IMG_0258Welcome to this week’s edition of Ask the Matriarch! 

Hi, I’m Sharon Temple, and I blog at Tidings of Comfort and Joy. Martha Spong has passed me the baton — and the necessary hints and info — so that I can host this feature.  Thank you, Martha!

I am looking forward to convening our wonderful RevGal matriarchs every other week as they offer advice and wisdom from their pastoral experience.

This week’s question is from a RevGal whose church’s United Methodist Women group has a really wonderful tradition: 

Each February our UMW group draws names for Secret Pals. I drew the pastor.  I’d like to give her a small gift each month.   She is finishing the requirements for ordination, the mother of two teenagers, married to a UM pastor. Oh, and it’s a two-point charge. She’s busy. 🙂  Is there something in particular that you, as pastors, would like to receive from a secret pal? (My usual secret pal gifts are flower bulbs for forcing, coffee/tea/chocolate, clever Post-Its/memo pads.)  I can’t do anything quilty until the reveal because she would guess.  

Thanks in advance!

Secret Pal

Dear Secret Pal, 

What fun to have Secret Pals!  My thought is that you treat your Secret Pastor Pal just like you would any other Secret Pal.  Have you gifted your SP in the past once a month?  It sounds like what you have done in the past would be perfect–the little gifts and notes. Stay away from anything over the top.  Have fun, and enjoy!

RevKarla at Amazing Bongos

Dear Secret Pal,

What a wonderful thing to do with the women in your church. It is hard to narrow down what I would like because there are so many great gifts.

Since it is a monthly gift maybe you could think of a simple gift that fits the theme of each month?

Flower bulbs in May, Suntan lotion in June, something patriotic in July, etc.

A favorite book a month would be nice also. Or even a thoughtful card and poem of the month.

Good luck with your surprises! 


Rev. Kelley

Dear Secret Pal,

How lovely to be so excited about caring for your pastor friend.  I am a big fan of gift cards.  My parishioners used to give me $5 and $10 Starbucks cards, knowing that I’d use them both for myself and for pastoral coffee meetings.  Pens are always needed.  Note cards are handy, especially if they are simple and blank.  And for a special gift:  a spa gift card.


Jan Edmiston at A Church for Starving Artists

Dear Secret Pal,

What a fun thing!  I’m pretty inclined to respond to this as a person who is also a pastor.  Your ideas ( bulbs, caffeine, Post-its) are just great.

I would be delighted to receive a bookmark, a thoughtful magnet, small note cards for sending, hand cream, healthy granola bars, a pretty pen, anything crafty, anything fun for my desk (colorful paperclips, markers—you could have a field day scouring a stationary/office supply store), a fun paperback novel, a teacup or coffee mug, fresh flowers, a gift card for a manicure…

 This was fun. Thanks for asking!

 Jennifer at An Orientation of Heart 

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Our matriarchs had some fun with this one!  

Who else wants to play?  Add your suggestions for Secret Pal in the comments.

If you have a burning question about pastoral ministry or a situation that could use a couple of good ideas, please send your questions to askthematriarch at gmail dot com.  

5 thoughts on “Ask the Matriarch: When your secret pal is the pastor

  1. I tend towards the practical things which brighten my day, are a bit of a splurge I might not afford, or things which lighten my load. I don’t need more: coffee mugs, book marks, sentimental books, note pads. I might also add “chocolate or high carb food like cookies” but that would be going too far. (smiling)
    I do love: coffee gift cards, manicures, a pound of coffee or a really nice piece of cheese (which can be a splurge!) Fresh flowers or a plant for my garden, an Itunes gift card with a play list suggested to purchase with it, (your favorite new pieces?). What about a “homemade meal” left in the church freezer – to take home and file away to use on a frazzled day. Or, a wee bottle of my favourite tipple – a liqueur for example. I got my admin. a small bottle of Baileys once, ($8) and she has never forgotten it! Movie tickets are also greatly appreciated. But MOST appreciated is the sentiment on the card. When people notice what I love (gardens/coffee/music) or what my life has been like (congratulations/good job/stress) and say so, whatever the gift is ALMOST doesn’t matter. Empathy and appreciation, stated, are balm, grace, and gifts overflowing.


  2. Second thoughts – secret pal gifts normally have a small price tag attached – I think versions of my list can be done in the $5-$10 range. Your candidate has teen sons and is busy. I’d aim into her life situation.


  3. Such as you can, tailor your ideas to your pastor; great gifts for me would be gift cards for books (even $5 is enough to help me buy something I’ve been holding back on, don’t think it’s too little), to the local coffee shop, where I’m well known & keep office hours each week, a small gift of dark chocolate (little goes a long way!), a little treat or toy for the dog, a small piece of pottery (which I collect, so mugs are welcome), a small photograph of something lovely or meaningful, some little scifi collectible (big geek here), art/craft supplies. A piece of artwork by one of the children in the church.
    Is the pastor on Pinterest? He or she may have a board with things they love. Does he or she have an Amazon wish list?
    And the best, low cost gift, for me: a card or note telling me about something that has happened in worship or bible study or somewhere else that has made a difference to you. Best gift ever.


  4. I know this post is a few months old, but if you are doing a gift once a month I’m guessing you still have a few to go. I think a cool and really inexpensive gift would be to ask a few members of the congregation to write something they appreciate about the pastor or reflect on a recent sermon that particularly moved them. This could be turned into an art piece if you were feeling ambitious or simply be presented in a greeting card. Pastor’s need to hear that they are appreciated and that they are doing a good job. Something that doesn’t always happen frequently.


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