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Stress & Christmas

CTA - Christ to All /Nov. 16, 2021
Stress & Christmas

By Kristin Schultz

For ministry leaders and their teams, stress and Christmas go together like ugly sweaters and parties. While December will always be busier than other months of the year, you can prepare now to better identify and handle known—along with any unforeseen—Christmastime stressors.

So what is it about Christmastime that seems so much more stressful than other times?


The Advent and Christmas seasons are packed with seasonal, one-time events—look how crammed the churchwide calendar is! Many of the special events, such as a children’s program, require preparation events like rehearsals or costume making and set building.

Perhaps you add worship events like a choir or handbell concert. Most pastors add service times on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve to accommodate the inevitable influx of visitors. Christmas falls on a Saturday in 2021, meaning you could have multiple services on Friday and Saturday and still have a normal Sunday service. Multiple services, three days in a row, means you could have exponentially more worship events than usual.


Not only are there more events, but there is a perceived pressure to execute the events with the highest degree of excellence. You want visitors to come back to church after Christmas, so you put extra effort into your messages while your leaders ensure that the Christmas fellowship has the best cookies available. Your children’s minister knows that grandparents may have driven many hours to watch their grandchild in the Christmas program, so it better be excellent.

There’s pressure to balance incorporating new and fresh ideas into worship while not deviating too far from the traditions that your church holds dear.

There may be pressure in your staff’s family lives as well. For one, there’s all of their personal Christmas events that are on their plate—a child’s Christmas concert, preparing dinner for relatives and workplace Christmas parties. Then there’s other family pressures—perhaps someone is facing marital difficulties or has a child struggling with mental illness or addiction or a relative who’s lost his or her job.

Minimizing Stress

Stress at Christmas in unavoidable. Even if you manage to organize and schedule everything, an unexpected problem will arise. So what can you do to minimize stress for yourself and your team?

For Yourself

For nearly two years now, many pastors have made massive changes to their ministries in response to the pandemic. Churches had to implement new streaming technology, while others had a spike in funerals over a relatively brief period of time.

As we return to the most “normal” Christmas season we have seen in a while, it is essential that we each have a good understanding of our own spiritual and mental health. Pastoral burnout was on the rise before the pandemic. If you need help, seek help.

Staying informed will help minimize stress. Make sure you have a complete church and personal calendar so you know when and where you’re needed, as this will help you avoid double-booking or overextending. Feel free to say no or to postpone invitations if your schedule is too full.

It may sound trite, but make sure you are taking care of yourself physically. When you are stressed and run down, your immune system is less able to fend off illness. Getting sick in December means the additional stress of having to call and arrange services or Bible-study coverage for yourself.

For Your Team

In addition to minimizing stressors for yourself, you can also help your staff get through December in one piece. The most important thing that you as a leader can do is to regularly check in with your staff. Given how busy the season is, you’ll likely need to schedule these. Ask your leaders how they are doing and how you can help them. Sometimes just listening to your staff can help them lower their stress levels. Don’t hesitate to ask them about their life outside of church work. The stress that a leader appears to be under is often a result of circumstances outside of ministry. We’d all like to leave our problems at home, but it is inevitable they weigh on us throughout the day.

Before you know it, Christmas will be here. Think and plan now to help mitigate your own stress and the stress of your staff. Pray for your leaders and the people to whom they will minister. Thank God for their willingness to serve and their opportunities to share the Gospel.

You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2021 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.  

Tips and Trends

While you cannot eliminate all the stress that you and your team face this time of year, there are some strategies you can implement to help mitigate the effects of anxiety.


  • Evaluate your meetings and ask staff members if meeting schedules need to be amended during December. Resist the urge to cut back too much. Consistent, clear communication is key but combining meetings or scheduling quick one-on-one updates will make more effective schedules. It may seem counterintuitive, but more meetings may be beneficial during this busy time. Daily ten-minute morning meetings can keep everyone in the loop and alert everyone to potential problems. Simply go around the room and let each person share what he or she is working on that day to anticipate forthcoming challenges.
  • Ask staff members and leaders how they are doing outside of work. If they don’t want to share, that’s fine. You may be surprised how much they appreciate that you would take the time to check in on them as individuals and not just focus on their workplace output.
  • Consider a software tool for group communication. A group text could work for your team, or consider a business communication platform with instant messaging and video chat. Many of these tools come with services you may already subscribe to for email and word processing. Many of these tools are free! 

Planning and Scheduling

  • Before the Christmas season even begins, look at the December calendar. Compare it to last year’s. With all of the changes that COVID-19 has brought about, is your current slate of Christmas events still an effective use of time? Consider how your congregation has changed—grown, shrunk, people participating only by virtual methods, and so on—and make sure that the programming is appropriate. If your Sunday school program is still on pause or if children are wearing masks, is a Christmas program even possible? Use this exercise as an opportunity to identify and plan the things that will truly impact your community and do away with events that are no longer relevant.
  • Everyone enjoys a fun staff Christmas party, but for the sake of everyone’s stress level, postpone your Christmas party until after Christmas. Look to see what other events could be postponed until the new year.

Christmas in a church is the ultimate team sport. Unfortunately, we can’t eliminate December stress. With preparation and thoughtful communication, you can help minimize stress for your leaders as they share the good news of the Baby born in Bethlehem.

 You are welcome to copy this article for one-time use when you include this credit line and receive no monetary benefit from it: © 2021 CTA, Inc. Used with permission.