We all know when you are in ministry world you have to start thinking about Christmas a few days after you survive promotion Sunday. Our minds are always thinking ahead to the next thing. And Christmas is a biggie! So, now that your pastor has made the final call on the days and times of the Christmas Eve service, you’ve reviewed the curriculum, planned your volunteer Christmas party, planned a family Christmas night, scheduled an event to promote your missions emphasis for the month, set the date for everyone to help you decorate your space, and . . . you get the point—December is busy! And along with that busy you will find yourself asking more from your already very busy volunteers. So, how do we navigate the tension of serving our volunteers well during Christmas and yet desperately needing them to serve? Here are a few ideas:
You can never communicate too much during any given season of ministry but especially during the holidays. People have all-the-things coming at them during this time. Be clear about your needs, expectations and vision for the month. Clearly lay out the calendar all the way through New Year’s. Ask them to confirm or decline what they can be a part of early on so you have plenty of time to make sure your needs are covered.
After you host a meeting, then follow up with an email with the same details. You want to make sure people who missed the meeting have all the info too. And you want to make sure people who were at the meeting have a reminder.
The next Sunday, I would go over your plans one more time in your huddle meeting. (And maybe have it typed up to pass out too.) Over communicate.
In the midst of this busyness, take the time to celebrate these amazing volunteers! Make this a fun celebration that comes with no strings attached. This is not a volunteer training meeting with some fun on the side. This is just time to celebrate the gift that they are to you and your ministry. Make it fun. Sing Christmas Carols or Karaoke—depending on your ministry personality. Laugh. Give gifts. Shower them with thanks and inspiration. Show a recap video of the year. Have a child or family share the impact one small group leader made on them. Give them good food and lots of chocolate. Anything you can think of, do it for them this month!
Serving in December should come with some extra perks. Years ago I started catering a very nice dinner for everyone who served on Christmas Eve. It became the thing to do! In fact, so many people wanted to be a part of our dinner and serving that I had to turn people away. What a great problem to have!
Maybe step up your breakfast food on Sundays during huddle. Ask some mom’s to bring breakfast casseroles or make some homemade goodies. Not that your regular donuts aren’t great, but let’s step it up this month.
Involve their families in as much as possible. If you need your volunteers to go the extra mile in December, make those extra things not only fun, with bonuses, but also make ways that they can include their families. My kids and I always serve together on Christmas Eve. It is our way to give back. Even when they were in elementary school. our Christmas Eve services only had childcare for preschoolers which made it easy for them to come with me and help. And they loved it! Now they are teenagers who serve on Sundays. I think their little taste of serving on Christmas Eve was what first peaked their interest.
Above all else, give your volunteers grace. Heaps of grace! They may not be able to help you with everything you need them for during December. They are real people with really busy lives. If they call to tell you they are out two weekends in December and can’t do anything more during the month, respond with nothing but love, grace and a “Merry Christmas.” How we treat our volunteers when we aren’t benefitting from their willingness to serve says more about us than them.
Remember, God knows your needs. None of this catches Him by surprise. Commit all of your holiday plans to prayer, above all else. Trust Him to guide you through the month and ask Him to give you joy during this busy season.
Now, go turn on your Christmas music and get busy planning!