By Maina Mwaura
My three-year-old daughter confronted me a few Christmases ago.
She let me know how she felt I was never home, and she was afraid I was going to miss Santa Claus’ visit. Her words came from a purity of heart, yet they stung me—quite badly.
My daughter was only saying what she felt—that I wasn’t engaged with my family during the most wonderful season of the year.
As ministers, it can be hard to enjoy the holiday season as busy schedules and added responsibilities add up and demand more of our time and mind. Between the parties, musicals, and services it can be hard to realize we’re also called to enjoy the season, especially with our family.
Experience in ministry through many holiday seasons has taught me to truly enjoy the season. Here are four strategies I use to that end.
1. Plan ahead
I struggle with this. But I’ve learned that when I do plan ahead, it’s amazing how I can stick to it.
At my first church, I worked for a wonderful pastor who insisted that at the start of each year you should block out time for your family and self-renewal days. While it took me a few years to do the work of planning, when I did, I realized my family knew that it was something that I was taking seriously.
So I encourage you right now, before the season even begins, to stop and block off time to set aside for yourself and your family.
2. You’re going to disappoint some people
My childhood pastor, Jim Henry, recently reminded me that in church life there are more members than there are you, and this you won’t meet everyone’s expectations—no matter what you do.
There’s no way that you’re going to make every Christmas party or get-together. Even when it comes to your church events it’s okay to empower others to lead. You’ll find that when you do empower other people you can give your best to your family, and the church Christmas activities you prioritize for yourself.
Another important thing along these lines to remember is that “no” is more than OK; it’s often necessary.
One of the best things we can do for ourselves and our family schedules during the Christmas season is to say no to those functions that may overtake our family schedule. When you say “yes” you need to fully understand what you will be giving up as a result.
3. Have fun
My daughter is now six and for the last two years, we’ve made it a family Christmastime tradition to ride the “Pink Pig” at our local mall. Although the Christmas season has yet to start, she’s already talking about how much fun it’ll be when we go again this year.
Sure, we have work to do, and I know life isn’t all fun and games, but life isn’t all about just doing ministry, either. Remember the first ministry we should place before the church is to serve is to our family.
Take time for reflecting on the past year and for the upcoming new year. Every year in this season I ask God to give me a word for next year. My word this past year was “thankful.” I find it amazing how much that word has permeated every part of my life.
However, I would have never gotten that word had I not slowed down and rested, and asked God for that word. I’ve learned to love slowing down during this time of the year—to pray and reflect, and look back at what God has done and to dream about what He is going to do.
MAINA MWAURA is a freelance journalist and minister who lives in the Atlanta area with his wife, Tiffiney, and daughter Zyan.