By Kristin Schultz
Christmas is an ideal season to provide opportunities for members and the community to hear and connect with the saving message of God’s love for us in Jesus. With all the extra activities that go on during the Christmas preparation and Christmastime, effective planning is essential.
Sometimes, however, when making plans and organizing additional worship services, children’s programs, service opportunities, and clothing or food drives, it becomes easy to get overwhelmed and stressed. In those moments, we tend to take our eyes off the real reason we celebrate Christmas. So, are there ways to make sure everything comes together without taking our eyes off Jesus? Yes! Here are a few ways to ease your stress and the stress of your key leaders when planning for Christmas this year.
Encourage Leaders to Delegate
Leaders sometimes feel the need to take on all aspects of an activity or project by themselves. This can be especially true of paid staff or long-serving volunteers. We have all made the mistake of thinking we can do everything. Therefore, it’s important that we encourage and empower our leaders to delegate part or all of special Christmas activities.
Not only does delegation ease some of the planning pressure, but it also gives others the opportunity to use the gifts that God has given them. New volunteers bring fresh ideas and energy to programs and activities. New volunteers may have new or diverse community connections that could benefit service opportunities.
If your key leaders have trouble delegating, encourage them to start by making lists of what needs to be done. Once the list is made, leaders should identify which duties only the leader can do and which could be delegated. For example, maybe the leader knows what supplies are required, but can delegate the shopping to a volunteer.
If the key leader is delegating for the first time, reassure them that volunteers will not do everything perfectly but that it is more beneficial to bring others along in ministry than to have a perfect event. Volunteers want to learn and do a good job, and good leaders enable that learning.
Use Resources to Help Plan
Third-party organizations, like CTA, offer effective, vetted planning solutions to ease the stress of pulling together Christmas events and activities. When we put the pressure on ourselves to plan everything, something will inevitably fall through the cracks. Lists get misplaced. Sticky notes go missing. Our scribbled note that made sense yesterday is nonsense today!
Whether you are planning a women’s Christmas tea, food drive or children’s event, seek out events that come with planning guides. These guides often contain checklists to help keep you organized. They may contain lists of logistics to consider, supplies you’ll need, pre- and post-event evaluations, and more.
When it comes to planning at one of the busiest times of the year, there is just no need to go it alone. Take advantage of resources from companies and organizations that have decades of experience in developing and refining group events.
Stay Focused on the Manger
We know that the busier we get, the harder it is to stay focused. We get pulled in different directions. We feel burdened by obligations. We feel like we’re running around putting out fires. Sometimes we even neglect our own health by eating poorly or not getting enough sleep.
Busyness can be the enemy of focus, but it doesn’t have to be. Just because we as church leaders are busier in December, we should still set aside time for prayer and study. In fact, by carving out and protecting devotional time, we have the opportunity to set our hearts and minds on the reason for our busyness—we are planning and preparing so that we can share the incredible story of God becoming man for us! Proper perspective eases much of the burden of planning because we are less likely to become consumed by details that do not matter.
Consider leading your volunteers and leaders in a Christmas-preparation or Advent devotion series so that everyone involved in Christmas planning can be encouraged and filled up as they take on the large and small tasks of Christmas events and activities.
A month-long team devotion gives you and your leaders the chance to support and pray for one another. Given how busy you are during this time, choose a published devotion book in lieu of writing your own. There are many seasonal devotions online or you could opt for printed books for each staff member or leader, like the affordable options from CTA.
Planning for busy seasons like Christmas preparation and Christmas can seem overwhelming. It is helpful to take a step back. Step back and see how you can help leaders delegate. Step back and find resources to help you plan effectively. But most importantly, step back and remember the real reason for the season.
Tips and Trends
December is a very busy month for churchworkers and volunteers. In addition to personal or family activities and obligations, additional ministry events quickly fill the calendar and occupy our thoughts. As you lead and prepare this holiday season, here are some practical ways you, your staff, and your volunteers can stay organized and prepared.
If your church does not have a master calendar, now is a great time to put one together! If your church has a master calendar but no one looks at it or adds their events to it, now is a great time to remind leaders and volunteers to do so!
You can color-code different ministries or spaces on the church property to avoid double-booking a space. No matter the size of your congregation, having a master calendar helps everyone stay organized and in the know.
Weather varies across the United States. December in Los Angeles is quite different from December in Montana. No matter where your church is located, when you plan activities, think through alternate plans should weather make travel or hosting an event impossible.
Some activities, like cookie baking or wrapping toy donations, could be postponed or rescheduled. Other events, like Wednesday night Advent potlucks, may have to be canceled if the weather is bad. And still other activities, like a Bible study, might quickly move to Zoom.
Making alternate plans ahead of time can reduce stress should you have to pivot or make changes on the fly.
Efficiency is the name of the game when life gets busy. With all the running—to stores, food banks, and so on—combining your efforts can save everyone time. For example, you can coordinate catering pickup for multiple ministries. While picking up the donuts for Sunday morning, offer to also buy the snacks and goodies that the Sunday school superintendent needs for their Birthday Party for Jesus event.
Ministries can also combine efforts for larger impact. For example, if both the youth ministry and a women’s small group plan to host a food drive, encourage them to combine their efforts. Not only will the two groups get to know each other better, but one large collection event is more likely to be successful than two small events.
For larger events, you may want to designate a person to go to the store during the event should you run out of paper goods, ingredients, or other necessities. Make sure to record who has permission to use a church credit card and be diligent about collecting receipts.
Organization and communication are always important to running an effective ministry. In the lead-up to Christmas, however, having all the ministry stakeholders on the same page is crucial. Find the communication, organization styles, and channels that work best in your context.
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