With the busy swing of Christmas in the church world comes an annual reminder to all pastors that tending to your immediate family and your church family is quite the balancing act. While many people look forward to traditions and the sweet moments of the season, pastors go into “full-steam-ahead” mode. 

There are special services, new guests, and long hours to cover. And while you likely find joy in the many extra opportunities to reach and serve the lost in this season, it’s ok to admit the challenge as well. Pastoral ministry plus personal family ministry is not always an easy equation. 

And while we’re at it, let’s debunk the “balance” myth that seems to be an ever-present, yet unattainable goal. It is rare (if possible at all) to find a pastor who has perfectly balanced hours for all of life’s priorities. Pastoral ministry comes with seasons. Learning to navigate those seasons well is the key to a healthy life when it comes to “balance.”

Here are five, practical tips you can be encouraged by today as you spend healthy family and ministry time during the holidays!

  1. Set your calendar, and stick to your commitments.
    Everything has a season. This is true in ministry as well. Christmas, for example, will not be a slow season as long as you’re a pastor. It’s the time when activities and special services ramp up! It’s a big highlight for your church, and it’s a huge time of serving and giving. As you consider what a healthy pace in your family life looks like, be intentional to know the season you’re entering.

    It might not be realistic to say you’re going to have a family game night every night in December, but what time can you intentionally commit to? Maybe it’s a set-aside night where your family will read the Christmas story together. Maybe you reserve one Friday for watching a movie together. Perhaps you make it a priority to always be available for your kids’ Christmas programs.

    Intentionally map out your calendar, write it down, share it with your spouse, and then stick to your commitments. When your expectations are set before the busy season hits, you’re setting yourself and your family up for success.

  2. Be fully engaged where you are.
    As you plan ahead and intentionally schedule your time, it should allow you to be fully present wherever you are. If you’re spending a family night at home, it’s family night. Be intentional with your conversation and your attention. This isn’t the time to verbally process the stressful board meeting you just attended or worry about next week’s attendance. It’s time for family conversation and quality time.

    You will likely find extra refreshment by setting these kinds of boundaries. The next time you get to your ministry work, you’ll come with a renewed perspective and rest.

  3. Invite your family into the busy ministry season.
    When ministry is a way of life, there is a difference between “always working” and inviting your family into ministry. What events, serving projects, and other church functions can you invite your family to be a part of so you can get the best of ministry plus quality family time? One mistake pastors make is assuming you have to keep the two separate at all times.

    Christmas brings a beautiful opportunity for your kids to see what it looks like to serve people well. Invite them to participate, to lead with you, and to find their own gifts in serving.
  4. Don’t neglect the Sabbath.
    It’s interesting how pastors can neglect their own spiritual health in the season with the highest potential and reach at church. More than ever, you—pastor—need Jesus. You need spiritual wisdom. You need inspiration from the LORD. Do not neglect Sabbath. Do not forget to soak in God’s Word and stop to listen to His voice.

    In a season where multiple voices are competing for your attention, all the more reason to intentionally stop and listen for God’s.

  5. Be willing to let go of time wasters.
    As you anticipate a busy season of Christmas activity, both with family and church family, it’s time to be honest with the time wasters in our schedules. It can be difficult to say “no” to opportunities that come along, but be intentional this Christmas to commit to the important “yes”s before you fill your schedule with busyness.

    Even if it’s not a “waste of time,” it’s ok if you don’t attend every party. It’s ok if you’ve empowered a staff member to fully run a church function. Letting go of responsibility can free up your schedule to stick to the priorities you need to invest in, and it can allow for leadership growth in your team!

Have a Merry Christmas this year! And be intentional with your family as well as your ministry during this holiday season.