You may not know this if you’ve never been on a church staff (or married to someone who is), but the holidays can be an especially stressful time for pastors and everyone else on the team.
I’m writing this blog because a girlfriend recently said to me,
Susan, you’re a pastor’s wife. Have you ever written a blog about caring for families like yours during the holidays? I think you should. It’s important.”
Now my friend is not herself a pastor or a pastor’s wife. She simply has a tender heart for others.
A few weeks ago my husband John and I attended a small retreat for pastors. Most of them were young, had young children, and were in small churches or starting churches. I was touched by their passion, commitment, and courage in this hard season. I was also moved by how very much they and their wives need encouragement!
For the past 16 years I have met regularly with five women, all of whom are pastor’s wives. We have become dear friends. I also have met regularly with staff wives from our church, some of whom also work for the church. This time of year can be really tough on them because extra church events demand much more time than usual.
In the run-up to Christmas, ministry families are stressed.
Our husband may be grumpy or frustrated because he doesn’t like his Christmas sermon or maybe doesn’t have it ready. People’s lives fall apart during the holidays, so there are more ministry demands.
There’s more work for the tech teams, the music leaders, the set-up and break-down teams, and the production staff. Husbands and working wives are gone a lot so when they are home they are tired and can be emotionally unavailable.
If you’re a ministry spouse it’s easy to feel like a single parent! And it’s easy to feel lonely. Because of responsibilities, these families can’t go anywhere. And they often don’t have extended family nearby.
I have been a Pastor’s wife for 49 years. In the process I’ve had to learn to “re-set” my expectations for the Christmas season. For my family it’s not going to be curling up by a cozy fire roasting chestnuts. In reality it’s more likely to be whiney kids, church members in crisis, technology that breaks down, unexpected emergencies and complete exhaustion.
It helps me to remind myself that this season is about Jesus, God’s greatest gift- and not about me and my needs.
I know that folks want to care for their pastors. Often they don’t know how or what’s appropriate. Or they don’t realize the extra stress on these families during the holidays.
In order to give you some hints, I asked some of my ministry wives what would be meaningful for them during this season.
Here’s what they suggested:
✓ When you are tempted to send that complaining email, stop and ask yourself if it’s really your pastor you’re mad at, or is he just the guy who is nice enough to take it.
✓ Fix a meal (in a non-returnable dish that can be frozen) and drop it off. If you let them know one is coming they will know they are going to have a break!
✓ Write a text or email of encouragement including 2 things you appreciate about your church community.
✓ Send a note to the children of your pastor or staff person to let them know a specific way in which you have been blessed by your church community. (One of my friends reads these at the dinner table and it encourages their children!)
✓ Invite a ministry wife to sit with you in church Christmas Eve. It can be a lonely time for her.
✓ Offer to decorate her house for Christmas — her tree, mailbox, front door, etc.
✓ Offer to wrap packages for her and mail them.
✓ Offer to babysit during a service so she can go to church without little ones!
✓ Offer to babysit sometime during the holidays so she and her husband can go out on a much-needed date. Plan to take food to feed her kids and do the bed and bath routine.
✓ Give them a gift card to a restaurant.
✓ Have a wife and her kids over on Christmas Eve while her husband is at another service or go over to be with her.
✓ Often it’s best to ask, “How can I help you during this season?”
It’s never too late to do any of these things. After Christmas works too.
In reaching out to your church staff families, you will be blessed. But even more, your children will learn ways in which to intentionally care for their church’s leadership team. It’s one more practical way of training our children to love their neighbors. One more opportunity to raise “other-centered kids in a self-centered world.”
- Ask Susan: A New Vision for Your Christmas
- Raising “Other-Centered Kids in a “Self-Centered” World
- Why Thank You Notes Matter