Don't Make Pastors Work on Christmas

They can't lead the family of God if they're never around their own.

It happens four times every twenty-eight years. It happened five years ago, it will happen again in six years, and it's happening in less than two weeks. Christmas will fall on a Sunday.

Most people would probably say that Wednesday is the worst day of the week for Christmas because it's hard to turn it into a long weekend. But for pastors, leaders, and other volunteers, any day is better than Sunday. Because if they're lucky, they'll only have to spend half the day away from their families. The unlucky ones will be treated to the wrong kind of long weekend.

Of course, pastors love their churches as do the tiny percentage of congregants who regularly volunteer. They sacrifice their time every single week because they recognize the importance of the church's spiritual welfare and because they genuinely care about people.

But that doesn't mean they want to work on Christmas. Like most Christians, they look forward to spending the day with family and creating those memorable traditions that we all look forward to the rest of the year. However, there will always be those who are spiritually high maintenance. Those who fear they might lose the salvation if they don't go to church every Sunday.

In addressing the Romans, Paul once described what we all now know as the "weaker brother". If it's hard enough for Christians to be selfless, it's even harder to be that when our brothers and sisters are being unreasonable.

For example, fewer Christians annoy me more than the ones still living in the Prohibition. Even joking about alcohol is enough to get them praying for my salvation as if Jesus never turned water into wine. But these are people who still don't have confidence in Christ and are daily living in fear, not faith. So as hard as it is for me to bite my tongue, I have to put them above my love of Belgian ales.

However, there are those who have taken the weaker brother concept to the next level. You might call them professionally weaker Christians--the believers who are well aware of Paul's words and use them to manipulate others into accepting their insecurities as insights. It's the difference between wandering sheep and false shepherds.

The Christians who insist that every Sunday have a service are misleading the church. They've hijacked the leadership role from the elders and held them hostage with their needy appearance. There is no biblical prescription for weekly church attendance but admonishment for lacking the personal conviction to sustain our faith without imposing it on others.

More important than going to church every Sunday is being there for your family every day. One of the interesting requirements Paul placed on elders was that they have respectful children because, in his mind, elders can't manage God's house if they can't manage their own. And as much as children are commanded to obey their parents, Paul tied this to parents not exasperating their children.

It's a classic catch twenty-two: the church needs committed, sacrificial pastors and leaders but it can't have pastors and leaders so overextended that they exasperate their families. They must be allowed time at home without being on call, and they should be given that time frequently throughout the year. But a good place to start would be ending these absurd Christmas Day services.

As an added bonus, if you didn't know what to get your pastor this year, now you do.

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photo credit: Melinda Stuart Downtown Door at Christmas via photopin (license)