By Michael Lewis
The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year. I love the opportunities it brings to spend time with my family and friends, enjoying good fellowship and good food in the process.
And to top it all off, we get to celebrate the birth of our Savior. It’s truly an amazing time.
As a pastor for the last 25 years, I am extremely grateful and appreciative of being part of loving church families. But I have to admit that the holidays can also be a busy and stressful time for those in ministry leadership. You’ve got musicals, Christmas parties, dinners, family engagements, ministry outreach efforts, a sermon to put together each week and possibly a Christmas Eve worship service to prepare for one of the two highest attended gatherings of your church year.
I’ve made my share of mistakes during the holiday seasons and I’ve also learned some things in the process. Here are a few of the practices that have helped me have a more fruitful and rejuvenating holiday season.
- Give yourself permission not to attend every event. Church members love to invite pastors (and their families) to their holiday gatherings—from Sunday School Christmas parties to family get-togethers to community celebrations. Many of these invitations will come at the last minute. You don’t have to accept them all. In fact, it’s perfectly acceptable—and honest—say you have other plans when you simply need to spend some time with your family.
- Stay home if you sense your family is stressed. Your family doesn’t have to attend every event. Stay sensitive to your family’s stress level. When you can’t make an event, contact the organizers as early as possible so they can communicate it to the others in attendance.
- Make your presence felt at musicals and special services. Most churches have special events during the holiday season where larger-than-usual crowds will be expected. Take the time during those events to connect with as many people as possible. Shake hands, hug necks and write down prayer requests. Show your community you care during those times.
- Don’t schedule extra events during the holiday season. You may be tempted to schedule something new and unique during this time. Think hard before doing so. Your calendar will already be full. What seems like an amazing holiday ministry event in July will easily turn into one more stress-filled commitment when December comes.
- Commit to serve at a Christmas Eve service two out of three years. Most likely you have a retired pastor or director of missions who would love the opportunity to lead your Christmas Eve service every third year. This gives you an opportunity to visit extended family or just be a normal person during the holidays.
- Keep your walk with Jesus vibrant during this time. Keep up your personal devotional time during the holidays and be prepared to take even more time away for spiritual reflection. The holidays aren’t just physically, emotionally and mentally draining. They can be spiritually draining, too! Make sure you keep yourself recharged.
- Schedule a special date night with your wife. The holidays are a busy time. Take some time to fully communicate to your wife the special place she holds in your life. Use the time to plan your holiday budget and get your schedules in sync.
Know that you don’t have to go through the stressful holiday season alone. If you need someone to talk with, please consider calling our new SBC Pastoral Care Line at 844-PASTOR1. It’s completely confidential and free to use.
I hope you have a great holiday season as you celebrate the birth of our Lord.
Michael Lewis (@pastor4pastors) serves as the North American Mission Board’s executive director of pastoral care and development.