I remember the first Christmas that I was on church staff in Tennessee. All of our family was back in Mississippi and it also just happened to be a Christmas that fell on Sunday. We were young and had only been married a few years. We didn’t have any children at the time, but it was very lonely. Abbey and I love Christmas and it was hard being away from family. Most of our friends had things to do with their families.
I almost can remember counting the seconds until the invitation time came that Sunday morning and we quickly left once all of the kids had been picked up from Extended Care. We began our 7-hour long trek to Mississippi starving as no restaurants were open. We finally found a fast food restaurant we both loathe and we begrudgingly ate our hamburgers. We knew things would be even more difficult when we had children.
For many of you, your family is far from the location in which God has called you to serve. Here are some ideas I would encourage you to consider as celebrate this Christmas season and feel the pull between your family and your ministry.
- Involve your children as much as possible, but don’t exhaust them. It’s a common task for the children’s minister to arrange childcare during this season. Some are just required to arrange childcare for the extra services, some have to find childcare for the extra services AND the extra choir rehearsals, but there are even some who have to arrange childcare for the adult Sunday School parties! If you find these responsibilities to be a part of your job, you know how difficult this task is. If you have to be at all of these services, plan ways to involve your kids without making them resentful. Try to find a way for your kids to be able to stay home some and not have to be at the church for hours. If you have to bring your kids with you, try to set up a fun room where just they can hang out. And always stop at McDonald’s on the way and get them a happy meal. Show them that they are special to you.
- Plan a Christmas outing just for them. I know, I’m suggesting that you plan yet another event. This one is different. It is just for your family. Make it as special as you have time and money. One of my fears for kids of ministers is that they will begin to resent some of the most sacred times in the church because of the required work that their parents have to do. Maybe rent a limo and take your family to look at Christmas lights. Give them an early gift. Help them to know that amidst all of the hustle and bustle of ministry, that you recognize their sacrifice.
- Take time off. If you are like me, as much as you love Christmas, you are ready to get it all put away after Christmas. It’s tempting to go into the office on those slow days after Christmas and get all reset for the New Year. If your church offices are open the week following Christmas, I would highly encourage you to take vacation time. Don’t go into the office. Don’t check emails. Be present for your family. It will all be OK, I promise.
- Enjoy Christmas Festivities. After weeks of planning childcare and being at the church, it might be tempting to just duck out to your office during the choir performances, candlelight carols, and hot cocoa parties. Make an effort to enjoy these events with your family. Be a church member.
Jeff Land is Publishing Team Leader for Bible Studies For Life: Kids. He holds a BSW from Mississippi College and a MACE from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jeff has served as children’s pastor and currently teaches second graders each week at his church. Jeff, his wife Abbey, and their four sons live in Coopertown, TN.