This holiday season, Christmas falls on a Sunday. Back in 2005, when this last happened, it was the first time I heard of churches not holding services on the day. This created a bit of a controversy within Christian circles. Locally, I heard people say the church should always be open, even if they weren’t going to attend the services. Why weren’t they going to attend? They were going to spend Christmas Day with their family.

I have a bit of an issue with this mentality.

When this controversy came up, it was at a time when Jana and I were talking about our Christmas celebrations and future family. We made the decision to always spend Christmas Day home with our family. If Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, I would not work that day. If I needed to, I would use a vacation day to prevent working on it.

The past few years, Jana and I have enjoyed spending Christmas at home with our boys. They love the day, and have fond memories of it.

This holiday season, I’m in the throes of getting ready to launch an Online Campus. We are testing every Sunday morning in the lead up to the launch. One of the first things I realized, when the launch date was finalized, was that Christmas was on a Sunday, and that it’d be near the launch date. Jana and I talked about the schedule conflict a bit, but in the end there wasn’t much discussion. I was not going to work Christmas Day.

I want to do what I can to make sure work never creeps into my time that is devoted to family. To make sure that happens, I have to be intentional about setting and keeping boundaries.

So, we’ll test one of the Christmas Eve services, on Saturday, with the Online Campus. Not only does this free me up, it frees up my volunteers.

Speaking of volunteers…At Christ Community Church, it takes a couple hundred volunteers to make Sunday services happen. Volunteers in Children’s Ministries, the Production Team, Worship Bands, Student Leaders, Prayer Team, Guest Services and many more. Around the holidays, CCC wants to make sure our volunteers are able to spend time with family and friends.

We still will have a stripped down service on Christmas Day, but the service is stripped down so volunteers are able to spend time with their families.

Those that are adamant the Sunday services should still happen on Christmas Day, while not attending them because they want to celebrate with their families, should think through their opinion. They should think about the hundreds of volunteers, and their families, potentially sacrificing their Christmas to keep up someone else’s ideas of traditions and appearances.

This is my opinion.

I’m not against having Sunday services on Christmas. I just want people to think through the ramifications of their opinions. I want church staff, and volunteers, to not feel the pressure to work that day.  If staff and volunteers do want to serve, and there are those that do, that is wonderful. I know people who do want to come and worship on Christmas Day, when it falls on a Sunday. The day should be joyous, not one of dread and/or resentment for staff and volunteers who might have to sacrifice family to help with the services.

It should be a “Merry Christmas” for all.

2 thoughts on “Home for Christmas

  1. Robert, while your posts are always thought provoking, this one has me torn. While I recognize that Christmas is the busiest time of year for the pastors and staff at CCC, and that spending time with family is extremely important, it is also a time of year where the unreached are potentially most open about going to church with friends and family. If that is an even remote potential, it is my opinion we should put our best foot forward as the CCC family welcoming visitors into our house. I will be one of those guest services volunteers whose regularly scheduled week falls on Christmas day…not once did i think of “taking it off” because i felt i had made a commitment to it and i've experienced how unpleasant and lonely it can be for a visitor to walk into an church that not welcoming. does this mean everyone needs to work…of course not, but i don't believe the attitude of “we are going to run a stripped down service” is a correct one to have either…it might make those that are serving even more stressed because of the lack of resources that are usually available.

    this is just my opinion. thanks for all the hard word you and the staff do at CCC…many of you have changed my life forever.

    and before anyone decides to flame me for my opinion, i know what it's like to miss christmas day with family, i've worked 6 of the last 7 at hospital…its not fun.

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  2. Thanks for your thorough comments and for reading the post. Much appreciated!

    I'm not against churches holding services on a Sunday. If someone wants to attend or serve that morning, that is wonderful. It's awesome. I do think staff and volunteers should not feel pressure to have to work on it. Volunteers especially. I understand this can't always happen, and I understand people have to sometimes work that day. Normally, it would be a work day for me, but I'm adjusting my work schedule so it won't be. And, if I needed to, I'd use a vacation day. It's that important for me to spend that day home with my family. We will have “church” at home, that morning.

    Last Christmas Eve, at the end of the services, we asked people attending to take donuts to those who were working. Like you said, it's not always fun because you do want to be with family and not working. I liked how we tried to bless those who were working the holiday shift.

    It takes several hundred volunteers to make our Sunday services happen. 150 volunteers for Children and Student Ministries. 100 volunteers for the Traditions service. 35-50 for Guest Services. That's upwards of 300 right there, for just those teams. I don't think it is loving or honoring to expect them, and other volunteers, to sacrifice time with family, or family celebrations, for a Sunday Christmas service. As you shared from personal experience, it's not fun to miss Christmas Day with your family. Now, if there are volunteers that want to serve, that is great! I think it is proper on our part to offer them a break, though. (Or, giving them a chance to reschedule when they serve if they are going to be with family.) Many ministries at CCC already do this throughout the holiday season. My volunteer team has expressed gratitude for not having to work Christmas Day as we prep the Online Campus launch.

    We will have Christmas services on December 23 & 24 as well, which I'm excited about. I'm looking forward to streaming the Christmas Eve service.

    We do see an influx of people at Christmas, but I think we sometimes overestimate how many of them are not Christians. For instance, on any given Sunday 55% of people who call CCC their home church attend. I think around Christmas, and Easter, you see more people who call CCC their home church attend more consistently. I do think there are people attending around the holidays who aren't Christian, like any Sunday, but I don't think it's as many as we think it is.

    Each Sunday we are always putting our “best foot forward”. How that looks will differ from week to week. And even though the Sunday Christmas service will be stripped down, it will still be done with excellence…as it should be. Just because we won't have as many volunteers there doesn't mean the services won't be done well. In fact, I'm guessing the volunteers that are there want to be. They'll be joyful and energetic and be spreading “Christmas cheer”. (Like yourself!)

    Again, thanks for your response and sharing your perspective. Thanks again for reading and considering my thoughts about the matter!

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