Other than Holy Week, the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas is easily one of the busiest times of the year for church leaders. During this season, there is pressure to engage visitors, serve the community and coordinate special services—all on top of normal ministry responsibilities. While there are always going to be minor oversights or glitches during this season, here are the top three mistakes pastors make during the holidays.
1. Overdoing It With Programming
The holidays have a certain buzz about them—an energy that takes fills the air as people break their normal routines for parties, shopping and travel. In the church, that energy often takes the form of big outreach events
or initiatives to engage church members. Unfortunately, in many cases it is easy to get too caught up in this buzz and overstretch both staff and church members through superfluous programming
Think through your last holiday season. Was your staff completely drained
by the end? Being tired is a sign of working hard. Being burned out is a sign of being over-worked. As you consider your programming this holiday season, which events or initiatives most promise to help achieve the mission of your church? Do they all fall in line with the vision of your community? If not, consider stripping back. A few intentionally and excellently executed initiatives will yield much better results than a scattershot of disconnected or over-produced events.
2. Only Planning Through the End of the Year
Another one of the biggest mistakes pastors make during the holidays is only planning through Christmas
. In many churches, the Sunday after Christmas is usually a smaller gathering as members recover from the festivities and traveling. As such, pastors often visualize a clean break between Christmas and January 1. However, even with the natural lull, this can be a huge loss of momentum.
In the traditional church calendar, Advent
and Christmas are the beginning of the story which lead to Easter and beyond. How can you plan to make this holiday season the beginning of something bigger than what is typically seen as the end of the year? Rather than giving a one-off Christmas message and then transitioning to the typical New Year messages
, consider letting the Christmas message be the beginning of a series that carries into January. Or consider planning follow up outreach events in January and February where you serve over the holidays. This way, your community engagement during the holidays becomes an on ramp for continued service rather than a one time event.
3. Neglecting Family and Self-Care
With all of the extra programming on top of all of the usual pastoral responsibilities, it is easy for church leaders to let other areas of their lives suffer. Typically, the family will have to sacrifice a bit of their time together to make room for meetings and various events. But as an example for their community, pastors should emphasize their time for family, even saying no to some events in order to protect that time. We have to remember that our first ministry is to our families and then to the church. While it may take some creative compromises, how can you set aside dedicated time to your family to walk through this season together
in meaningful ways?
Even more common during the holidays is for pastors to neglect self-care. With all of the additional demands of this time, the last things pastors often think about is getting enough sleep, staying physically active and eating well. However, by sacrificing sleep, fitness and diet, pastors are going to have less energy to give to their churches and their families.
How can you protect your boundaries to keep yourself in a healthy place in order to better lead your ministry and serve your family?
Original post written by Rusty Gates.