6 Ways to Prevent Christmas Ministry Fatigue
- Ava Pennington Crosswalk.com Contributor
- 2014 11 Dec
Question: What do ministry leaders at Christmas time and the prophet Elijah often have in common?
Answer: Ministry fatigue.
December is touted as a time of comfort and joy…unless you’re a pastor or ministry leader. Then it’s a time of over-stuffed schedules, seasonal pressures, and a sense of never quite being caught up.
Will the Christmas program please everyone?
Are the children being showcased enough for parents and grandparents to photograph in all their Christmas finery?
Will the gospel message touch the hearts of CEO (Christmas and Easter Only) attendees?
Will I do enough to satisfy everyone’s expectations for a perfect Christmas season?
Let’s face it. Christmas has been romanticized into a celebration of epic expectations. Thank Clement C. Moore’s poem and Hallmark’s movies for making the Savior’s birthday an extravaganza for Christians and secularists alike.
And ministry leaders are caught between a rock and a hard place. Don’t meet the expectations and disappoint families who will leave in search of the next spectacular celebration. Or meet the expectations and set the bar even higher for next Christmas.
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It’s no wonder many pastors and ministry leaders are tempted to respond to the month of December by echoing the prophet Jonah’s request: “Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live” (Jonah 4:3, NIV).
Of course, that’s an extreme response. So before you get to that point, let’s consider several ways to enjoy the beauty of the Christmas season and prevent ministry fatigue.
1. Take Care of Yourself
Sounds selfish, doesn’t it? It’s not. Taking care of yourself is biblical. We can’t serve God’s people if our energy is depleted. Eating right and getting enough sleep are not luxuries. Consider the example of Elijah. Discouraged, fearful, and fatigued, he responded much like Jonah: “‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life’” (1 Kings 19:4). Then he slept and ate, and slept and ate again. He needed strength for the task at hand. So do we.
2. Set Healthy Boundaries
As ministry leaders, we have a responsibility for the people God has given to us to serve. But we also have a responsibility to our families. When we consistently give to our ministry at the expense of our family, we are out of balance (Ephesians 5:25).
3. Maintain a High View of God
Our western culture has done a thorough job of reducing God to the role of a cosmic Santa Claus. Many people—even Christians—want to leave their “list” with God and wake up on Christmas morning with all their wishes fulfilled. But we do God’s people a disservice when we fail to uphold a high view of God. That means teaching all of God’s attributes, not just the ones that give folks a warm, fuzzy feeling. God is indeed loving, compassionate, and forgiving. But he is also holy, righteous and sovereign. Santa can’t begin to compare!
4. Take Responsibility for Only What God Holds You Responsible For
R. C. Sproul once said, “God has entrusted the ministry of the word to us, not its results.” It’s our job to rightly handle God’s word and minister to his people. Fruitful responses flowing from changed hearts are the responsibility of the Lord of the Harvest.
5. Extend Comfort as You Have Been Comforted
Hurting people hurt even more when everyone around them appears to have it together. There’s something about the Christmas season that exacerbates our pain as we watch other people with their apparent Hallmark happy endings. Often the pain rests just below the surface, barely contained and easily awakened. In order to minister to God’s people at this festive season, we need to first address our own hurts. As God touches us with his healing and comfort, we can then comfort others with the comfort we have received (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
6. Take Time to Enjoy the Beauty of the Season for Yourself!
Spend an hour driving around to see the lights. Attend a Christmas concert offered by a ministry other than your own. Better yet, watch a children’s Christmas production and savor the innocent praise offered to the Savior.
The Christmas season doesn’t have to consume us with stress and fatigue. By being intentional, we can ensure that the joy of the season infuses us with joy, too!
Ava Pennington teaches a Bible Study Fellowship class. She is also the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur.
Publication date: December 11, 2014