We just got back into the swing of things with fall, and finally recovering from all the great things that summer had to offer … so you may be wondering, why should I start looking ahead to Advent and Christmas NOW?
Because you can play a key role in helping others (and yourself) prepare to cut through cultural clutter and focus on the real reason for the season – celebrating Jesus’ birth! Here are five easy ways to start planning for Advent and Christmas now:
#1: Be the first on everyone’s calendars
The first events marked on individual and family calendars are the ones often protected most when new invitations come. Send out an early “save the date” postcard or email for people to highlight this year’s Advent and Christmas events at your church. These can include worship times, Christmas program dates, service project events, and highlight key days in the church year that don’t appear on secular calendars. Help people look ahead to intentionally prepare for Jesus’ birthday – the reason for the season. (Yes, this means that you will need to get the dates on your church’s calendar first if you haven’t already done so.)
Here’s a quick reference of days to get you started:
- Sunday, December 2: First Sunday of Advent
- Thursday, December 6: Commemoration of Nicholas (aka St. Nick)
- Sunday, December 9: Second Sunday of Advent
- Sunday, December 16: Third Sunday of Advent
- Sunday, December 23: Fourth Sunday of Advent (also Los Posadas)
- Monday, December 24: Christmas Eve
- Tuesday, December 25: Christmas Day
- Sunday, December 30: First Sunday of Christmas
- Sunday, January 6: Epiphany
#2: Start your list(s) now
Whether this is your first or 50th year as a ministry leader during Advent and Christmas, you will be making at least one list – and checking it far more than twice. Create a list that you can use not only this year, but in future years – a ready-to-go reference to save you time and memory space.
With the wide variety of apps, creative personal planners, traditional lined paper or sticky notes available, choose the type of planning tool that will work best for you. There’s no perfect way or place to start, just start it now so you can be ready to focus on the reason for the season in December. As you modify and check things off, add notes about what worked or didn’t work while it is fresh in your mind.
#3: Practice asking for help now
Ministry leaders often look like miracle workers during Advent and Christmas with packed church calendars and never-ending list(s) of things to do. Many of us also fall into the self-inflicted category of people who too often say to themselves, “I can do that, and that, and that, … “
Jesus did not do everything by himself, he called others to follow – and many answered his call. If this sounds like you, find something simple on your list for today, this week, or this month where you can practice asking for help – whether you really need it or not. It will also give a family member, friend, or someone in your church the opportunity to serve. They may be the ones who then come to your rescue in November and December, when every bit of help does help when we most desire to focus on the reason for the season.
#4: Collaborate with other ministry leaders
You are not alone! Other ministry leaders are going through similar processes too. Yes, their ministry setting, staff structure, and number of kids and volunteers may vary, but you have far more in common during Advent and Christmas than not.
Invite one or two colleagues to collaborate with you – you each will bring different gifts to the process. Maybe one wrote a great Christmas program last year that you can reuse this year. You may have some super tip about communicating with parents to get their attention. Consider expanding an intergenerational event at your church into an ecumenical event with other churches in your community. Share ideas and share the load so you can focus on the reason for the season.
#5: Prepare yourself for Advent and Christmas
Fall will fill up fast if it hasn’t already as back to school moves to football season, Halloween, Election Day, and Thanksgiving. And those are only the recognized secular rituals that will bombard our senses via media channels before December.
The season of Advent is a time set apart to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ – the reason for the season. Be ready to turn off external clutter to turn on silence and peace for yourself. Block off your calendar now to protect at least a few minutes per day just for you. Start thinking of a Bible verse, phrase, photo, song, or prayer that touches your heart or create your own. Read it, hold it, look at it throughout Advent and Christmas. A gift to yourself as you prepare to give so much to others.
This year let Sparkhouse help you with easy tools to share the Reason for the Season with kids, youth, adults, and families you serve. Sign up now to be the first to know when our Advent and Christmas resources will be available!