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Holiday Burn-Out

Guest Post from Dr. Paul White, co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace

The holiday marathon from mid-November to early January is challenging for most pastors and ministry leaders, and unfortunately, the goal often is just to survive.  The demands from Thanksgiving through New Year’s are intense – time-wise, emotionally, relationally, organizationally and spiritually.  And if the demands of the holidays aren’t managed well, a minister may either blow out (usually with their family) or come out of the other side looking like a cat caught under the hood of a car started unexpectedly.

Can anything be done to alleviate the stress level and make life more live-able?  The obvious answer is “yes,” ministry leaders can survive (and even thrive) during this stressful time, and there is also hope for those who are being ministered to. The core concept here is appreciation, which is applied differently for leaders and lay members.

Feeling appreciated by the staff and volunteers who minister with you and those to whom you minister serves to inoculate leaders from the hardships of the holidays.  When a pastor feels valued for who they are and their ministry to others, it’s like bubble-wrap around a holiday package: it protects them from experiencing every little bump, criticism or disappointment along the way.

Think of it this way:  do you think you would minister more effectively if you felt genuinely appreciated by your staff and congregation?  Sure, you would.  You would be more energized, passionate, committed and be able to persevere through difficult circumstances if you knew those around you truly valued what you are trying to accomplish.

So what is a pastor to do?  Cue others, “Hey, how about a little appreciation here?”

While I wouldn’t recommend that approach, it is true that one of the best things ministry leaders can do is to let those around them know how to encourage and support them.  Most team members and congregational members want to support their ministers, and try to, but often they miss the mark.  For example, a congregation member might tell you, “Great sermon, pastor!” or write you a thank-you note, but words of appreciation might not do much for you. You might be more encouraged if people showed their appreciation through action, helping you get the storage room straightened up or shoveling the sidewalk before a service.

We know that different people experience appreciation and encouragement in different ways – through different languages of appreciation, such as words of affirmation, gifts, or acts of service. But how are your church members and staff going to know how to encourage you, unless you tell them what is meaningful to you?

We have found that when leaders open up and share – “If you want to do something that would encourage me, or really make me feel supported, you could … “ – then a wonderful synergy is set into action:  people start to communicate appreciation in the ways that are meaningful to the leader, the minister is effectively encouraged, and then they also feel good about meeting their minister’s needs. It’s a win-win scenario.

Think of it as telling your family members what you would like for Christmas.  You aren’t saying: “You should buy me a gift,” but rather, “If you are going to get me something for Christmas, here are some things I’d like.”  Don’t you think people want to give you what is meaningful to you?  Then let them—you’ll enjoy your holiday season a lot more.

Author Bio: Dr. Paul White is a business consultant and psychologist, and is the coauthor of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman. For more information, check out AppreciationAtWork.com.

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Tim Stevens served as the executive pastor of Granger Community Church in Granger, IN, for twenty years before joining Vanderbloemen Search Group as the Director of the Executive Search Consultant Team where he helps churches and ministries around the world find their key staff. Tim has a passion for the local church and equipping leaders with practical advice and tools about church staffing and church leadership. He has co-authored three books with Tony Morgan, including Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers, and Simply Strategic Growth, and authored three books of his own, including Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace. Connect with Tim at LeadingSmart.com.