the shape of leadership

Finding Balance During the Holidays

Five questions to ask about your schedule

The holidays are a great time of celebration. They present opportunities to enjoy time with friends and family, and at Christmas we can refocus our attention on the coming of Jesus. Like Mary, we have an opportunity to treasure the moment and reflect on the significance of the season’s meaning (Luke 2:19).

But the holidays also bring a certain amount of chaos to our schedules. A pastor’s life can become especially hectic during the holidays. We often feel obligated to increase our pace and meet the demands others place on us. We can become trapped by traditions that make our calendars overwhelming and overly complicated.

So, how do we navigate our holiday schedules? Start by asking five questions.

1. Is my holiday schedule sensitive to our community? Every community has a schedule of its own, which is often dictated by school calendars, large employers, or major events hosted by the city. Before you complicate your personal calendar (or that of the church), first check your community’s list of activities.

If you schedule activities that compete with those already happening in your community, not only do you send the wrong message, but you will probably experience a less than stellar response to your church’s events. In the end, much time, energy and resources are spent on an activity with little impact.

2. Is our church’s holiday schedule prioritizing a Christmas outreach? Christmas is obviously a moment when many people return to church or visit in a long while — perhaps for the first time ever. It’s one of the easiest times of the year to reach nonbelievers. Therefore, what we schedule should lend itself to evangelizing new people.

Yes, you can schedule plenty of holiday parties and fun activities, but none of these should rob your church of the time, energy, and resources needed to put its very best foot forward to reach people at Christmas.

If Christmas services are the best tool to reach your community this holiday season, then protect your schedule from activities inhibiting the ability to create a great worship experience.

We can become trapped by traditions that
make our calendars overwhelming and overly complicated.

3. Is my schedule unnecessarily complex? Christmas is naturally a busy season. Even if you didn’t schedule a single activity, service, or event, somebody else will — and they’ll invite you to be a part of it. However, there’s no rule that says you have to make the calendar so complex.

Take an honest look at your schedule (personally and congregationally) and ask yourself, Is this really necessary? What value will it truly add? In addition, set some boundaries for what you’ll say “yes” to this Christmas. Invites don’t equal obligations. In other words, an invitation to a Christmas party doesn’t rob you of the ability to say “no.”

4. Is my holiday schedule taking the joy out of Christmas? How many times have you heard someone declare, “I hate Christmas”? They’re usually not saying, “I hate the meaning of Christmas.” Instead, they’re lamenting the hectic and costly craziness the Christmas season has become.

Simply put, the meaning of the holiday is often replaced by the mayhem of Christmas, and joy is the casualty.

To stay focused on the joy of Christmas during the festive season, I often include a related devotional in my time with the Lord. It helps me begin each day by focusing on why Jesus came, and it usually offers a fresh perspective on Christmas that I haven’t considered before.

If you’re going to counter the craziness at Christmastime, you need some helpful rhythms to calm your calendar and focus attention on what matters most.

5. Is my schedule allowing time for recovery? Even when you implement helpful measures to reduce the stress on your holiday schedule, it’s still going to be busier than normal. That’s OK. Remember, it’s a season. You just have to make sure that season doesn’t turn into a long-term cycle of calendar chaos.

To help me recover, I always take off the last week of the year (sometimes longer). It’s a great time to relax, sleep in, spend time with family, and slow my pace. We also don’t schedule New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day events at the church. This recovery season gives me find the margin to recharge as the new year begins.

I’m sure there are other questions you could ask to help manage your holiday schedule, but the above will be a good start. And even if your calendar is already packed, it may not be too late to pull back or make a mid-course correction.

Finally, if you’re about to do some 2022 calendar planning, take these questions into consideration now so that you can reshape what the future holds. You will likely be glad this time next year.

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