One Big, Happy Family: Making the Holiday Season Enjoyable for Your Staff

christmas-554720_640Before I offer some practical ways to make the holidays enjoyable for ministry families, allow me to say that this is written primarily to help and encourage the pastor’s wife as she seeks to develop strong bonds with the wives of the men who serve alongside her husband. These “family” ties will be vital to the success of the ministry. Though your husband bears the majority of the responsibility for leading the staff, you can play a key role in helping the wives be active, excited participants in the many ministries of the church. As these ladies find their “niche” in the service of the church, their husbands will be uplifted and encouraged. This will, in turn, be a blessing to your husband; and, therefore, the entire ministry will benefit. For you, personally, these ladies can be the ones who stand beside you in the trenches: putting in long hours to prepare for special events, offering encouraging words or a shoulder to cry on when the spiritual battles overwhelm you, and standing with you when the critics come out of the shadows and seek to destroy you and your family. Some of the practical ideas here are not original to me: they were shared by my friends in ministry who have been on the receiving end of the blessings. Others are ideas that I have already practiced in our years in ministry and would like to incorporate again when the Lord allows me to become a pastor’s wife. Some of these thoughts will be wellsuited for smaller ministries; others will be more easily applied in larger ministries with larger budgets. Some will require a financial investment; others will take only your time. The key theme is this: build relationships with your staff wives!! Love on them, and let them know that you appreciate the part they play in the ministry where God has called you both to serve. If you take the time to invest in them, you will reap great rewards; and you might just make some of the best friends you can have on this side of Heaven!

I love this time of year – the decorations, music, food, and time spent with family and friends! For me, the fun starts when fall begins! The cool Indiana weather changes the leaves to colorful hues of red, orange, and yellow and sets the stage for harvest parties, bonfires, and walks in the crisp, fresh air. Thanksgiving comes next, as families gather to reflect upon God’s goodness. (Our yearly tradition includ
es fried turkey and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pies, and LOTS of sweet potatoes, cooked to taste more like dessert than a savory side dish!) Often, before Thanksgiving is even over, the Christmas decorations come out and the music begins playing. The next few weeks are spent shopping for and wrapping gifts; attending Christmas parties, recitals, and music programs at church and school; preparing and serving food; and enjoying the company of family and friends.

For many in pastoral ministry, the holidays can bring an additional level of stress, as they must juggle their normal ministry responsibilities, as well as the planning, set-up, and clean-up of seasonal performances or outreach efforts and their own family events and traditions. It is easy to find oneself saying, “If I can just get through {insert important church event}, then I can breathe and have fun during the holidays.” I believe, however, that it is possible for pastoral staff to enjoy the activities of the holiday season, rather than just endure them. The key to this difference in perspective is a positive, friendly, “family” atmosphere that can be achieved by incorporating some of the following ideas:

  • Host a staff Christmas party in your home. You do not have to provide all the food – make it a “pitch-in” (or “potluck” for my Southern friends). Play games, sing Christmas carols, and just enjoy the time getting to know each other better!
  • Give each staff family a personal Christmas card from you and your family.
  • Make a basket of homemade goodies. If there is something you really enjoy making for your family at the holidays, make a little extra and put it their baskets (cookies, fudge, apple butter, peanut brittle, peppermint bark, banana bread, popcorn balls, chocolate-dipped pretzels, etc.)!
  • Host a Christmas party for the staff kids. Purchase a small gift for each child just from you and your husband. Sing songs, play games, and share favorite Christmas memories with them. You could combine this with a “Parent’s Night Out.” While the children are having their party, send the parents out on a date night! If the church budget allows, give each of them a gift card to their favorite restaurant or cash to pay for their meal at a restaurant of their choice.
  • Make homemade Christmas ornaments for each family. These can be personalized with their names or the year you gave them.
  • Write a note to each staff lady to let her know that you appreciate the work she does to support her husband and the areas of ministry that he is responsible for.
  • Put together a “Family Fun Kit” for them to use on one of their evenings at home. Include thing like popcorn, packages of hot cocoa, marshmallows, candy canes, a card game (like Uno or Dutch Blitz), or a family-friendly movie.
  • If they have young children, offer to babysit on an off-night or weekend so that the couple can do their Christmas shopping together! If you have young children, too, you could ask if she would be willing to do the same for you one night.
  • Sit with her during special programs at church or pair up with her for special outreach events. Let her (and her children) see you enjoying their company.
  • Invite the staff adults to join you and your husband at a Christmas lighting ceremony, special symphony performance, or something else unique to your area. Arrange childcare for the children using older teens or college students.
  • Load up all the staff families in a church van (or bus, depending on how many of you there are) and go Christmas caroling at the homes of shut-ins, widows, or other special “Senior Saints.” When you return, serve hot chocolate, coffee, or a holiday punch.
  • Enlist the help of these ladies in a special ministry project that interests you! While you are working together, spend some time chatting about your interests, goals, dreams, etc., as well as asking about theirs.

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but I hope that it has given you some ideas! Do you have more? I would love to hear your input about this subject! Feel free to leave a comment below or on my Facebook page! Have a very Merry Christmas!!

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