It’s the most, wonderful time of the year.
Seriously, it is a very special time of year. Christmas time is unlike any other time. For those of us in ministry work, it is not just a ‘holiday’; it is the time of year that seems to capture all of our passions, creativity and work. Its only rival is Easter but in my opinion Christmas surpasses all other “holy” days because if He wasn’t born in the first place, He couldn’t die to save humanity. Christmas is indeed a very special time of year.
It is also one of the most stressful times of the year.
Unrealistic expectations, trying to please everyone, people getting sick at the worst time, YOU getting sick at the worst time…Christmas time can be incredibly stressful. There is an undercurrent – both real and realized – of importance on making sure all that come through your church doors experience the birth of The Christ; may we all have an experience with The One which inspires us to true relationship with Him.
My prayer is that you don’t kill yourself in the process.
Therefore, as you prepare for your Christmas pageants, productions, worship services, media presentations, mini-movies and the like, please keep the following in mind. These are some tips you can abide by to keep your sanity this Christmas season.
Remember why you’re doing whatever you’re doing. Remember who you are doing it for. Remember the reasons why you’re doing it. I used to lose sleep, get all upset, worry about last second details and more until I remembered. Also, the simple fact is if you can’t lead people through this joyous season with genuine joy, people simply won’t want to give you 100%. They’ll just want to get through their commitment – and never respond to your emails again.
Let me also add to the mix to check your own needs at the door. If the (not so) secret reason why you want to be the director of the play is because you want people to validate you, God will not honor that motivation. All of our righteous works are not worth a whole lot (Is. 64:6), especially if we are not focused on the why and who.
Worry Changes Everything and Nothing
Let me in on something no one has ever told you and on something you haven’t experienced: worrying never changes the situation; it only changes you. All the sleepless nights I spent, all the meals I skipped, all the blood, sweat and tears I poured into any production did not change one single note I would eventually sing or play. All it did was adversely change my attitude, aptitude, mood, patience and overall enthusiasm for the project. Now don’t get it twisted: I’m not saying adopt an “I don’t care” approach at all. What I am saying is to work hard on the things you can control and let go of the things you cannot control. And how are you going to do that you may ask? You do that by staying focused (see the first point)
Frantic Is Not Attractive
I have been a musician my whole life. I’ve played for concerts, directors, musicals, weddings, funerals and even a Presidential Inauguration. When I’m working for someone who’s stressed and agitated, I go out of my way NOT to ask questions – which is exactly what you DON’T want. You want the people you are leading to feel like they can come to you with real issues, problems, concerns and more. They will feel more like their contribution to the overall mission is valuable because they were able to talk to you. Run around, bite heads off, respond sarcastically, be generally the last person anyone would want to talk to and you reap what you sow.
Anticipate Last Second Issues
People are not perfect like you think you are. Folks get sick. Kids get hurt in their games on the weekends. No matter how many times you email, text, print out dates and times, people will still ask “We’re doing the production on Sunday too??!!??” Over communicate the mission. Over communicate the rehearsal and production schedules. Post the information on bulletin boards in your church. Create a Facebook/Twitter Page to post updates. Create a GroupMe text chain. Do anything you can do to over communicate three things: when folks are needed, how much folks are appreciated and how great God is.
Start your planning sessions in August. Create a team where you can delegate tasks. Select the material with such specificity you can clearly articulate your vision – in August! That gives you time to purchase and create sets, wardrobe, recruit actors, rehearse singers and musicians, edit scripts and more. As a choir director I like to prepare my singers to the point they can execute the music without me being necessary. That usually can’t happen if you pick Thanksgiving weekend to start your planning sesson.
Embrace Your No
So, your senior pastor wants their granddaughter to sing the big solo in the production; the answer is a respectful ‘no’. Your best guitarist is not in the production because he/she is not coachable and plays too loudly, too much – but they want to play in the production; the answer is a respectful ‘no’. Sister Sandpaper has picked this moment to tell you why the production will be a colossal failure and wants to meet with you about ways to make it better; the answer is a respectful ‘no’. There will be a time after December 25th to request feedback on how to make it better but, for now, stick to your vision and see it through. Don’t be dogmatic or inflexible, but if God gave you the vision honor Him by executing it to the best of your ability. Embrace the power of ‘no’. You don’t have to incorporate everybody’s perspectives.
This Christmas season model for your people you are not anxious. Show people you have peace that passes understanding. Embody the joy, anticipation and love Christmas is all about. It will trickle down to the people working with you. Don’t take for granted people are watching you to see how to talk to others, how to behave, how to respond to conflict, how to handle adversity. Love the Lord your God throughout the season and beyond.