I’ve seen from the variety of practices among ministry friends, there’s not one correct tradition. And, though Christmas comes but once a year, your yearlong generosity of life—your open door, kind concern, and time in prayer—will cover what you lack in holiday gifts.
Who’s on your list?