Bill Hybels: Take Sweet Revenge on December Pressure

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December's pressure doesn't have to be tragic. 2 ways to thrive at the end of the year.

I have a love/hate relationship with the month of December.

My birthday falls near the middle of the month and Christmas falls near the end so those occasions should make the month of December a banner month, right?

Senior Pastors know better.

December is easily the most pressure packed month of the year.

Teaching fresh material every December is a herculean challenge. Extra time is always needed for celebrating the staff, honoring the volunteers, raising year-end funds, and being even more available than usual for pastoring the church and community.

And then there is your family – your spouse and kids and grandkids and extended family. Neglect them and well, you know…

So, each year there are the 2 things that I make sure I do to recharge and stay grounded.

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The first is prayer.

Out of desperation I started a new practice decades ago.

On the first Monday in December I take my Bible and journal to a place that offers solitude. My prayer is the same each year: “God, please help me get this Christmas right…or at least a little better all around than I did last Christmas.”

Then I start journaling about whatever comes to mind.

Sometimes I start with making sure I’m learning from mistakes of previous holiday seasons. Other times I begin by reviewing what I got right the year before.

But regardless of where I start, God always speaks to me.

I specifically remember the year that God whispered to me to stop pretending to my wife and children about what my schedule was going to be in December. Ever the optimist, I would joyfully announce that I was going to be around more this December than last year.

Then reality would strike.

Bill Hybels Bill Hybels, founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek, is well-known for his relevant and insightful Bible-based teaching. He is the author of 17 books, including Rediscovering Church and Fit to Be Tied (both co-authored with his wife Lynne), Too Busy Not to Pray, Becoming a Contagious Christian (with Mark Mittelberg), and The God You're Looking For. He is chairman of the Willow Creek Association's board of directors. Bill received a bachelor's degree in Biblical Studies and an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College. He and Lynne are the parents of two adult children & have one grandchild.

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  • Pmac

    It’s true! December can be a stress filled month forof pastor’s. Thanks you for these words of wisdom.

  • Proud2BCanadian

    Thanks for the words of wisdom! I don’t have the pressures of leading a church right at the moment, but our family does dozens of Christmas concerts – so I know the sort of pressure you feel. Thank you for the encouragement!

    P.S.: I love your book Too Busy Not to Pray! It has been a real encouragement to me.

  • Jim DeFrancisco

    There is another path. Focus on the calling in ministry and not on the holiday spirit. Counselors as well as pastors know well the problems associated with Christmas. The Puritans and other groups saw this holiday for what it is and abstained from celebrating it. Perhaps more reasonable approaches would be to not let it dominate our time, energy, and expenditures. Celebrate the fact of the incarnation without all the devotion to the holiday itself. Have fun with the kids. Take a lesson from sports. How often do we take what should be fun for kids and make it another burden or, worse yet, fanaticism? Have a blessed and happy holiday season without all the satanic pressure.

  • B. Kay

    I treasure Bill Hybels!!!

  • Dalia

    Pastors may have more stress during Christmas, but know this, we appreciate your light in a world that doesn’t know where to turn in their darkness. We appreciate your year round sacrifice to diligently guide us through God’s word and in His word. God bless sincere, genuine, and worth their salt guiders!

  • Char

    I told my group of kids during the children’s message to ask their parents or caregivers what their Christmas JOY memories are and also told them that sometimes we as grown-ups, just like as in THE LITTLE PRINCE, ask them too many questions to make sure they get it right. Sometimes it is us who need to get it right. Christmas is to remember a child and therefore, how can we ever forget the child in ourselves?