Yesterday we celebrated the first Sunday in Advent, the official beginning of the Christmas season in the church. As a fellow associate or other staff member, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how busy this season can be – extra studies, extra services, angel trees, food drives, decorating parties, Advent wreaths, nativities, and so much more. It is a meaningful season, but it can also be an emotional and physical drain. So how should an associate handle the season? Here are several ideas:Â
Dive in: As an associate, Advent may not require you to change your schedule – the youth group will still meet at their usual time, the band and choir will continue to rehearse at their regular times, and the Sunday School will meet as usual. You could stay on the sidelines for the season, but I encourage you to get involved.Â There is something special about spending this season with a congregation. Conventional wisdom tells us clergy transitions are usually complete after the congregation and the new staff member spend their first Christmas together. This illustrates our need to be involved in the special events of the season. Advent binds a staff and congregation together – you become “theirs” and they become “yours” at Christmas. Don’t miss the opportunity, even if it is simply showing up to participate in the decorating party, to get the candles ready for the Christmas eve services, or to set up the extra chairs in the narthex.Â
Find your thing: So, getting involved in the children’s Christmas pageant doesn’t interest you – root canal sounds more appealing. There are many other opportunities for special ministries at Christmas. Find yours. Maybe a winter coat drive or leading a special collection to dig a well in Africa is more your style. Or maybe you would rather teach a class, or simply attend the one your lead pastor is leading for the season. Maybe you would like to direct the children’s pageant or work on a collaboration among several of the performance groups in your church. Whatever it is, find the thing that gets your adrenaline pumping and dive in for these next four weeks.
Watch your boundaries: All that said, recognize this is an incredibly busy time of the year, and a time you can easily lose yourself in the church. You could probably be at the church every night during this season attending rehearsals, baking cookies, participating in budget meetings for the new year, decorating, leading Advent studies, and more.Â Remember to take time for your family, for yourself, and for God. Don’t allow yourself to get so busy you neglect any of those things or miss out on the beauty of Christmas.Â
May your Advent be a wonderful time of celebration of the coming of Christ into history, and into your life.Â