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How To Avoid a Family Meltdown This Christmas

By now you know the drill.

Scramble hard to get to Christmas Eve services at your church. Push through somewhere between 1 and 36 services (depending on your church). Make the drive home after the final service is done and….

And what?

Often church leaders (pastors especially) are so exhausted that they pretty much just collapse.

The dynamic is, naturally, more widespread than just church leaders. December is an exceptionally stressful month for a lot of people, from shopping, to cooking, to parties, to entertaining, to hanging out with people you’d rather not see, to worries over how to pay for it all.

Usually by the time you actually get to Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, most adults are simply worn out. And church leaders are often especially exhausted.

So here’s the question. When you’re exhausted like that, what’s it like at home?

Can we be honest? For a lot of us, it’s not good.

I spent more than a few Christmases completely worn out, and when I’m worn out, I can be not very nice to be around.

Tired, angry, edgy leaders can make for terrible Christmases at home.

It’s tragic to talk about peace, love and joy in church and not give it to your family at home.

Sadly, I have done that. And I decided a while ago I don’t want to live that way anymore.

Too many church leaders are kind to the people who go to church but mean to the people they live with.

I have 5 practical things you can do listed below, but if this has been an issue for you, also listen in to my super honest conversation with Sean Seay, who got dead honest about his relationship with his family a few years ago and has seen major transformation there. Listen in the player below or on iTunes or GooglePlay.

Here’s what Sean and I have both realized as driven leaders: if you’re wining at work but losing at home, you’re losing.


1. See Your Home As a Place to Give, Not Take

The best leaders aren’t the leaders who take; they’re the leaders who give.

Think about. Everyone loves a generous, kind, self-less boss at work. And as Christians, qualities like that should characterize our leadership because they characterize our Saviour.

But having given all day (or all year), leaders often come home empty. And as a result, it can be so easy to see home as a place to finally receive. 

Instead of serving others, you expect to be served. Instead of giving love, you expect to receive it.

And that can be devastating.

I’ve had to see my home as a place to give.

Ironically, of course, the more you give the more you receive. Love someone deeply, and most people love back.

But every time I come home exhausted and expect to receive, it creates a negative cycle I just don’t want to see any more.

I know what some of you are thinking: Well where do I get the ability to love? Who looks after me?

That actually comes from Jesus. Keep reading…

2. Make Sure Your Deposits Outnumber Your Withdrawals

Really, your life and leadership is like a bank account: it’s a series of deposits and withdrawals.

If you make more deposits than withdrawals, you have margin. If you make more withdrawals than deposits, you end up in trouble. And ultimately you go bankrupt.

Guess what ministry is? It’s a series of withdrawals. 

Guess what life is? For the most part, it’s a series of withdrawals. 

Finally, guess what leadership is? Pretty much a series of withdrawals.

December just intensifies that.

By the time Christmas rolls around, so many people and issues have generated withdrawals that you’ve got nothing left.

The key is realizing that.

All month long, you should be storing up deposits.

Here are some things that often serve as deposits for most people:

Time with friends you love to be around

Quiet time (especially for introverts like me)

A hobby or sport you love

Personal time with Christ (your devotional life)


Time off


You can fill in the blanks by answering this question: what fills your cup? Make a list.

If you do more of those things then you’re offsetting the withdrawals that will inevitably come your way: the crisis management, the 11 p.m. emergency phone call, endless deadline and long lines everywhere you go.

Yes, that requires you to pause. And yes, that means some other things won’t get done.

But the alternative is you show up to your family Christmas severely overdrawn or bankrupt. And you’ve got nothing left to give.

3. Don’t work for God. Worship God.

The challenge for many church leaders is that we can end up thinking we work for God. We don’t.

You don’t work for God. You worship him.

Increasingly I believe there is a direct line between the state of your personal relationship with Jesus Christ and your ability to love others.

I personally do not have the strength to love all people. In fact, I’m not sure I have the strength of ability to love even one person.

Why? Because my love is conditional. It says “As long as you do X (for me), I’ll love you.”

I’ve found that Jesus is the only sustainable source from which I can find unconditional love that actually flows through me.

The closer I am to him, the more deeply I love. The further away I am from him, the more poorly and conditionally I love others…or even myself.

Stop working for God. Start worshipping God. And start personally.

You got into this because Jesus loves you and you loved him, remember? The him loving you part hasn’t changed. So live like it.

Carve out time for prayer, for scripture, for reflection and for tapping into the grace that changes everything.  Take time to receive.

It will change you as a leader and as a person. And it will change your family.

