Back in olden days (before 1972 for reasons that make me middle-aged), Christmas shopping was relatively easy. The postman hauled the Sears Wish Book to your house, your kids tore out what they wanted and taped the pictures to the dog, you bought a few of said items along with socks. If you were Dad, you bought Mom some Prince Matchabelli and the expensive vacuum cleaner. If you were Mom, you got Dad bridge mix. You might buy gifts for grandparents or the odd cousin who just had a baby. At most, you’d get something for the postman out respect for his Wish Book haulin’ tenacity and herniated disk. But it was all so easy. So simple. So not challenging. In today’s world, even a would-be rejecter of commercialized Christmas balderdash feels compelled to purchase tokens of love and potpourri for any person with whom one has had contact over the previous 365 days or 36 years if you’re Facebook “friends.” And nowhere does such a cluster of would-be recipients exist than at church. Sure, you could bake your famous peanut butter chocolate chip mint fudge cookies for everyone, but let’s be honest – if it’s the thought that counts, you didn’t put much thought into that one. (FYI, I will gladly accept any and all nut-free cookies you decide not to give to your other brothers and sisters in Christ as I believe it’s the effort that counts and not the calories.) So what to do, what to do? If only some kind of gift giving guide for church folk existed. Hey, look, here’s one now: Lead pastor – A Ryrie Study or Schofield Reference Bible in the translation of your choice (as long as it’s KJV) pre-filled by you with inspired annotations to help your anointed shepherd overcome some of his minorish doctrinal errors. Associate pastor – While you’re not in a position to give a promotion, you can still help your AP move from benchwarmer to pulpit master with a subscription to ChurchStaffing.com. Head deacon – The traditional jar of nutmeg-scented toupee glue says you understand the importance of traditions and will never give in to the contemporary allure of pumpkin spice. Regular deacons – For those driven to serve, a lovely, homemade pie. For those driven to lead, a 1950s-era fruitcake. Elders – Pre-printed business cards that explain the differences between deacons and elders. Shop early as Mardel usually runs out on Black Friday. Governing board – Nothing. They haven’t had a meeting since 1988 after realizing the deacons and elders pretty much had everything covered. Youth pastor – For the 35-year-old leader of tomorrow’s, um, leaders who just can’t resist bro-speak and skinny jeans, an Oprah-style makeover featuring an adult hairstyle and grown-up shoes. Elementary kids program director – A subscription to the Red-Bull-of-the-Month Club and pre-enrollment on the donor heart recipient list. Your kids’ Sunday school teachers – A 500-count bottle of ibuprophen, a version of the Serenity Prayer inscribed in fine chocolate, and a promissory note guaranteeing them ownership of whatever rewards you may receive on the other side. Small-group leader – A new fondue pot and a self-published copy of “The Prayer Warriors Thesaurus” so you’ll only have to hear the phrases “Father God,” “come alongside” and “lift up” once a quarter. Parking lot attendants – Full-body, hunter-orange jumpsuits with LED light piping and the promise to take care of their loved ones when Deacon Turnbuckle still fails to see them. Greeters – One case each of Clorets and Purell. All can hand out both. Some to one another. Ushers – An augmented reality app that automatically highlights empty spots in the pews, a new iPhone to run the app on and a rent-a-nephew to explain it all. Music director (traditional) – Original manuscript of “It is Well with My Soul” lyrics written by Horatio Spafford on stationery from the Brevoort House hotel. Music director (contemporary) – Original lyrics to that one song K-Love keeps playing written on a mildly used Starbucks napkin. Choir members (traditional) – Gift cards to Roy’s House of Robes Dry Cleaners & Portable Confessional Rentals. Worship team (contemporary) – Jeggings that are two sizes too big to avoid being a stumbling block. Organist (uber-traditional) – Convince the music director to allow an annual playing of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor that isn’t the Sunday before Halloween. Long-haired freaky soundboard operator – The dude who knows to crank the bass to eleven on “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” deserves nothing less than an autographed cassette single of Tesla’s “Signs.” PowerPoint graphics artist – Cookie cutters. Prayer room staff – “The Prayerful Stranger’s Guide to Winning Spiritual Battles Fifteen Minutes at a Time” (pamphlet version), and baby monitors to remind them they could be working in the nursery. Nursery staff – Communion juice recently discovered behind the baptistery that has probably been there since 1974. Because, you know, it’s “aged.” Baptistery attendants – Thicker robes and quarterly visits from a hypnotist to help them forget what cannot be unseen. Lay security force – New Ray-Ban Wayfarers and the latest in holy lightning technology, the Sword of Gideon XXL Taser. Or if that’s too spendy, cool codenames. American Sign Language interpreter – You may have no idea if she’s repeating the pastor’s words verbatim or trying to sell Shakeology, you just know she always gives it her all. And for that she deserves a Thermawrap, wrist braces and an industrial-sized vat of Icy Hot from Costco (or Sam’s Club if you’re Presbyterian). Sunday morning coffee ministry servers – Gold. I realize that you, dear reader, may not wish to give a gift to every person listed here. Nor may you even be aware that some of these people even exist within your church. And maybe they don’t. I live in Nebraska. But if they do, you can now show your gratitude for the giving of their time, talent and treasure in service to you and our Lord in ways both suspect and sometimes quite expensive, but always appreciated. Maybe. Merry Christmas.
This column originally appeared in the July 2015 edition of Chatter Magazine and, if Scribd.com still exists, can be found (accidentally labeled as November 2015) in PDF form here.