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By Michael Lewis
The holiday season is one of my favorite times of year. I
love the opportunities it brings to spend time with my family and friends,
enjoying good fellowship and good food in the process.
And to top it all off, we get to celebrate the birth of our
Savior. It’s truly an amazing time.
As a pastor for the last 25 years, I am extremely grateful
and appreciative of being part of loving church families. But I have to admit that
the holidays can also be a busy and stressful time for those in ministry
leadership. You’ve got musicals, Christmas parties, dinners, family
engagements, ministry outreach efforts, a sermon to put together each week and
possibly a Christmas Eve worship service to prepare for one of the two highest
attended gatherings of your church year.
I’ve made my share of mistakes during the holiday seasons
and I’ve also learned some things in the process. Here are a few of the
practices that have helped me have a more fruitful and rejuvenating holiday
you don’t have to go through the stressful holiday season alone. If you need
someone to talk with, please consider calling our new SBC Pastoral Care Line at
844-PASTOR1. It’s completely confidential and free to
I hope you have a great holiday season as you celebrate
the birth of our Lord.
Michael Lewis (@pastor4pastors)
serves as the North American Mission Board’s executive director of pastoral
care and development.
Margin, exercise critical for pastors during busy, stressful holiday seasonSend Network | Pastors for Pastors
Date Created: 11/24/2014 1:42:56 PM
By Tobin Perry
GALLATIN, Tenn. -- Miss a Sunday
School Christmas party, lose a church member. That’s a lesson 25-year ministry
veteran Larry Yarborough refused to concede to when confronted by a typically
well-adjusted church member who left the church after Yarborough missed a
Sunday School Christmas party.
“And here’s the thing—He fully
expected me to know why he wasn’t at the church,” said Yarborough (@yarbdaddy), pastor of First Baptist Church of Gallatin. “I had no idea why he hadn’t been to church. I called him
and asked. He said, ‘Well, you just wasn’t good enough to come to my Christmas
Though the interaction may sound
ridiculous to some, for many pastors it’s a reality—and a large contributor to
turning what should be one of the most festive times of the year into one of
the tensest for ministry leaders. Besides preparing for some of the most
anticipated worship services of the year, overseeing expanded Christmas
outreach and musical efforts and counseling an increased number of people
facing specific holiday issues, pastors typically must juggle numerous last-minute
invitations to Christmas parties. That’s all on top of a typically expanded
family calendar during the season.
“While all of those ministry
opportunities are fantastic, they add stress to a pastor’s life,” said Rob
Futral (@robfutral), pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church
in Madison, Miss. “It takes additional energy that a pastor sometimes doesn’t
have. I think about Jesus, when the woman touched Him and the crowd was all
around Him, but He knew some energy had left Him. I certainly feel that during
the holidays when I’m giving of myself. The holiday season is life-giving but
with all the expectations and stress, it can be life-taking for pastors as
Michael Lewis, the North American
Mission Board’s executive director
for pastoral care and development, says it’s a pastor’s family that often takes the brunt of
these additional holiday stresses.
“I think for a pastor, margins
are critical,’ said Lewis (@pastor4pastors).
“I say that out of pain. This is an area I struggled with, particularly when
our girls were young. I think a pastor needs to give himself the opportunity to
say no to some of these demands.”
Lewis reminds pastors who need
someone to talk with in the midst of holiday stress that NAMB has set up a free
and confidential care line for Southern Baptist pastors through a partnership
on the Family. To access the care
line, pastors can call 1-844-PASTOR1. The line is open to all Southern Baptist
ministers, missionaries, chaplains and their spouses.
Financial overextension can be
another contributor to pastoral stress during the holidays. Jared Pingleton,
who serves as the director of the counseling team for Focus on the Family, says
while the organization doesn’t typically see a large uptick in the number of
calls to their pastor care line during the holidays, they do see an increase
during the middle of January when credit card bills arrive.
“Our culture sets us up that we’re supposed to get all of this stuff—this materialistic [overindulgence],” Pingleton said. “There is nothing psychologically healthy about that. That sets us up for disappointment and failure."
Pingleton also notes that church
expectations related to the cheerfulness of pastors and their families during
the holidays can be an additional factor.
“There’s no expectation in June
or July to be happy—it’s only during Jesus’ birthday that we have this cultural
expectation,” Pingleton said. “We take everything away from His birthday, and
we put everything else on our emotional state—our entitled indulgence, our
romantic fulfillment, our materialist satisfaction and our extended family
harmony. What a quintuple whammy! It sets us up for disappointment.”
While the reality that pastors
face additional stress throughout the holiday season may be beyond reasonable
debate, spiritual leaders have a variety of tools to deal with the stress.
Yarborough believes exercise plays a critical role as a natural way to relieve
stress. Lewis and Yarborough also urge pastors to set a limit on holiday
parties—one area of a pastor’s Christmas calendar where there is flexibility.
Yet they both say that decision carries its own potential landmines.
“We set a limit on how many
Christmas parties we can go to in a year,” Yarborough said. “We’ll go to
three—maybe four—a year and maybe even none. And honestly, I can really catch
it for that.”
Lewis tells pastors not only to set
limits but also to call ahead of time when you can’t make an event. Make sure
your absence is clearly communicated. He also recommends trying to find a
retired pastor or a director of missions to lead a church’s Christmas Eve
service every third year or so. This practice will allow a pastor’s family to
attend out-of-town family gatherings and participate in normal Christmas
“The whole reason for Christmas
is so we can celebrate the life that God gives us in Christ,” Futral said. “You
have to start with what’s most important. Make that your priority and then add
the other things after that.”
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board.
Beating holiday stressSend Network | Pastors for Pastors
Date Created: 11/24/2014 1:32:32 PM
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®© Copyright 2014 North American Mission Board, SBC