One sacred Christmas tradition is to attend your church’s Christmas Eve service or Midnight Mass. Sanctuaries are usually packed to the brim with out-of-town guests and people who only attend church for religious holidays. Extra services are often added to accommodate. Your church’s leadership team may feel profound pressure to produce “the best” show possible, in an effort to welcome new guests into weekly congregational fellowship.
While you may personally feel spiritually enriched by these services, they require your pastoral team to work very hard to curate these worship experiences. On a day that’s usually designated for celebration and rest, your pastor may feel incredibly burdened by the pressure.
While pastors grasp that working on religious holidays is a standard requirement of the job, they would likely still appreciate thoughtful recognition of the sacrifices they’re making. Here’s a few ways that you can honor and celebrate your pastors on Christmas:
Acknowledge and Thank Them
The most obvious way to support your pastors is to simply thank them for their work. Specifically, call-out that you see the sacrifices they’re making on holidays and that it means so much to you. After the service, they may be inundated with conversations and tasks, so you can keep your thank you brief, allowing them time to do whatever else needs to be done.
The most obvious way to support your pastors is to simply thank them for their work.
Consider texting, emailing or messaging them on social media as well. A quick buzz on their phone that reminds them that “you’re doing an incredible job and we appreciate you” can be very energizing.
Give them a Gift
As you’re embarking on your holiday shopping, consider adding your clergy to your list. Many people open their presents on Christmas Eve, but this isn’t possible for those who must work. Giving them a thoughtful gift to open while at church may be incredibly touching.
On Christmas and Easter, most ministers feel that the stakes are particularly high. There are more eyes on them than normal. Many in the crowd don’t attend church regularly and they may feel a strong pressure to share the gospel with attendees who may not yet be believers. They may also hope to grow their weekly attendance by attracting in new members from the visitors.
Given the circumstances, they may feel particularly vulnerable to criticism while under the pressure. If you have a critique of the service, ask yourself “how big of an issue is this?” Consider if they’ll truly benefit from this feedback? If you still feel that you need to provide feedback to them, try to embody supreme grace. Don’t just email it off, the tone can be misinterpreted. Share it warmly, face-to-face. Refrain from the conversation until after Christmas, so they’re not mulling over a work issue on the holiday.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Christ reminds us that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” You never know the ways that God’s moving in the hearts of those who heard a message from your pastor at Christmas. Even if he or she revealed any weaknesses during their time in front of the congregation, it’s through grace that Christ can move powerfully. Try to embody that same grace in your judgments about how you think the service should have gone.
Support Sabbaticals and Comp Time
If you have influence over your church’s elder board, deacon board or other governing bodies, consider ways to generously support your pastoral team’s mental health. Church leaders work long weekend hours and also dedicate many of their evenings to church programming. Can you be a fierce protector of the time that your pastors have off? 40-hour workweeks and 8-hour workdays can fall to the wayside when people feel a heavy burden to carry church programming, but your pastors will be of no service to the congregation if they burn out and quit.
Sabbaticals are a powerful benefit that some churches offer their leaders. If you don’t have a sabbatical policy in place, can you encourage its formation? Alternatively, if your church offers sabbaticals, help support a culture that celebrates when the leadership actually takes advantage of this important offering.
Your church needs all the help it can get during hectic holiday services. Consider volunteering to help guide parking, watch children, set-up/tear-down or whatever else may be needed. Even if you aren’t in an official volunteer capacity, be on the lookout for ways to help. Clean trash without being asked. Help orient people who seem a little lost. Work to be a blessing to others during a day that can be particularly stressful. Come with a joyful heart and help to spread a little more Christmas cheer!