4. Do the Soul Work

Chances are that there’s a reason you’re running so hard…and you may not know the reason. If your pace is exhausting you on a regular basis, there’s about 100% chance your motivations aren’t healthy or godly, even if you’re doing God’s work.

One of the best investments you can make in yourself is to sit down with a Christian counsellor and work through your issues, prayerfully and thoroughly.

You’ll likely discover your marriage issues aren’t all her fault…a lot of them are yours. That your financial issues, people issues, diet issues, character issues all point back to you and the work that Christ wants to do in your life.

Rather than being threatening, that’s actually liberating. The ancients called in sanctification: the work of the Holy Spirit to conform you to the image of Christ.

But to do that, you have to know what’s driving you. And these days, good Christian counsellors really seem to be helping with that.

Look at it through the lens of theology, and you realize, as Calvin said, without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God, and without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.

Look at it through a leadership lens, and almost every business leader today will tell you that emotional intelligence is a far greater predictor of success than IQ.  What drives EI? One of the greatest attributes of emotionally intelligent people is their keen self-awareness.

See how it’s all connected?

5. Sleep, baby, sleep

So if you’re convinced you don’t have time to do most of all of the things that fill you up before Christmas, let me show you the ultimate hack.

Do this one thing and it will temporarily compensate for all the other life-giving activities for which you don’t feel like you have time. It will add a more generous deposit to your bank account more quickly than almost anything else.

What is it?


Seriously. Most people are horribly sleep deprived.

Go to bed early tonight and sleep for eight hours. Then take a nap tomorrow.

Then go to bed early again.

Within days, you will feel like a new person. I don’t know who said it, but I agree wholeheartedly: 70% of discipleship is a good night’s sleep.

Just because you start feeling better quickly doesn’t mean you can ignore #1-4 above. But it does mean maybe you can avoid a meltdown this Christmas.

I have become a huge proponent of adequate sleep as a daily discipline because I’ve seen the difference it’s made in my life and leadership.

If you want to see why I think it’s actually a secret leadership weapon, read this.

Want Some Practical Help Next Year?

One of the greatest challenges you face as a leader is creating a sustainable rhythm that gets time, energy and priorities working for you rather than against you.

That’s why I developed the High Impact Leader Course, which opens for registration again just before New Year’s.

What’s the High Impact leader Course designed to do? Well, let me ask you a question: what if your rhythm in 2017 was far more sustainable than it has been in 2016?

Recently, I asked leaders what their #1 time management challenge was.

See if any of this sounds familiar. Here’s exactly what they told me:

  • Controlling my schedule.
  • Too many meetings.
  • Email and similar interruptions in my day.
  • Intentionally creating time to be with my family.
  • Getting to work on my highest priority items.
  • The social media black hole!

The list actually goes on and on.

You know what’s both sad and hope-filled at the same time? All of these problems are solvable. Yours are. Mine are.

In the High Impact Leader course, I:

  • Give you a strategy to figure out where you add the most value to your organization and where you bring the most value in your life.
  • Show you how to leverage your energy so you can do what you’re best at when you’re at your best.
  • Show you how to get out of meetings you don’t need to be in or want to be in.
  • Explain how to spend most of your time with the leaders who produce most of your results and minimize time with those who don’t.
  • Get your first priorities done early in the week and early in the day so your time off is actually time off.
  • Outline a six step strategy on how to say no nicely so you can finally control your calendar rather than having other people control it for you.

And that’s just the beginning. The High Impact Leader is designed to help you completely revamp your life and leadership.

Join the waitlist if you want to get in on the next opening.

Join the Waitlist for High Impact Leader

In the meantime, what are you learning about avoiding meltdowns at Christmas? What helps you?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

1 Comment

  1. ServantHeart2012 on December 19, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    This may be a little controversial, but one of the best ways a church can love on its pastor(s) is to be CLOSED on Christmas day . . . even if Christmas falls on Sunday. That’s right. Lights off, doors locked, and all staff home with their families.
    So many churches try to see how many services they can cram into a few days before and on Christmas day. That may seem great for the congregation as they get to attend a children’s program, a “grief” service, a contemporary, a ‘blended,’ a traditional, a candle light with communion, a sunrise, a breakfast, and/or a ‘casual’ Christmas morning service. However, it is exhausting and often not at all rewarding for the pastor and staff.
    As Larry the Cable guy says; “Git ‘er done” BEFORE Christmas day. Have as few services as possible to allow people an opportunity to worship if they wish, BUT . . . don’t try to cater to every different preference! Then close up and go home . . . and don’t rush back on the 26th either! Take a few days to regroup, recharge, and welcome in a new year with gratitude!

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