'Tis the season. Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year. I mean, that's what the song says, so it must be true, right?
But, it can also be one of the most stressful, chaotic, and utterly overwhelming times of the year, particularly for those of us in ministry. This is especially true in Church Communications. Not only are we juggling our regular weekly responsibilities — such as prepping digital media, designing graphics, managing social media, solving technical errors, operating livestreams, shooting and editing video, updating websites, overseeing AVL, marketing sermon series, and responding to countless e-mails — we're also trying to spend time with family and friends, plan and cook meals, and get our shopping done. The Christmas lights on our trees and throughout our towns and cities may be burning bright, but many of us are on the verge of burning out.
I call it the "Christmas Freak-Out." Perhaps you're familiar with it. Whether by firsthand experience or vicariously, you've found yourself at the intersection of extreme stress, tight deadlines, high expectations, and — on the other side — no sleep, substandard nutrition, and a myriad of family obligations.
When these elements collide, the "freak-out" — or, at least, the temptation for it — is all but inevitable. Christmastime, and all of its accompanying stresses, comes at the end of an already busy year, making it extremely easy for staff to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, even bitter and resentful. The deep-seated desire to meet the needs of your congregation, combined with an intense pressure to ensure everything runs smoothly, can easily conjure up a whirlwind of emotions. And when things don't work and deadlines go unmet, it's easy to freak out.
But, the good news is this: You don't have to freak out. You don't have to pull your hair out. You don't have to burnout.
By implementing a little bit of strategy, planning, and a whole lot of grace and prayer, you can thrive in Church Comms this Christmas season. Here's how:
#1. Start projects early.
I know, I know. I sound like your mother at this point, right? Or maybe I sound like mine. I don't know. But the reality is that Christmas comes at the same time every year. There's no sense in procrastinating. So why do so many of us keep doing it? Maybe it's just human nature. Maybe it's sheer laziness and apathy. Whatever the case, you can save yourself a lot of stress, anxiety, and frustration by planning in advance. [And, if you're like me, avoid a lot of migraines.] Ask your pastor to give you the details of his Christmas series two or three months out so that you can begin brainstorming graphic design, marketing, digital media, videography, social promos, etc. Waiting until the end of November to start working on things will only make it worse. Christmas in ministry world is not limited to one single service. Christmas is an entire season of services, events, kids programs, dinners, banquets, and so much more. Each of these things requires endless hours of preparation. The earlier you start, the better off you will be.
#2. Feed your soul.
Avoid the pitfalls of spiritual malnourishment or starvation during the chaos of Christmastime. It can be easy to subconsciously slip into a task-oriented routine of prioritizing performance over presence. When this happens, things like morning devotions and prayer tend to go out the window. Slow down and carve out some quiet time with the God who we're asking everyone else to focus on during the holidays. Turn on your favorite worship music and reflect on the richness and messages of the songs. Thank God for all that He has done for you and your church and family this year.
#3. Assemble the volunteers!
Your church's Comms Ministry should not operate solely on the backs of your full-time staff members. Volunteers are essential and this is never more true than in the midst of the stress and chaos associated with Christmas. Ideally, you should have volunteers in place to serve in areas where your staff members cannot. No staff member [or, for that matter, volunteer] should be stretched too thin. Of course, this will not be possible in every scenario. There will be times when the workload seems insurmountable. But a healthy supply of volunteers makes for a healthy church and, in this case, a healthy Comms Ministry. Once you've mapped out your Christmas projects and tasks, you can begin delegating.
#4. Don't be a Grinch.
It's easy to sink into worry, pessimism, and even anger when you're under large amounts of stress, trying to meet seemingly unreasonable demands. But, Scripture is clear: "Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you." [1 Peter 5:6-7]; "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." [Philippians 4:6] There's no need to worry or fret, as tempting as it may be. It's a total killjoy and will always usher in unnecessary stress. This will ruin Christmas faster than you can say, "Fah-who foris, dah-who doris."
#5. Do be a David.
David wasn't just a warrior on the battlefield with Goliath and other enemies. He was a warrior in the spiritual realm with the weapon of prayer. He used prayer to discover the will of God and seek guidance. [1 Samuel 23:10-12] He used prayer when in need of forgiveness for his mistakes, deficiencies, and weaknesses. [2 Samuel 24:10] And he used prayer for everyday conversation with God and to grow closer to Him. [Psalm 23] Just take a look at any of the Psalms. Prayer is our way of communicating with a God who is holy and powerful, as we regularly remind ourselves that He is sovereign and in total control. No matter how chaotic, stressful, and disorganized things become for us — in our finite and limited understanding as humans — God has never once lost control of a situation. Not once. Take your anxieties and concerns to Him in prayer. He can handle them.
#6. Use multiple communication channels.
The news of the Savior's birth was heralded across the earth through multiple channels. From angels and simple shepherds to wise men, prophets, kings, a virgin girl, and a carpenter, God the Father would write the epic story of the Messiah's arrival by using dozens of select people. When it comes to our church's internal and external communication, we must do the same. Follow God the Father's example and embrace a multi-channel approach. Don't limit yourself to just group texts or just Slack. Have backup plans and communicate in a way that will resound with your audience and leave lasting impacts, no matter who that audience happens to be.
You really can avoid the Christmas Freak-Out and thrive in your Church Communications role this year. You do not have to experience burnout during this or any other season. With a little strategy and a whole lot of grace, you and your comms team can emerge stronger than ever!