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Christmas Stress in Ministry? Stop!

Are you feeling the Christmas stress in ministry already? Here are three things to stop doing immediately to win back time.

Number of Tasks v Number of Hours

For most pastors and church leaders, Christmas brings additional tasks. You may be preaching at more services and organising additional community activities such as lunches, winter shelters, Christmas present and hamper appeals, and so on. The problem is that there are the same number of hours in the day in December as there are in any other month in the year. We fall into the trap of trying to do more and more, instead of focusing on doing less. So here are three things to stop doing today to help relieve you of stress in ministry.

1. Being Available All Day

I know, you’re a people person, and surely a pastor should be available to his or her people 24/7. But that’s just not practicable is it? Even if you are not proactive about when you’re available, you’re de facto not available when you’re leading worship, for example, or when you’re in a meeting, or visiting someone in hospital. No-one seriously expects you to be available 24/7. There are times when you need to be uninterrupted. When I am studying for a sermon, or writing it, or when I am planning worship, I need to be left alone undisturbed. Otherwise, I loose my train of thought. You will have deep work or work that requires your concentration where interruptions are a hindrance. Stop them. Of course, you do need to be accessible to your team and your people. So set their expectations. Set times when you will be available and ask them to contact you then.

2. Attending Meetings without an Agenda

Over the Christmas period, more people will want to meet you. In The Salvation Army in the United Kingdom, our budget preparation coincides with the build up to Christmas. Those both inside and outside of your organisation who are not so focused on Christmas may be thinking ahead to the New Year and may want to meet with you before Christmas to discuss things. Meetings are an important contribution to stress in ministry. So I have a few “pet hates” about them, and top of the list is meetings with no agenda. It takes only a few minutes for the caller of any meeting to plan out its aims and objectives and an agenda which has been carefully timed out. An agenda tells you what to expect and how to prepare for the meeting. Don’t be afraid to ask people for an agenda and a time limit on the meeting before you agree to attend. If possible, plan in a meeting (even if it is an appointment with yourself) after the meeting so that you can excuse yourself at the end of the time limit and get on with everything else you have to do.

3. Checking Your Email Every Ten Seconds

The temptation, particularly in a season which you know is extra busy, is to respond to every email as soon as you receive it. But chances are, if you do that, you won’t get anything else done! You need to be responsive and it is good to keep your inbox under control (ideally by practising Inbox Zero) but dedicate blocks of time in your day to answer email all at once. I check and deal with my emails twice a day – once mid-morning and then again mid-afternoon. If the email can be dealt with in under two minutes, I deal with it there and then. If not, I schedule it in my task management list. Either way, it’s then taken out of my inbox, recognising there’s nothing more stressful as far as email goes than an overloaded inbox. Dealing with email appropriately leads to less stress in ministry.

Less Stress in Ministry

If you stop doing these three things today, I believe you will suffer less stress in ministry this Christmas and beyond. You will have freed yourself from time-consuming tasks so you can focus your energy on the most important things you need to do this season. Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

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