by Wendy Kittlitz
Advent calendars, Christmas programs, children’s plays, staff gatherings, extended family obligations, Christmas Eve service(s), gifts to buy and wrap, and the list goes on. Feel exhausted yet?
We all know that Christmas is a busy season and it is no different for the pastor’s family. In fact in many pastoral households, the activity is even more intense than for the general population. Why?
Sometimes it is hard for those in ministry to set healthy boundaries and say “no” when you know that people have both legitimate needs as well as high expectations.
So, what are some ways to set those healthy boundaries? Here are a few recommendations:
- Sit down with your spouse (if you have one) and get out your calendars. Fill in the activities you consider the most crucial for you both personally as well as professionally. Is there a favourite fun family activity you have made (or want to make) a tradition? Kids’ school or extracurricular programs? Schedule those in!
- Add to your calendar some regular days off plus some extra time off between Christmas and New Year’s – you need and deserve that down time. Don’t hope it happens – put it on the calendar!
- Busy seasons must be managed! Last week, I had what has become my busiest week of the year at our office. I spent a lot of time planning for it, preparing my family that I would be minimally available for them and not taking on any additional responsibilities during this week. It was draining, but by putting all the necessary preparation behind it, I not only survived it but enjoyed all the activity and people interaction.
- Schedule in the time you will need to prepare for all of those crucial professional events – your study time for seasonal messages, the appearances you want to make at other church events, your personal Christmas card signing and shopping, etc.
- Try to maintain some margin each week for the unexpected, but necessary interruptions that are bound to happen, such as church family emergencies or last-minute needs from your own immediate and/or extended family.
- Say, “I am so sorry, but my calendar is full,” to the extra invitations that would be great to be part of but just don’t fall into the “necessary or crucial” buckets.
- Know that it is okay to not be at everything. Sometimes, one parent needs to go to one child’s event while the other goes to another. Other times, one staff pastor shows up at the seniors’ lunch while another goes to the youth event. While everyone would no doubt love you to be at everything, that is not realistic and we must be proactive about conveying that reality.
- Recognize that who you are is who you are. Some of us are extroverts and thrive on lots of people interaction, while others are introverts and find this incredibly draining. Many, many of the people I talk to who are in ministry are like me – functional extroverts but truly introverts at heart. What that means is that we re-energize by being alone. Build in some alone time during busy times! Trust me, you will need it.
- Take time daily to pause and be grateful for the real meaning of Christmas – that God has entered our world, bridged the chasm between heaven and earth, and invited us into His family.
- Remind people continually that, at the end of the day, that is all that matters.
The true miracle of Christmas is God with us. It is that God entered our world in human form, taking on flesh so that we might connect with Him in a way we were unable to before He did this. Pastor, just keep pointing us all back to this amazing truth: it is as simple and as profound as the coming of a baby.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)
Wendy Kittlitz is vice-president of counselling and care ministries for Focus on the Family Canada and executive director of Kerith Retreats. For more information about our retreats, visit Kerithretreats.ca
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