November 28, 2011

Makin' a List--Easy for Santa, Hard for Ministry Families

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?


  1. These are wonderful ideas! I have found my biggest problem with showers etc is going and realizing that one shower is 'smaller' or has fewer gifts than others and I end up running a quick errand to close the gap. I can see the value in all your ideas...and it will give me something to think about!

  2. I think it is easiest to go into a new situation with a policy. It is harder to change the way you give gifts after you have been there for a while.
    I started out giving gifts for every event when the church was smaller and it was easier to afford. Now, I use more of a case-by-case basis to determine recipients.

  3. By now, the women at my current church know that I'm not able to give gifts for showers (As money is quite tight.), but they do know that I'm encouraging them and praying for them.

    I am able to give them a homemade card.

  4. We're in a new situation here and so I have thought about this some, especially with Christmas coming up.

    My plan has been to have one thing that I give at showers...the same thing every time. For example, a pack of diapers, or a simple homemade baby blanket for baby showers (choose whatever you can afford/make and do the same each time); for wedding showers the same thing..choose something and do that each time a wedding shower comes up.

    My thinking for Christmas is going to be the elders and their wives. Just to make it easy on decision making. And we really couldn't afford more than that.

    Thanks for addressing this!!

  5. I do wish you were posting on your ideas of what to give sooner than the 12th! I'm needing to figure out what to give before we have the elders and their wives over. Not that it's your responsibility to come up with my gift plan... I can use your ideas for next year =)

  6. I love hearing what everyone does! @thebradiricks: We hear you. I'll post some gift ideas Monday (12/5) instead.

  7. Thank you for sharing different viewpoints about giving. I love the ladies of our church, and will recognize each one's birthday with a candy bar and homemade card. This way, they know I care, and it doesn't break the bank at Christmas (or the rest of the year). :)

  8. One way to attend all those showers would be to contribute a set amount to the group gift.Group gifts are a wonderful way for all women, no matter their budget, to participate in joyful giving - Dee Volkert


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