Let’s face it clergy do have some benefits and for all the crap that happens in our congregations, we are blessed. First you have the whole parsonage/housing allowance thing (speaking from the United Methodist denomination). Then you have your insurance paid for, some churches just pay the clergy’s insurance and then there are others who pay for his/her family as well.
Beyond that is the fact that there is a tradition of taking care of clergy. The other night my family was out eating at a local pizzeria and one of my parishioners walked in. We chatted for a little bit and when we got ready to leave we learned our check was taken care of. Often when I am out to lunch there seems to be this notion that I am not suppose to pay, I don’t know why and I try to fight it but with little success most of the time.
I have found that there is another level of spoiling clergy that goes on. There is the existence of church sugar mommies/daddies. In my current appointment we have a sugar daddy. But I have heard of sugar mommas as well. These are people who like to spoil and go above and beyond. Our sugar daddy likes to take us out to eat every other month. Not to Applebees but to steak houses or other restaurants out of our price range.
When Christmas roles around these sugar mommies/daddies truly go out of their way. Over the course of my ministry (7 years) I have received a number of overwhelming gifts. The one that shocked me the most though was when I was ordained. My youth group rallied together and along with some other people and gave me money for a new guitar, extremely special gift! But the sugar mommy & daddy (at this church it was a couple) gave me a gift certificate to go and get a new set of irons from a local golfing store. I was speechless and put back on my heels.
That is the largest gift I have ever received from a sugar mommy/daddy, but I have heard urban legends of others, even larger gifts. I heard that a new DS received a new iPhone. I have heard of a bishop who received a new Cadillac. I KNOW of a minister who took a huge pay cut to go into the ministry and a sugar momma decided to help him out and slipped him $100 each week to help take care of him and his family.
I don’t really know how to feel about these sugar mommies/daddies. I feel blessed to be on the receiving end of their generosity but also there are times when I feel uncomfortable. No one in my experience has attempted to use these gifts as a means to get what they want in the church. I have never been ‘bought’ but these people simply are very generous to their clergy. I have heard of clergy who turn these gifts around some how and give it all back to the church. Not quite sure how that is all done, but I have heard of some doing it.
What is your experience? What is the largest gift you received from a parishioner? How do you deal with the sugar mommies/daddies in your congregations?