Does Christmas on a Sunday overburden the Pastor’s family?
Ok, so I get it that many would like to not have a worship service on a Sunday. “It’s family time” is a (the?) common reason, mixed with travel and other holiday plans, as to why churches often cancel the service. These reasons, I think, fall short of grasping why we worship at all, what the church is, and what Christmas is meant to be. I could write a brief post on that, but it is well covered elsewhere. Perhaps I’ll do so in 2022 when this little “problem” will rear its head again.
However, I did run across a tweet that made me stop and think, at least for a second. It made me think through having Christmas service, not so much as a father or as a Pastor, but as both:
Acuff, who has a large social media following and is a New York Times bestselling author, goes on to note that some churches are having upwards of 20 (!) services, which rips the fathers away from their children for basically the entire day, leaving the family broken and torn apart during the holiday. I have no doubt, none, that if this was required of me, I would just get a life-sized cardboard cutout of myself, have a deacon place it behind the pulpit at the appropriate time, and have the sound-booth replay my earlier sermon 19 extra times. It’s not like I dance back there, so most wouldn’t even notice.
This is, let me say, a real problem. Churches that require their lead pastor to carry that much are driving rapidly toward a cliff with no idea how to find the brake. If a church is so dependent on that one man that he spends no time with his family on Christmas, there is something seriously wrong with the church. Why just focus on Christmas, though? This year my son’s birthday fell on a Sunday; should we have cancelled service that day? What about labor day, or valentine’s day?
The real problem here is, I think, not actually related to having Christmas on a Sunday. The Sunday service is simply a symptom. If I had to guess, I’d say the real problem is pastoral, and church-wide, pride.
I can understand needing to have multiple services on a Sunday, especially if you are a larger church that is already bulging a bit at the waist when it comes to seating. You want to have enough room for visitors, and the larger your church is, the more visitors you are likely expecting. There are good reasons for having multiple services on Christmas day.
However, if your church has to have so many services on Christmas that the lead pastor (or any pastor) has no time for their family, especially if you already have multiple services every single Sunday, I’m guessing that the problem is already built in to how you think about church.
Pastor, why have you not planted other congregations already? Why ship 8,000 people from around the city to your campus, instead of actively planting other congregations closer to where people live and work? Perhaps there are good, solid reasons for this. Perhaps I, not having been in those situations, don’t understand the full picture and the complexities, and thus am overlooking some very good reasons why this hasn’t happened in various places. Perhaps the church has experienced dramatic growth, perhaps church plants are in the works, but haven’t gotten up and running yet.
Pastor, why not let other elders bear some of the responsibility to preach on that day, so that you can carve out time with your family? Real time with them, not just an hour so you can watch the little vultures rip into their gifts like so much carrion. Perhaps you don’t have other well-trained elders that have the ability to preach. Perhaps you carry the burden because of a dramatic shift in staff this fall, or vacations for the other elders.
But perhaps it is because you think that no one can do it as well as you. That, for the sake of the visitors, you want to preach the best message possible, and the other elders are just not ready for it.
Perhaps you think that your influence is more important than the preached Word. That is, the power of the sermon lies in the preacher and not in the Word, especially when done by someone who is not your equal in gifting.
Perhaps you have so built these beliefs into the ethos and the pathos of your congregation that you cannot share the burden of multiple services with the other elders of your church.
In other words, perhaps the church hasn’t stolen Christmas from your family. Perhaps you, the pastor, did. If you cannot find time to spend with your family on Christmas day because of how your church is run, I don’t feel like I’m too far out on a limb to suggest that perhaps some thing is wrong with your church, rather than with Christmas falling on a Sunday.
The best solution isn’t to cancel services for the sake of your family, but to better share the honor, privilege, and burden of preaching throughout the year. The best option is to follow the advice of John the Baptist: decrease your influence to increase Christ’s (John 3:30). Doing so will not only serve your family, but the entire congregation, and will better honor the value and work of the Holy Spirit, even in what we believe is weak and ineffectual preaching.
The Son left the beauty, peace, and glory of the throne for the filth of flesh to take away our sin. It seems a pittance that we might leave our homes to worship the one that made that possible. Pastor, you should do this, not in spite of the fact that it hurts your family, but rather the opposite: because it is the glue that holds it together.