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JOE LAGUARDIA: Ask your pastor what he wants for Christmas

Every Christmas season many parishioners go to the their local retail or book stores and wrestle with that all-important question: "What do I get my pastor?" Well, I'm glad you asked.

I can hopefully help you, dear reader, narrow down some great gift ideas for your beloved clergy. I figure that many pastors think like I do, so perhaps my wish list will be theirs as well. With tongue firmly in cheek, here are my personal recommendations:

Gift idea 1: Write your pastor a letter. Although e-mail, tweets, and Facebook updates are becoming the primary form of correspondences these days, nothing says "We appreciate you" like a hand-written letter.

I'm not talking about a note here, something you might send after a moving sermon. I'm suggesting a full-out, feature-length letter that expresses your gratitude and appreciation for all he or she does for you and your church.

Gift idea 2: Get your pastor a really nice tie. Truth be told, we pastors could never have enough ties. Like those of you who run out of "nice clothes to wear," we run out of nice ties to wear about mid-year. We know that most churchgoers don't notice what tie we wear from week to week, but that's besides the point.

Go for the silk; cheap ties are way too tacky. Go for patterns rather than religious-themed ties; it lets your pastor know that you realize he is a regular person that actually has a life outside of the church.

Gift idea 3: Get a gift card to your pastor's favorite coffee shop,restaurant or bookstore. Of course, that requires asking your pastor to list his or her favorites. Don't assume that your pastor favors Lifeway, Applebees, or Starbucks.

Gift cards will also save you from embarrassment because your pastor won't give you an awkward look when he receives (a) yet another mug or (b) a book he probably already owns or has no use for (he definitely doesn't need those "God's Scriptures for New Pastors" inspirational books).

Did I mention that you should ask your pastor her favorite? She probably (a) runs on Dunkin, (b) prefers Cokesbury over Lifeway, and (c) enjoys Chili's over Red Lobster.

Gift idea 4: Tickets to the local movie theater. Again, any way that you can communicate to your pastor that you know he or she is a regular person and does have a life outside of the black robe will win you points and a handsome smile of appreciation.

Make sure the tickets are open-ended and not necessarily to a specific movie like, you know, something really R-rated or G-rated. For extra points, include a gift card so a popcorn-and-drink combo can be purchased at concessions.

Please note the next few ideas will require more resources or a generous spirit on your part. If you're as frugal as my father, no need to read further.

Gift idea 5: An overnight stay at your Florida and/or North Georgia mountain summer home -- with only the family. Actually this is really important because, once again, it communicates to your pastor that he or she has the ability to do some serious self-care and get guilt-free R-and-R.

Offer to plan worship and get a preacher on the weekend they take advantage of your place, and this will be a huge benefit for all involved.

Gift idea 6: A Porsche. Preferably convertible. Don't worry about lack of seating for the rest of his family; that's what the minivan is for. You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Here's one used on Craigslist for under $12,000.00.

OK, maybe I'm kidding a little bit. But not really if you thought seriously about it. Really.

Although Christmas is still several weeks away, it is never too early to shop for your pastor. It's never too early to have fun doing it, too. If you're still stuck on what to get your pastor, do what I would do: simply ask him what he wants, and have a great Advent season!

The Rev. Joe LaGuardia is the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Email him at trinitybc3@bellsouth.net or visit www.trinityconyers.org.