The hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season doesn’t just pertain to shopping. Ministry work seems to get kicked up a notch between October and February. We have Fall Festivals, Hallelujah Nights, Trunk or Treats, Thanksgiving events, Christmas services, New Year’s services, and new families coming to jump-start their faith journeys this year. With all of these moments that are scrunched together by calendars, how can we make sure to protect our family time?
Establish your family time early in the season and protect it. Your family will probably be invited to various worship services, gatherings, performances, and other events but if you say “yes” to all of those you might be saying “no” your family time. Family time is important and it is easy to overlook and say, “Well, I’m with my family at these events.” But the truth of the matter is that when you are in ministry, and you go to an event, most times we are working even if we are not in charge of the event itself. There are impromptu conversations. People we have to meet. And various other things that take us away from focusing on our kids and spouses. Design your family schedule for the season. Decide how many invites you’re going to accept. When that number is reached, don’t add to the family calendar by saying “yes” to more things. Your family will thank you for the extra cocoa and movie time they get to spend with you at home.
Turn the dial up on family time and the dial down on work time. There will be days this season you will have off. On those days make sure that your phone is off, your email is off, and maybe even your social media is off. Don’t worry, you can post your holiday pics later! When we stay connected to work, and notifications pop up on our phones, it is easy to get distracted. We say “this will only take a second” but then we’ve gone through five emails that could have waited for an answer until we returned. If you have not done so but you can, establish an emergency call number for people to contact someone should an emergency arise. Put this process in place and let it work for you. Give God room to work everything else out while you prioritize this time at home.
Traditions make things memorable and fun. Keep the old ones and take the opportunity to establish new ones. One of our favorite traditions is doing gingerbread houses on Thanksgiving weekend. Over the years, we’ve done this in a variety of ways but it all amounted to the same thing. We spent more time together, ate more candy and icing than we put on the gingerbread house, and shared memories that would last a lifetime. Traditions pull us closer and create stories to keep our families close over time. They also provide encouragement when the to-do list of the holiday season gets a little long. Allow the traditions to be an occasion to slow down and treasure the moments that will inevitably be over with the change of the season.
Even with all of these good intentions, there is one thing that can keep us from focusing on our family during this holiday season . . . things being undone for the families that will be coming to our churches. If you are finding yourself behind the eight-ball, and the holidays are fast approaching, it might be worth it to cut off everything that is not urgent and important and focus on getting the necessary things done. Schedule out the elective things for after January. Delegate tasks out to your team members—maybe even volunteers who want to help out a little more this season. And remove the distractions that will keep you from checking those “must do” items off your list. In reality, Sundays are always coming, the holidays are here, and it is difficult to focus on your family when you’re wondering if everything for your church’s families is done.
The holiday season comes once a year and it is a fantastic opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime. Treasure the moments with your family and friends. Protect your downtime. While you might give your family members any number of thoughtful gifts, they will enjoy none of them as much as your undivided time.