For many, work slows down during the Christmas season, but not for pastors. All the holiday festivities bring even more responsibilities.
But now you've made it through the musicals, the small group parties, the Christmas Eve service, the increased benevolence demands from the community and the extra visitors in the pews.
Hopefully, in the midst of it all, you've had a moment of peace to reflect on the coming of the Prince of Peace and an opportunity to celebrate with your family the Father sending the Son as the baby in a manger. But now what?
As the Christmas season comes to a close, how should you spend the last few days of the year? Here are five things you can do before the new year begins a new batch of tasks.
Spend Time With Family
While other families often gathered together during their time away from work, your family was probably scrambling to make it to all the added church functions.
Some took long weekends to drive to visit far-away family, but you were working every Sunday. Now that things have slowed down, take advantage and carve out time to be with your family.
Go out on a date with your spouse. Your presence can be a great after-Christmas present. Put your phone away except for real emergencies. Go to dinner. Catch a movie. Just spend time reconnecting.
If you are a parent, you will not have your children at home with you forever. Make memories with them, even if it is just spending a day playing board games together or sharing special meals.
Make it a priority to visit extended family. If possible, go see your parents. Just as with your children at home, you won't always have that option.
There will always be something happening at church, but the period after Christmas provides a great opportunity for you to delegate responsibilities to others for a short time and invest in those closest to you.
Read and Think
Continue to grow personally by giving some time to reading. Pick an old book to reread. Order a new book to expand your thinking. Ask other pastors for recommendations.
During the hectic holiday schedule, you may have spent all your time in sermon preparation and event-planning. Use some time this week to catch back up on your reading—both for work and fun.
But don't merely read just to read. Allow yourself time to soak in the book. If it's nonfiction, mull over the information and how it can impact you and your ministry. If it's fiction, give the story time to move off the pages.
I am often surprised at the amount I can accomplish if I give my mind a bit of rest and space to operate. Leave time to read and think.
Thank God for This Year
Maybe 2016 was the best year of ministry you've ever seen. Thank God for it. Maybe 2016 was a low point for you personally and in the ministry. Thank God for that, too.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says, "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." We often fail to express gratitude for the good and bad in our lives.
We can think the good things happened because of us—our skills, planning, methods and intelligence. Then we simply blame others for the bad things. Instead, think through this past year and look for God's hand.
Reflect on the good gifts He gave you. Remember the gifts that didn't seem good at the time, but now, you see them more clearly. Recognize those gifts that still don't seem good and ask God to help you trust Him through them.
Pray About Next Year
Before the new year brings new decisions, new opportunities and new troubles, pray. Before 2017 even arrives, seek God's face for how He wants to use you, your family and your church.
You and I have no idea the circumstances that await us next year, but we worship a God who does. He knows and He is preparing us now.
Don't ask God to bless your plans next year. Ask Him to direct your plans next year. Even in ministry—especially in ministry—we can make a decision and simply assume it is the one God would have us make.
In the quiet moments after Christmas, take the opportunity to offer yourself and the next year to Christ. Make sure your relationship with Jesus is healthy and growing before you ask God to help you lead a healthy and growing church in 2017.
Rest and Recuperate
We were not made to maintain a frenetic pace for very long. God has created us to rest, as it reminds us how much we depend on Him.
He gave the Israelites the Sabbath. As newly emancipated slaves, a day of rest each week probably sounded great to people walking in the wilderness looking for home. But it did not take long, once they settled into the Promised Land, for the people to begin to ignore God's command to take a day of rest.
You need time to rest—physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Take time this week to recover from the toil of busyness. Reorient your life to one of resting in Christ and all He has done.
Exhaustion will eventually catch up with you. Rest will enable you to be the pastor, as well as spouse and parent, God created you to be.
You'll blink and be in the middle of the next year, busy with projects and responsibilities. Before they threaten to overwhelm you, spend some time resting in Christ, nurturing your family, growing your mind, thanking your Savior and praying over your next year.
Aaron Earls is a writer and online editor at LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit lifeway.com/pastors.
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