I’m going to jump up on a soapbox a bit today. As a preacher’s kid and having been involved in pastoral ministry myself, I want to speak to Sabbath rest and family time for your pastoral, ministerial and church staff at the holidays.
Several years ago I was busy prepping for our Christmas Eve service with my tech director Jonathan (which we had done together for several years in a row) and the subject of what others were doing at that moment came up. Both of our families were gathering without us. I was missing the only gathering my extended family was having that year (while my husband juggled our two young children and my aging mother without me). Jonathan hadn’t been with his family on Christmas Eve since college. Not only that, but we had to turn around and be back two days later for Sunday morning service. So he would drive three hours to gather with family on Christmas Day only to turn back around to drive the three hours back that very evening. I became discouraged not just for myself but for Jonathan. While everyone else was enjoying family time, we were experiencing drive and prep time.
Several days later I had coffee with my cousin from Atlanta who was in a similar ministry position as I, but had time off to drive to Ohio for the holidays. She told me her church did “Church in a Bag” for the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s to allow their staff to have built-in time-off over the holidays. That gave them ample rest and travel time to be with family and friends over the holidays. I was never able to convince my church to do the same, but I am no longer in full-time ministry so the weight of this burden is no longer mine. However, I’ve often volunteered to cover worship that Sunday to give our worship pastor the Sunday off. I remember what it was like.
If you have any authority to make this happen within your own congregation I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you do it. Your church staff needs to have built-in time-off at the Christmas season to allow them precious time with family and quiet moments to contemplate the true meaning of the season.
So here’s some ideas on how to accomplish this for your own church:
- Church in a Box or Bag with scripture readings, a meditation and list of songs to sing (I would suggest you use songs that are available on YouTube so folks can sing along)
- Church on the Web with downloadable content, links to music videos and scriptures
- Turn your church service into a serving church by planning a service project. Serve a meal to the homeless. Do repairs to the homes of “in-need” members of your congregation. Shovel snow for the elderly in the neighborhoods surrounding your church. Meet at church and then send everyone out with a set dollar amount to pay forward.
If these ideas are not a possibility for your church perhaps there is another way for you to take this burden off your pastor or worship director? Perhaps a “volunteer Sunday” where all roles are filled with lay volunteers?
Many hours of preparation go into each service and at Christmas your pastors and staff also have the extras of planning a Christmas Eve service as well as other Advent activities. All the extra touches that help make your CHRISTmas special, cost them time and effort, often leaving them exhausted and physically and emotionally unavailable for their families, at a time when they should be more available and present for those they love.
OK, down off my soapbox.
Thanks for listening and prayerfully considering how you can be part of the creative solution! This is Jonathan with his baby niece. Won’t you help the “Jonathan’s” in your church celebrate CHRISTmas with their families this year?
Blessings of ARTistry, CREATivity & BEaUty, Jody
P.S. Missed previous posts? Click here.