How to Shepherd Your Group During Christmas

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Rick Howerton reminds leaders of the not-so-obvious needs your group members may have during the holiday season.

We anticipate that our small group leaders will be pastors/shepherds for the small congregation that meets in their home. As is true of anyone who shepherds others, they are expected to meet the emotional needs of those they lead which, during the holiday season, can be especially perplexing.

My first few years in ministry, I remember being blindsided with counseling conversations during the Christmas season. This amazed me as I had anticipated everyone would be so busy celebrating that negativity would be off the table. I hadn’t considered the following…

1. Many exes are dealing with the anger and disappointment of a spouse who has divorced them since the prior Christmas.

2. Many spouses are alone for the first time due to the death of a husband or wife.

3. Many people work in retail and their lives are more busy than ever during the Christmas season. They feel guilty that they cannot spend more time with their family due to their work schedule.

4. Many households are financially strapped and unable to give their children what they long to give them and what they believe their children deserve.

5. Many people are reminded that they are estranged from their parents and/or siblings and struggle with the guilt of unforgiveness.

6. Many people long to be with their extended family but they don’t have the resources to travel across the country to be with them.

7. Many people have lost those they love due to death. These people struggle during the Christmas season as they are without those who are so dear to them.

I would suggest that you send this list to your small group leaders. Suggest that they quickly run through the list of group members in their group and determine who might be struggling during this Christmas season. This will allow the group leader to pray for those group members who may be struggling. This will also allow the small group leader to mentally prepare himself if a small group member who fits in one of these categories seeks counsel from them.  

Rick Howerton Rick has one passion… To see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.” He is presently pursuing this passion as the Small Group and Discipleship Specialist at LifeWay Church Resources. Rick has authored or co-authored multiple books, studies, and leader training resources including A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual, The Gospel and the Truth: Living the Message of Jesus, Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups, Redeeming the Tears: a Journey Through Grief and Loss, Small Group Life: Kingdom, Small Group Kickoff Retreat: Experiential Training for Small Group Leaders, and Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study, Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making. Rick’s varied ministry experiences as an collegiate minister, small group pastor, teaching pastor, elder, full-time trainer and church consultant, as well as having been a successful church planter gives him a perspective of church life that is all-encompassing and multi-dimensional. Rick is a highly sought after communicator and trainer.

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  • Linda Ranson Jacobs

    Thank you for this post. I run DivorceCare at my church. I also teach a single parent class. Most of these people are hurting people and while they are glad the baby Jesus came to earth, Christmas celebrations are difficult to say the least. They need lot of attention and hugs during the season of Christmas

  • Susan L. Prince

    As a single with no family around, I want to add something if I may. It has been my experience at this time of year, many of the “normal” activities of the church are cancelled so families can be together as holiday events start happening, (school programs, travel, holiday parties, business parties, etc.) and that leaves some of us out of the routine of gathering with people on a regular basis. Sometimes it is nice to have a break away from things, and I’m not bemoaning that, but asking that people keep in mind that when the routine of small group gatherings are cancelled a few times over the holidays, it can be a real downer for some. Your post here seems sensitive to some of that because you are, in fact, asking leaders/members to consider some of the life circumstances of others in the group and I appreciate that. Thank you!


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