So as Christmas approaches, how are you doing? Really?
Let me guess. You probably barely have enough time to even skim this post.
Which is why I wrote it.
This post is for all of us who ‘work’ in ministry.
It’s for all of us who are on staff, for elders and for volunteers who work so hard that they might as well pay you.
It’s Christmas, and while we sit on the best news to ever hit the planet – the coming of the Messiah – Christmas, like every major holiday for ministry leaders, can be a time of mixed emotions.
The biggest casualty of Christmas for those who work in ministry?
Too many Christian leaders drag themselves through Christmas, with smiles painted on, only to collapse after the final service is done.
As my friend Jon Acuff says, it was probably never Jesus’ intention to create a holiday church leaders resent and can’t wait to be over.
You’re So Busy Helping Others Celebrate….
Why do so many Christian leaders lose their joy at Christmas?
It’s simple. You’re so busy helping others celebrate Christmas that you lose any sense of celebration yourself.
I know because I’ve been there. This year we’re doing five Christmas Eve services. For our team, it’s exhausting. For years I came home on Christmas Eve exhausted and could spend most of the Christmas holidays “recovering”.
It can make celebrating with your family challenging, because you spent all your energy helping others.
This Christmas, I want to encourage you to fight back and make sure you carve out time to personally celebrate the thing we so desperately want others to celebrate.
Over the years, I’ve found some ways that have helped me celebrate Christmas personally and with my family.
I realize there’s nothing you haven’t heard before in these tips, but having them all on one screen and seeing they actually are doable is hopefully helpful.
5 Simple Tips for Ministry Leaders at Christmas
1. Make some quiet time
I got up just before 5 this morning and spent some time alone in God’s word. Just for me.
I do this almost every day, but I do it because it makes all the difference in the world. But it’s easy to miss when life gets busy.
The reason it’s so important is that my first hour sets the course for the entire day. Which, of course, ends up setting the pattern for you life.
I’ll get up early on Christmas Day too to have a personal, private celebration. That will keep my heart fresh to help others celebrate.
2. Add a private, family celebration
We go to church as a family, but before we open presents Christmas morning, we pray, read the Christmas story and have some personal time together.
I completely love what our church does at Christmas (our church rocks Christmas, seriously), but I want to mark it personally with my family too.
I think when the personal, family and public celebrations happen, my personal joy is at it’s deepest.
3. Be off when you’re off
“Off” looks different for all of us. But the reality is most driven leaders have trouble being ‘off’.
Put your email on auto-responder. Shut down the stuff that drains you. Turn your phone off, or at least turn off all the notifications.
And just be off.
4. Don’t overschedule
The week between Christmas and New Year’s can be a swap out of one kind of work for another, and you can run into the new year exhausted.
Even if you happen to be ‘off’, you can run yourself ragged with parties, family commitments and pressure.
We keep lots of white space on the calendar on purpose. To refuel, recharge and reconnect.
5. Do something fun!
Fun happens for me when I connect with the people closest to me, when I get exercise (biking in the summer, hiking and snowshoeing in the winter) and when I work on projects that are just recreational.
For me that sounds a bit weird, but it’s just true: I love writing, thinking through big issues I don’t spend enough time on and tackling new challenges. I’ve got a healthy dose of what’s fun for me (and us) on tap for the holidays. I also plan to outline a new book. Yep, for me, that’s fun.
I find when I do these things, my heart comes back more deeply engaged with God and with others.
My hope is that for those of you who are struggling, you get your joy back this Christmas.
If you suspect you might have a more serious case of burnout going on, make sure you don’t miss the resource guide Perry Noble and I prepared to help you recognize and work through burnout. Plus you’ll want to hear Perry’s story about how he recovered from burnout and even depression.
What do you do to recharge?
How do you avoid making your heart a casualty at Christmas?