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How a Pastor Can Prioritize Family during the Holidays

Don’t Overschedule Holidays

Leaders face a major challenge when it comes to celebrations. Tim Stafford says, “Celebrations take time. Busy people don’t always take the time required. Even if it’s a national holiday . . . they want to accomplish so much that they don’t relax and celebrate. They just don’t see the point.” This comes from an orientation that does not view tradition and celebration as God-given gifts to us.

Stafford continues: “Holidays don’t have a utilitarian purpose. There is no lesson to be learned from watching a parade. Which is part of the point. The point is there is no point. Joy is not about accomplishing something.”1

When our children were with us, we developed some traditions that became meaningful aspects of our Christmas celebrations. We set apart one day in December for shopping. As Christmas is a busy time for me, I entered the shopping day in my datebook several weeks before Christmas Day. When my daughter was old enough, she began to plan out the day: where we would go to shop, where we would eat, and so on. We usually decorated the house on Christmas Eve. This, too, was done as a family.

The Family Life of a Christian Leader

Ajith Fernando

This book speaks to a common struggle Christian leaders face—balancing ministry and family priorities. Ajith Fernando equips leaders to cultivate a God-centered home, covering topics such as disciplining children, dealing with disappointment, and more.

The Jews viewed the Sabbath day also as a festival. They had special traditions for the keeping of this day, which was a very family-oriented day. Today we should try to ensure that we have a Sabbath rest so the family can refresh itself. For those of us in ministry, Sunday is not a day of rest. I used to take Wednesday off each week (now, while I ensure that I take one day off each week, it is not necessarily the same day each week). If my children heard me involved in a conversation that suggested I was not going to be free on Wednesday, they would interject by saying something like this: “But that’s your off day!” They looked forward to the fact that the family had my undivided attention on that day.

Vacation for Joy

Vacations are another important tradition for a family. Ask an adult about pleasant memories of happy experiences he or she had as a child, and invariably family vacations will be mentioned. Today, many Christian leaders cannot afford to go to traditional vacation sites. Therefore, they must use their creativity to find places that will give the family the joy of spending holidays together. I know of people who visit friends and relatives in other towns. When my children were small, we once went to a place by the beach for our vacation. As we got out of the car, my daughter said, “I hope there are no Christians here!” She knew that if there were Christians, I would be distracted by people who wanted to talk to me.

Our children want us to give them our full attention during fun times.

As we walked into the resort, there right in front was a group from a church where I often had spoken! They had come on a church retreat. The leaders must have instructed the people to leave us alone, because no one came and spoke to us! This incident showed me how much our children want us to give them our full attention during fun times.

There are other celebrations that I can think of, such as birthdays and anniversaries. Here again, we should think of enjoying such times not for show but for the joy of the family. For our birthdays, my wife and I often decided that we would just celebrate as a family without inviting others. It is part of my job to be at the celebrations of many people. We thought that one way we could compensate for that public lifestyle was to have our birthdays in private. The children, of course, liked to enjoy their birthdays with their friends. But we need to remember the important principle of true joy over mere appearance.


  1. Tim Stafford, Never Mind the Joneses: Building Core Christian Values in a Way That Fits Your Family (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 155.

This article is adapted from The Family Life of a Christian Leader by Ajith Fernando.

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