The Christmas/New Year’s season is incredibly busy if you are a pastor or ministry leader. Not only are there special church programs and services, but December is also a full month for outreach, weddings, school events…and all while you are wrapping your mind around planning and casting vision for a new year.
It can be easy to put your family in the back seat—or at least on autopilot—as you prepare, preach, and work to focus forward.
Some people even go so far as to suggest that ministry and family don’t mix. This is something our four adult Children who are serving the Lord disagree with, but that is in a large part due to Terrie’s work through the years to seize Christmas and New Years as memory-making times.
It is true, however, that you do need to be intentional about making the holiday season special for your family even in the midst of such busyness.
What can you do to make this “most wonderful time of the year” wonderful for your children as well?
- Be available. The church can get another pastor, but your children can’t get an interim dad. Answer their calls, give them access to your study, respond to their “Dad, Dad, Dad” excitement when you come home. Make sure they know you are there for them.
- Enjoy the extra ministry opportunities as a family.Just because the month is busy, doesn’t mean that you have to go separate directions in your busyness. Are you doing extra soulwinning this month for a Christmas program? Do it as a family. Do you have extra follow up visits from church guests? Take one of your children with you. Do you have weddings to conduct? Ask your daughter to be your date at the reception. You can’t include your children in every December activity (like sermon study), but include them where you can.
- Celebrate ministry victories as a family. When you get home from the Christmas Eve service, don’t check out. Share hot chocolate and Christmas cookies as a family, and share in the blessings of the service. Approach these extra services as something you get to do as a family, not as something Dad has to do.
- Plan a “Family Christmas Day” in December. It’s not inconceivable that you may only have one full day off in December. Make it big. (And by “big,” I don’t mean expensive—just thoughtful and planned.) Plan activities that all of your children will enjoy, and protect that day on the calendar.
- Give the gift of anticipation.When you are putting in long weeks and pulled multiple directions, don’t act like a guilty dad and keep apologizing to your children for how busy the ministry keeps you. Instead, carve out a few times on the calendar, and tell your children to look forward to them. They will enjoy the anticipation much more than apologies.
- Make family memories.Every year that you purposefully invest in your family through the holidays builds a bank of memories in your children’s hearts. If you create strong family traditions—such as “Family Christmas Day,” hot chocolate after the Christmas Eve service at church, breakfast in bed on January 1st—it won’t matter that some of these are built around ministry. If they are memory-making moments, they will not be activities your children dread, but reasons for them to look forward to the holidays.
Ministry and family do not have to be incompatible. Not even at Christmastime. Not any time of the year.