By Chuck Lawless
The Christmas season is upon us. Despite all the fun of this holiday, this time of year can also be difficult for pastors. Here are several reasons why:
1. The season feels like it goes on for too long.
Culture contributes to that feeling, of course, when shopping malls start decorating for Christmas just after Halloween.
Churches do it, though, when we practice for presentations for months, plan the Christmas Eve service months in advance, etc. All of that’s important – it just makes the season seem long.
2. The season is non-stop, it seems.
The events are numerous, and the expectations are high. Small group parties to attend. Personal invitations from church members. Senior adult luncheons. Student ice-skating parties. An occasional Christmas wedding.
To say “no” to any of these seems out of order, but to say “yes” to all of them can lead to burnout.
3. Family time can be sidelined.
At a time when being with family is so important, it’s easy to spend all our time getting ready for the week-before-Christmas sermon, the Christmas Eve message, etc.
Even Christmas Eve sometimes requires more focus on the church service than on our own family. Our families often take note when they see us minister more to others than to them.
4. The needs around us are often more emphasized.
Like perhaps at no other time during the year, pastors and church leaders are confronted by community needs. Hunger. Homelessness. Poverty. Hungry and hurting children.
When we see the needs at Christmas time, we realize how little we typically do the rest of the year.
5. Christmas sermons sometimes feel stale.
We know the Word itself is never stale, but it feels that way when we’re looking for new and exciting ways to tell the Christmas story again.
Simply pulling out last year’s sermon seems inadequate, but finding a new approach seems almost impossible.
6. The season can give rise to controversial issues.
Somebody questions whether Christians should celebrate Christmas on December 25 – or at all. Another complains about “pagan” Christmas trees in the sanctuary.
Somebody else rails against the expensive Christmas pageant, and still another doesn’t like the staff receiving a Christmas bonus. Every complaint robs a pastor of one more ounce of Christmas joy.
7. Visitors show up on Christmas, but a lot of people leave town also.
It’s great to see new folks (some that we haven’t seen since last Christmas), but it’s also sometimes discouraging when the overall crowd is lower because of traveling church members.
8. The holiday is not a holiday for everyone to whom we minister.
Some hurt because a recently deceased loved one is not celebrating Christmas with them this year. Others grieve because a son or daughter has been deployed in war – or perhaps is simply estranged from the family. Many are just lonely.
What should be a joyous time of year is actually painful for some, and we’re called to minister to them, too.
Pastors, what would you add to this list?
CHUCK LAWLESS (@CLawlessJr) serves as Vice President for Spiritual Formation and Dean of Doctoral Studies at Southeastern Seminary. Read more for Dr. Lawless at www.chucklawless.com and at ThomRainer.com, where this post originally appeared.