5 Things Executive Pastors Should Keep in Mind This Christmas

5 Things Executive Pastors Should Keep in Mind This Christmas

It’s no secret that Christmas can be a chaotic time for churches. It’s one of the most highly-attended seasons of the year—and you can expect a lot more unchurched people than usual. Christmas services are also a celebration of one of the greatest moments in history: When God made His dwelling among us (John 1:14).

Everyone and everything in your church needs to fire on all cylinders.

You’ve probably spent months preparing for this one weekend. You might’ve even started preparing a year ago! And on some level, you’re probably feeling pressure to out-do last year’s service. (Maybe church members or even staff are “reminiscing” about something awesome you’ve done in the past.)

As the executive pastor, you’re responsible for organizing, budgeting for, and foreseeing the challenges of your church’s biggest events. So there’s a lot on your shoulders during the holidays. We want to be sure your Christmas service goes off without a hitch and builds momentum as you head into the new year—so we put together five things you should keep in mind this Christmas.

1. Tis’ the season for burnout

You’re not the only one feeling the pressure right now. Many of your staff members are working under a lot more stress than usual. They might be wrestling with performance anxiety as their area of responsibility increases, or their routine tasks start affecting more people and other parts of the service. Every person on your paid and volunteer staff is more susceptible to burnout right now—and that means a few things for you.

Your church needs to be prepared for people to take time off when the holidays are over. Your team needs to rest. Even if people aren’t planning to take time off, you should encourage it. Make arrangements to cover roles, shift responsibilities, and potentially stagger time off so that everyone can get the rest they need.

It’s also important that you create (and model) an environment where people can feel comfortable talking about fatigue and stress—not so they can complain, but so that you can give them the prayer and support they need to make it through this time.

You should always affirm people when they do a good job, but now is a good time to make a point of hunting for things you can praise people for. Encourage your staff to do the same, and create a positive atmosphere that brings out the best in each other.

2. A tech failure will cost you more right now

You carefully budgeted for the entire year, taking into account any purchases you would need to make later in the year. But software and hardware don’t always follow our budget plans. Throughout the year it’s easy to take half-measures and “make do” with what you have to get a few more services out of your tech. If something goes wrong during a Christmas service though, it has a much bigger impact. 

Your congregation has high hopes for this service, but they’ll be more forgiving when there are technical issues (although they may be a little embarrassed if they brought friends or family). But visitors are seeing your church for the first time. Making a good impression matters.

If you do purchase new tech for Christmas, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to test it out—ideally in an actual service (or several). But at the very least, you need to have backup plans ready for every possibility. As you set up for Christmas, you should constantly ask: “What will we do if this breaks? And who will be in charge of implementing the solution?”

3. This is the best time to start planning for next Christmas

At this point, there are some poor decisions, unforeseen challenges, and organizational issues you may just have to live with this year. But every time you find yourself saying, “I wish we’d thought of that earlier,” make a note of it. Now is the perfect time to build a list of things you want to stay on top of next year—then you can think of those things earlier.

4. Your giving platform is about to have a lot more transactions

During the holidays, generosity isn’t just a Christian mandate—it’s simply part of the “Christmas spirit.” People have been culturally trained to strive to be more open-handed during this time of year. And you’re going to have a lot more people in attendance than usual. So whether you make a big giving push or not, more people are going to give.

Digital giving is the most convenient way for people to give—especially if they didn’t bring cash or their checkbook. But it’s important to keep in mind: just as you had to prepare your facility to handle more people, you need to be sure your giving platform can accommodate more transactions.

Your giving solution might be fine as is. Or you may need to find a more reliable (or faster) online giving platform. Make sure you contact your customer support team to confirm your giving software can handle a sudden increase in activity.

(Pushpay is an enterprise-grade giving solution. Many of the largest churches in the US trust Pushpay for all their online giving needs. So we can support you, too.)

5. Volunteer training matters even more right now

Christmas is one of those seasons where churches desperately need anyone and everyone who’s willing to serve. Even churches that have well-defined volunteer training and onboarding processes may make exceptions at this time of year simply to make sure there are enough bodies on every service team.

But this isn’t an area you can cut corners. Your volunteers are going to be under more pressure than usual. Their familiarity with your procedures, their tasks, and the larger purpose of their role could make the difference between a visitor feeling valued and feeling neglected. Not to mention, flustered or unconfident volunteers in, say, the nursery, will leave parents feeling like they can’t trust your church to adequately care for their children.

Make this your best Christmas yet

As you scramble to make sure everything goes according to plan, it’s easy for little things to fall through the cracks. Take the time to support your staff and check-in on their mental health. Create backup plans. Save your future self some trouble next year with good notes. And make sure everyone and everything is ready to serve your community with excellence.

For more on hosting excellent, Christ-centered events this holiday season, download the free ebook, How To Prepare For Your Best Christmas Yet, today!

Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson has been a volunteer youth leader with Young Life for nearly a decade. He writes in the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his wife and twin boys.