3 Ways To Encourage Your Staff During Advent
By: Vanderbloemen November 14, 2016
As we draw near to the end of the year, church leaders everywhere are gearing up to enter one of the busiest seasons for ministry. In the midst of special services, outreach initiatives, holiday parties, family celebrations, and inevitable crisis, it is easy for ministry leaders and church staffs to miss out on the personal benefit of observing Advent. During this time of the year, we are so often focused on serving others that we can neglect what God might be doing in our own lives.
Advent is the season that marks the beginning of the ancient Christian calendar. It is the beginning of an annual narrative that walks us through the story of Jesus culminating in the crucifixion, death, and resurrection during Holy Week and Easter. During this particular season, we join the story of God’s chosen people as we wait expectantly for the coming of the Messiah. As church leaders and those who work in ministry, it is important that we find time to personally join in that story.
Here are 3 ways to encourage your church staff during Advent.
1. Embrace the traditions with your staff.
After two millennia, the church has developed a ton of meaningful traditions around Advent. One of the most common is the use of the advent wreath - a small wreath, sometimes evergreen but commonly made of wood or metal, with four candles lit in succession week after week. In many traditions, each week focuses on a specific theme – Hope, Peace, Love and Joy. The culmination of Advent sometimes includes the lighting of a fifth candle often referred to as the Christ candle, which is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. This practice is a beautiful symbol of the light of Christ coming into the world. Week after week the light gets brighter until all five candles are lit.
During the holidays, it is easy for staff culture to suffer as each ministry leader focuses on managing their piece of the puzzle. This can pull staff members in multiple directions on top of all of the natural stresses of this time of the year. However, observing Advent in a smaller setting as a staff lighting the candles, reading a short bible passage, and offering a small prayer each week can go a long way to bring your staff together in a special way. These quiet moments together remind us that while God definitely uses big, bold outreach events, he is also at work in the small quiet places of our lives.
2. Create space for personal reflection for staff members.
With extra events and tons to get done, time for personal reflection is not high on the priority list for many during this season. While many of these projects absolutely need to get done and require a great amount of time, taking time to personally reflect on what God is doing in this season can go a long way to avoiding post-holiday burn out on your staff.
If there isn’t much room in your staff members’ schedules to set aside 30 minutes to an hour, try ending staff meeting early to make space for them to rest and reflect. This not only helps prevent burnout but it also can build a culture that cares for staff members and their personal journeys.
In the midst of Jesus’ busiest ministry seasons, he regularly pulled away to pray. During this time, reflect on the story of Christ. Reflect on what God is doing in you. Reflect on what God is doing in your church. One of my favorite promises God makes time and time again is that if we seek His face, we will find him.
3. Don’t focus only on the good & pleasant things.
It is easy to focus on all of the joy and warm fuzzy feelings of this season without reflecting on what Advent means for the painful parts of life. When the Jesus shows up for the people of God, they have suffered through exile, were oppressed by the Roman Empire, and had a corrupt King leading their people. Their season of expectancy was not only a looking forward to the good things, but also an anxious waiting for relief from so many painful things.
As we sit and reflect during Advent, we should take time to acknowledge the painful places in our life where we deeply and passionately look forward to the second coming of Christ. By facing our broken relationships, our personal wounds, the systemic flaws that plague our nations, we give meaning to the coming of a Savior who we deeply need. We remember how much God has accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and we feel how much we still need the hope offered in Revelation 21 of God making all things new.
As you lead your church staff through Advent, create space for them to acknowledge the difficulties of this season. The holidays can be especially challenging for a variety of reasons and as your staff serves the church, they will encounter many of those painful areas in addition to their own stress. Allow those difficulties to be a part of the Advent story that God is telling in your church. We acknowledge the pain of this world and with the larger church look forward expectantly to the coming of Christ.
How have you observed Advent in meaningful ways with your team?