Leading Well During Ministry's 'Busy Season'
Each year, the holidays shepherd in the busiest season of ministry for church leaders. Pastors and church staff members tip the scale seeking to balance programming, new church visitors, and the call to serve those struggling this time of year. The multitude of items needing attention can make it difficult for many to pour into the role of leading a congregation while giving adequate attention to their families and selves. In my time as a pastor—and now working with many leaders around the world—I have found four themes that help shape my holiday priorities, despite the busy nature of the season.
Christmas is the same date each year, yet it often sneaks up on us. And if we’re not careful, we can even allow the season to sneak past us while we’re caught up in activities, even good activities, that accompany the season. I’ve learned to be intentional about slowing down and being present in the midst of the Christmas hustle and bustle for the sake of my family and my team. For my family, this looks like constantly reminding myself of the “why” behind the “what.” Why are we traveling? Why are we decorating the house and hosting friends? Why are we shopping for gifts? Questioning the intentions of our activities force us to slow down and rest in the purpose of the season. For my team, resting in the holiday season looks like creating time and space for us to participate in life-giving activities together. Whether it be an office gift exchange, a potluck lunch, or a couple days of working from home, I want to creatively make way for my team to feel as if they can slow down and rest, even at their workplace.
We can afford to rest because Christ empowers us to look back and remember that he has finished the work. Jesus’ eternity-shifting words on the cross, “it is finished”, put an end to our striving and searching for God. From his birth to his resurrection, let’s remember the work he did. When we focus on the implications of God giving us himself in the form of a child, we remember that this season is a time to recognize the gift of his son and the freedom we have in him. This act of remembering fuels our faith and joy in the midst of this holiday season. As a leader, I aim to intentionally invite my team to join me in the practice of remembering. It’s not enough to just create space to slow down. The resting must lead to remembering.
Once we remember all that we have been given in the gift of God, we can then give to others with a heart that overflows with thankfulness. Giving is often at the center of many churches’ and leaders’ holiday agendas, but one thing I have learned is that we must receive from the Lord before we can give with gratitude. Like a father who takes pleasure in seeing his son enjoy gifts from him, so does God take pleasure in seeing us joyfully and humbly receive from him. This season, receive the abundance God has for us in Christ, such as His grace, mercy, joy and peace.
Finally, accompany God in his mission of restoration and redemption by extending those God-given gifts to others. Many people experience a wide range of emotions during the holiday season, and it is easy to appeal to the joy of the holidays, but consider how you can help the hurting by giving your gifts away. I want to challenge my team by giving in a truly sacrificial way. Put simply, give in a way that hurts. It is easy and comfortable to give a materialistic gift to a friend, but aim to give the gift of grace to a family member that has hurt you, or give more time and energy to a struggling teammate. These more difficult acts of giving are often the root of restoration for a teammate, family member, or even yourself.
As you lead in the midst of the busyness that accompanies the holiday season, be sure to make much of Christ by resting with him, remembering what he’s done, receiving what he’s given, and restoring what he loves.