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Hello, Pastor’s Wife!

Who’s walked through Hobby Lobby anytime since June? Did you see Christmas decorations in one aisle, with patriotic or fall decor on the next? Stores remind us to celebrate ALL the special seasons in life. And to plan ahead for them!

I’ve bought tons of holiday decorations over the years. Sometimes I feel all “Bah, humbug!” about it, though, because each time God calls us to a new place of ministry, we get farther away from home and our loved ones.

When we moved away years ago for our first church…

It didn’t occur to me how distance would affect holidays for our family.

It didn’t occur to me that churches have holiday traditions, too, and that those special events might affect when and where our family could celebrate.

It didn’t occur to me how much vacation time would be gobbled up just trying to get to grandma’s for Christmas. Or that our spring breaks wouldn’t match up with our cousins’ anymore.

Can you remember the last time you spent Mother’s Day with your mom?

I can’t. We’ve missed family cookouts on Memorial Day, Easter egg hunts at the grandparents’. Swimming with the cousins on Labor Day. Plus New Year’s celebrations and Father’s Days. We have nephews who don’t really know us because we only see them once a year, maybe.

TRUTH: Some unwritten rule says family members are always the ones who have to travel back. Apparently, the road home does NOT go both ways!

When you factor in travel time, school vacations, sports schedules, and the church calendar, holidays are even more tricky to manage when you live far from home. Unless a church has a larger staff or a healthy budget allowance for guest preachers, many pastors can’t miss holiday Sundays!

So, what can we do to keep the happy in our holidays when we’re in the ministry?

These five tips helped our family enjoy holiday celebrations:

#1–Remember our Mission is to “Go!”

Pastor Adrian Rogers often said that God moves His soldiers around on the battlefield. And He’s been doing that since Genesis!

        • God told Abraham to leave his home and family for a new land
        • Joseph ended up far away from his family in Egypt, where God used Him to preserve His people
        • Esther was taken from her uncle into the palace, where God used her to save His people
        • Daniel was taken from his homeland to Babylon
        • God sent Jesus from heaven to earth to redeem us
        • The disciples left their homes to follow Jesus
        • Jesus told us to “Go therefore”

TRUTH:   When we gave our lives to Christ, we gave up our rights to DO what we want to and LIVE where we want to!

Sometimes our ministry keeps us close to home and loved ones, but most of the time it does not. Following God’s plan for my life means I go where He leads. And when our kids are upset because they won’t get to spend a holiday with their cousins—this is a great opportunity to teach them the biblical principle of Go!

#2–Listen to your children

Especially when they’re young! Traditions may feel differently to our children. Bbe sensitive to what gives them comfort and security during the holidays, particularly the first year in a new place.

One year we loaded all the presents in the car and headed off to spend Christmas week at grandma’s. Our kids got mad because they wanted to be in our house on Christmas morning…and they were in Junior high!

#3–Redefine tradition

Sometimes the best tradition is no tradition. Embrace spontaneity. Look for meaningful ways to celebrate that doesn’t hinge on a certain place. Does the symphony in your area perform holiday concerts? Or what about attending a play together?

One of our favorite holiday traditions at our home church was a huge July 4th picnic on the grounds. Then fireworks while the church orchestra played patriotic music. When we moved too far away to attend that picnic, Greg and I started a new tradition of watching patriotic movies.

One Thanksgiving when we couldn’t make it back to Memphis, Greg rented a big-screen TV. (This was back in the day when they were as deep as they were wide.) We watched all the Star Wars movies in order straight through. There were only 6 back then! That special holiday memory that helped minimize our kids feeling left out of the big family get-together back home.

#4–Celebrate online

Schedule a video call with loved ones far away. No, it’s not the same as being there. Yes, it’s better than no connection at all with distant family!

In 2020 Greg and I and our kids were all living in separate cities and couldn’t get together (thanks, Covid!). For Mother’s Day that year, Greg enrolled us all in a Sherlock Holmes mystery letter club. Every few weeks we’d each receive a story in the mail with clues. Then we’d get together on Zoom to solve the case.

And speaking of clues, that brings me to my last tip…

#5–Help your church get a clue

Discuss holiday time-off options with your personnel committee. Greg recently talked with our committee about not counting holiday Sundays against our vacation time. Many times church leadership has never thought about these issues. They can’t fix problems they don’t know about.

I attended a church Christmas party last year. One of the ladies at the party was sad her son had to miss their family Christmas dinner. Christmas was on a Sunday. Frustrated, I said, “Yeah, my husband has to work on Christmas, too, and on Christmas Eve!” She just looked at me funny. I could tell she’d never realized Christmas can be a work day for years pastors. Holiday seasons bring extra work for ministers:

Decorating the church.              Collecting Christmas shoeboxes.

Coordinating special music or drama programs.                  Distributing food baskets.

When we started at another church several years ago, the Christmas Eve service tradition was new to us. I did NOT feel merry or jolly when we learned Christmas Eve services were expected at our new church. And my husband had to lead it! Greg agreed to that first year and then said we’d see, depending on how many people were there. Well, the place was packed and we thought, Shoot! This is a big deal to them. But when it was over, everyone else rushed home with their families. Our family and the worship pastor’s family stayed to blow out all the candles on the stage, clean wax off the carpet, and straighten things back up.

Church members don’t realize that they can pick and choose which events to attend,. But for the staff who have to be there, it’s considered work–NOT festivities.

As we approach this holiday season, I hope you will find ways to bring more joy into your celebrations, instead of letting frustrations spoil the merry. Look for others who might also be celebrating without loved ones and include them in some of your family’s favorite traditions. Holidays are meant to be shared with others. Even if they’re not related to you!

With so much to be thankful for,