Another Five Practical Gift Ideas for Your Pastor, Clergy, or Seminary Student

My most-popular blog post is from 2019, Five Practical Gift Ideas for Your Pastor or Seminary Student. Every year, thousands of people find this website through that post, which is amazing, because it means people are thinking about how to show their appreciation for the pastor, clergy, or seminary students in their lives. Thank you for keeping them in mind, especially in a time when clergy burnout is very real.

Besides the original “Five Practical Gift Ideas for Your Pastor or Seminary Student” post, you can also read my 2022 update, “Five More Practical Gift Ideas for Your Pastor, Clergy, or Seminary Student,” as well. I stand by those posts.

Pastor, Clergy, Seminary Student Gift Ideas (I stand by the original post and all updates):
2019 edition | 2022 edition | 2023 edition

Today, I have a list of another five practical gift ideas for your pastor, clergy, or seminary student. This year, I asked a few seminary friends what would appreciated and their responses impacted this list. As always, you know your person best, and remember: the best gift is free! See the bonus idea for what I mean…

Let’s start with…

What your pastor doesn’t need:

They don’t need physically large items. When we had movers haul boxes and boxes of books from one home library to another, one of the movers asked me, “Are you a professor?!” I admit it, I just plain have too many books and other items that take up precious space. While I’ve recommended getting things like helping people build their preferred Bible commentary sets in the past, I’m also more reticent these days to say buy a bunch of big, heavy items. We are trying to get rid of our “doom boxes” – that box of stuff tossed in and set aside with the thought that we’ll get around to it someday. Let’s not add to someone’s doom boxes, especially if they’re more likely to move frequently! (If you want to help them have good doom boxes, help them get a storage tote set.)

They don’t need homework. I’m sure the book or other item you get them will be heartfelt and you’ll want to know if it’s helpful for them in their lives. But don’t add to the pressure of the gift by asking them, hey, did you read the book yet? Hey, did you watch that documentary yet? Hey, did you try that office supply yet? There’s enough pressure with “required reading,” you don’t need to add to that!

They don’t need judgment. Being a clergyperson is a hard job. Everyone’s field has its own challenges, no question. And, clergy are in a high-pressure role. Give them a little breathing room. Show them a lot of support. There are many days filled with lots and lots of stuff they never taught in seminary. Those are days when, inside, they think to themselves, “I just wanted to talk about God with people!” Help them have less of those days. Save your judgment; show your support.

Okay, let’s talk about a few things that could be handy…

What your pastor may appreciate:

  1. Your clergy person may appreciate fresh office supplies.

While many high schools and undergrad programs have moved to tablets instead of textbooks, seminary still uses books a plenty. Some required reading titles are available as eBooks, but many are from small, independent publishers. That means your clergyperson likely has a shelf (or five…) filled with textbooks, as does your favorite seminary student.

Reading tabs have come a long way. You can get the tried and true primary colors, or you can go all out with such a variety of colors that ROY G. BIV would have to expand his name!

These book tabs by Morandi are sticky without being abrasive, simple in their recyclable paper design, and have a ton of colors that will look good with any book cover.

If your friend needs more than 1200 tabs, then good on your friend – it means they’re a Lifelong Learner Supreme!

Of course, there’s always the good old Post-It note. These sticky squares have been our office and classroom friends for a long time now, and there’s always a good use for them.

I appreciate that beyond the standard yellow, it’s pretty easy to buy multicolor packs so one can mix it up for their notes or projects. I’ve often used a multicolor pack for a particular exercise in which people reflect on the timeline of their lives with different colors representing different milestones (green = lifegiving moments, blue = sad or tough moments, etc.).

You can’t go wrong with fresh Post-Its!

2. Your clergy persion may appreciate a new way to take notes.

Longtime readers know I’m a big proponent of notetaking apps on personal electronic devices, as well as the via media route where analog meets digital in the Rocketbook series of reusable notebooks. Lately, I’ve found myself needing a new way to take notes for my personal project, R-Rated Movie Club. That’s my newsletter where I write about R-rated movies and scripture. While most of the posts are about movies that have been out for a long time, sometimes I want to take notes on a movie in the theater. Is there a way to do this without disturbing people? Yes! First, pick a seat away from people. Next, here are two notetaking items that have helped me:

Yacig LED Light-Up Pens are new to me, but I think it will be a keeper. The ink is black while the light come in three colors – white, blue, or red – and have two levels of brightness – 30% and 100%. I suppose they technically have three levels of brightness, if you count 0%.

I find that the red light pen at 30% is enough for me to jot a few notes without disturbing those around me. I can use it at night, too, when jotting down an idea in a notebook at the bedside table. Since I try to stay off my phone at night (including resisting the urge to check the time if I wake up in the middle of the night) these really do the trick!

