Pastors across America will take deep breath Sunday. Some will exhale slowly; others seemingly won’t exhale until New Year’s Day. This is because Advent starts Sunday.
Advent is a time to remember what happened to prepare for Jesus’ arrival. It also is the gateway to the pastoral pressure cooker of December.
“December Survival Guide for Pastors”
This Survival Guide comes from discussions with leaders who provide care for pastors. They all pointed out December’s hectic schedules and emotional weight triggers reactions. Pastors with “Messiah” complexes may feel compelled more than ever to carry their churches through the start of the New Year. Pastors with addictive personality traits are likely more driven into repetitive behaviors. Introverted pastors can become emotionally drained days or weeks before Christmas Eve.
Here are five ideas for surviving December drawn from professionals in caring for pastors.
Advent and Christmas are about your Messiah.
As a pastor you will spend a great deal of time this month sharing Jesus with others. You will spend a good deal of time assisting others in worshipping Jesus. Please remember: Jesus is also here for you this month. He is your Messiah, your Savior. The more deeply the Holy Spirit engrains this in you, the better you will handle December.
Protect your regular routine.
It is so easy to justify giving up your days off during December. It’s easy to skip workouts. It’s easy to stop hobbies. It’s only for a month. Do not fall to this temptation. Sacrificing your regular routine places you at greater risk for being overwhelmed as the month passes by. It makes it more difficult to serve well from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. December is for giving gifts to others, not stealing from yourself.
Create a calendar for the month with your family and church leaders.
The dawn of Advent is daunting. At first glance it seems like you’ll never get through the chaos. Lower the stress level by taking time this week to create a calendar for the month. Plug your regular schedule into the calendar. Then record your various special services and events. Once the calendar is done use it for listing tasks to get done next day or the next weekend.
Adopt your own Advent and Christmas family traditions.
When other families are opening gifts on Christmas Eve, you are preparing for worship or leading services. So create your own traditions. There are any number of ways to use Advent calendars and wreathes for family use. Your family could open one gift before Christmas Eve services starts, then open the rest on Christmas afternoon.
Recharge your batteries for 15 minutes when needed.
During most of the year there is flexibility in your time blocks. You may schedule two hours for sermon preparation each Tuesday morning, but you know 20 minutes will likely go to phone calls. In December time blocks are packed more tightly than Christmas presents. Adapt by taking 15 minutes to recharge your batteries when needed. Take a brisk walk. Take a nap. Call a friend. Call family. Just make sure the 15 minutes is not spent doing ministry and recharges you emotionally.
What tips do you have for December survival? Share them in the comments or with me via email.
6 thoughts on “December Survival Guide for Pastors”
How well I remember those days… and the kids were small and needed not only attention, but the rythems and routines of Advent and regular life. Thanks for this post. It still hits home to me and all who read your blog! Advent blessings!
Peter Meier 952-221-0362
Thank you for caring for us pastors! The whispers of the evil on are distinctly heard in pastor’s ears this time of year!
Ed, I appreciate your comment knowing how much you invest in ministry both inside and outside your congregation.
The justification for working overtime in the weeks leading up to Christmas is the fabled ‘week off’ between Christmas and New Years. It’s a nice theory but ministry and the needs of the congregation never seem to get that memo. My ‘week off’ last year was spent commuting between three different hospitals visiting members while my Senior was sidelined following knee surgery. Great post. It’s hard to shepherd the flock if we aren’t also stewards of our own health and sanity.