Throughout the church year, many appropriate opportunities for gift-giving arise, including confirmation, graduation, and thanks to volunteer leaders at the end of a program year. What to give on these occasions is a topic that comes up again and again among formation leaders. This article includes ideas from our own ministry experiences as well as ideas offered in the Forma Facebook Group, for which we have done our best to give credit.
Things to Consider
- Handwritten notes – A handwritten note is always appropriate and sometimes a sufficient token of appreciation. Consider who might be the most meaningful note writer. For example, a handwritten note from a youth might be even more meaningful to a youth mentor than a note from the Director of Youth Ministries.
- Not everyone goes to college – If you are preparing to celebrate high school graduates, keep in mind that not everyone goes to college, and college-focused gifts might not apply to all graduates.
- Books – Books, including Bibles, prayer books, hymnals, and devotionals, can be extremely meaningful! In this list, we are opting to focus on other types of gifts. If you’re looking for a book idea, check the Forma Facebook Group or send us an email.
Practical gifts include anything that is used in daily life. Not only are these items likely to get good use, a practical gift is a way of bringing a reminder of church and God into daily life.
- Keepsake box – In addition to handwritten notes, Christen Erskine suggested gifting a keepsake box to “permanently hold sentiments that can be taken to the next stage of life.”
- Key chain – Alison Bocking suggested an engraved leather key chain from Etsy with the coordinates of the church and “You Are Loved” on the inside.
- Laundry – Tiffany LaMotte shared that her congregation gives graduates a monogrammed laundry bag with a card that has a laundry prayer and some tips for how to do laundry. Tiffany writes, “It’s something useful all graduates need and it’s a reminder of the church when they do laundry!”
- Recipe collection – A book, binder, or index card collection of church members’ favorite recipes can be a way to share food traditions and express care to recipients in the community.
- Water bottle with practical items – Jane Gober has created reusable water bottles filled with tools and supplies, such as a can opener, thermometer, mini sewing kit, and band-aids.
Prayer-related gifts support the person’s prayer life and spiritual journey.
- Blanket or prayer shawl – Many parishes have a tradition of giving graduates handmade blankets or shawls. These can be wrapped around the graduate while prayers are offered.
- Finger labyrinth – Meghan Mullarkey recommended a finger labyrinth. You can purchase wooden or metal designs or make your own!
- Icon – Jennifer Garen shared the idea of gifting an icon of the church’s patron saint or another icon that might hold meaning for the person, context, or situation.
- Journal – Graduates, confirmands, and volunteers may find a lined journal or unlined sketchbook useful for writing or drawing prayers.
- Micro loan gift card – In Jennifer White Davidson’s context, they give graduates a $25 Kiva gift card. Kiva is an organization that offers micro loans. Jennifer explains, “You get to choose who to lend to, and when they repay your loan you can reinvest in another person. It [is] a neat way of empowering the youth to live out their faith by helping others.”
- Prayer beads – A prayer bead bracelet or complete rosary can be a beautiful and portable prayer guide.
- Small stained glass panel – Another group member suggested giving a small item of stained glass. They say, “Often some of our graduates don’t identify as Christians and would not display a cross in their dorm, but a small stained glass panel may be a subtle nod to their life in church as a youth.”
Different churches have different budgets. Showing appreciation can be meaningful without being expensive. Some of the ideas described above can fit a wide range of budgets, and here are a few more that may be helpful for small budgets specifically:
- Altar flowers – If your church incorporates altar flowers into worship services, these can be great gifts for graduates, confirmands, or volunteers at the conclusion of worship.
- Local gift cards – A small gift card (even $5 – 10) to a local coffee shop, ice cream parlor, or bookstore can be a thoughtful treat.
- Music playlist – Curate a Spotify or YouTube playlist based on what might be meaningful to the gift receiver (for example, hymns the congregation sings often).
- Picture – A picture of the person at church or a picture of the church, framed or unframed, can communicate deep gratitude for their presence and involvement in the community.
- Thank-you video – In “Creating a ‘Thank You’ Video: A Unique End-Of-Year Gift,” Crystal Hardin shares how she put together a thank-you video for volunteer leaders in collaboration with children and families.
Send Us Your Ideas!
We would love to add to this post! Have an idea you’d like us to consider including? Send us an email!
Featured image is by Jess Bailey on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on March 15, 2023. It has been revised and updated on May 8, 2023 to reflect the preference of one of our contributors not to be mentioned by name.
Leave a Reply