I’ve written about my longstanding love of Moleskine notebooks before, but usually the hardcover pocket edition. This 3-pack of softcover Moleskine cahiers are great in their own way. They’re durable, travel well, and are perfect for my need to quickly jot down a note at the movies or at night.

Not only do they fold over really well for writing, the stitching keeps them from falling apart from wear and tear. I can slip it into a pants or coat pocket without being uncomfortable, and they lay flat when looking over my notes for later.

When I travel, this is the type of cahier that I usually bring with me. I have several mission trip and world travels documented in cahiers like this, which then get typed up for the blog.

Speaking of travel…

3. Your clergy person may appreciate help for travel.

While the world closed up for a while, it’s been slowly but surely reopening for travel. That includes conferences for business as well as study abroad opportunities. When I traveled abroad, I always packed as light as I could, but my favorite item by far was this, the Lewis N. Clark neck stash.

This travel wallet hangs around your neck and lays against your chest under your shirt. Lots of pockets, including room for your passport, pen, cahier, etc. This neck stash helps you keep your hands free and deters pickpockets. You only pull it out when you need your cash, card, or ID, and the RFID blocking layer gives you extra security from card-scanning scammers.

4. Your clergy person (and especially the seminary students!) may appreciate a care package.

This one may seem like it’s more for seminary students, but even your clergy person appreciates a nice treat, now and then. Not all church office spaces are created equal, and it may be nice to have a tasty snack or warm beverage close at hand.

While I don’t have the Aroma Stainless Steel 1-liter Electric Kettle in my church office, we did pick one up this year for the family. We bought this so our kids could make hot chocolate, tea, or Ramen whenever they wanted. It’s safe and easy to use, and the footprint is small enough we took it to a cabin rental.

As for what treats your person would appreciate the most, you know their taste better than me. Still, here are a few thoughts:

Easy-to-heat single-serve meals like Easy Mac or Rice-A-Roni can hit the spot for thost late-night study sessions.

If they get take-out Asian cuisine, you can help make it stretch further with microwavable bags of white or fried rice.

If you’re reading this at the holidays, you’ll probably find plenty of sweet, delicious, single-serve hot chocolate mixes on sale!

5. Your clergy person may appreciate gift cards.

Are we over the whole “Gift cards are so impersonal” speedbump yet? Anything that makes the basics of living (groceries, gas, etc.) or the fun of life (restaurants, the movies, etc.) more affordable is personal and appreciated!

One thing to remember about giving your pastor or clergyperson a gift card is that if it’s over $25 that is technically considered taxable income and they need to report that. I’m not saying don’t give them a gift card, but be aware of that. Nominal gifts under $25 are usually just fine in that regard, but I’m not an accountant.

So what kind of gift card to get? For this, I gained good insight from a seminary friend. They said the days of the $15 or $20 gift card going very far are over. Think about it: a large latte at a chain coffee shop can be over $8, and $20 won’t get you two meals at any given fast-casual restaurant. They recommended at least a $25 gift card, if it’s for food, because that is more likely to cover at least two meals. Good point!

BONUS: Your clergy person may appreciate a handwritten note.

Like every time I write a post like this, I remind you that the best gift is free: compliments and gratitude! Being a clergyperson is hard. Training to be one in seminary is tough, too. Your personalized expression of thankfulness truly matters.

I know that I do my best to hold on to all of the thank you cards that I receive, and I’ve been known to print out especially meaningful “thank you” emails, as well. They’re nice to pull out of the file on the tough days of ministry. One seminary student said they love handwritten cards with one sentence telling them that they are valued. And, it should be from a person or handsigned by the church. Don’t just sign it on behalf of the committee; make it personal!

My favorite Etsy shop for well-made greeting cards, stickers, and other printable goodies is Art Avie Co.

Thank you for reading and I hope this is helpful. Like my original 2019 post and 2022 follow-up, I expect traffic will spike near three times: Black Friday (the Christmas gift shopping season begins), May (the seminary graduation season), and in late June (July 1 is typically the first day for many clergy to begin at their new church in the United Methodist Church system).

Remember: it is always a good time to appreciate your pastor, clergy, or seminary student. Thank you for supporting them as they do ministry and organize others to go and do likewise!

And, it’s always a good time to appreciate anybody, and that includes you! So remember: you are lovable, and you are created in love and to love.

I also have a few other gift ideas for you…

Five Practical Gift Ideas for Your Engaged or Newlywed Friends (2019)
Five More Practical Gift Ideas for Your Engaged or Newlywed Friends (2022)
Five Games That Won’t Turn Family Game Night Into Family Fight Night
Five Gift Ideas for Self-Care, Peace, and Empowerment

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