Dear Abigail

A question on the etiquette of gifts.


Dear Abigail,

Graduation season is approaching, and my pastor-husband and I will be invited to many parties. Last year my pastor-husband wasn’t yet on staff at our church, so we attended only the parties to which we were given a written invitation. There were only a few, so we were able to give a small cash gift to students who graduated.

Now my husband is the senior pastor. We’ll be personally invited to many more parties and are expected to attend those posted in our church bulletin (even if we don’t receive an actual invitation).

It seems impossible to attend all of  them—and we will have a newborn baby at the time. How do we handle gifts? We aren’t in a financial position to give cash, but we don’t want to seem stingy. 

What’s the etiquette?

Pastor’s Wife in Michigan

Dear Michigan,

Firstly, it’s important to treat all invitations with appreciative grace, whether or not you can attend.

Your pastor-husband can forestall many issues by making a simple announcement from the pulpit a couple of weekends in a row, along these lines: “My lovely wife and I wish we could attend all the parties this year because we love you all very much. However, with the new baby coming, my wife needs to rest, and I’ll be spending a lot of time caring for her and the baby, so we regret that we won’t be able to celebrate with each of you personally.”

When all the graduates are home for the summer (if they have gone away to college or boarding schools), your husband could plan a “Graduate Blessing.” Invite all the graduates to come forward during the worship service, and both of you can congratulate and bless them for their achievements in front of the congregation. Give them each a card with a thoughtful, handwritten message and a carefully selected Bible verse from the two of you.

This way you can celebrate all your graduates without over-taxing your energy, dragging your newborn to dozens of parties, or overdrawing your checking account. And you will give a spiritual blessing to be remembered by your young people for years to come.