So this is going to sound like a complete contradiction, after my post from a few weeks back, but I’m OK with that. If my friend Dave has taught me anything it’s that it’s OK to change your mind when new information becomes available. After I posted Inconvenienced by Christmas, there has been quite a dialog in the comment section. And then Jon Acuff’s post, 11 Signs You’re Burning Out Your Staff re-appeared. I saw that when it first posted last year, and when it resurfaced, I started re-thinking my position on the big weekends in the church calendar.
His point #6 is what really spurred my thinking. It’s titled “The church steals the staff members’ family traditions.” He ends that section with this poignant statement:
“I swear Jesus didn’t say, ‘One day, I hope someday Easter is a moment church employees look forward to with exhaustion, burnout and regret.’”
Now, let’s substitute Christmas for Easter and think about what we’re going through this year. And I’m actually not meaning “we’re” as if I’m in the middle of it because for the first time in 10 years, I’m not going crazy getting ready for a huge Christmas production. I remember very vividly the long days, the frustration, the exhaustion, and the pain of being on my feet for 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week for a few weeks. I also remember the joy and the satisfaction of producing a great Christmas experience for our church family. And the fun I had working with a great team.
But lately, I’ve been thinking; do we really need to do big, elaborate Christmas productions every year? Is the expense of time, talent and money really worth it? Do we really see results that square with the investment?
Sometimes I feel like the big Christmas productions or Christmas Eve services are almost a bait and switch. We hope to have hundreds or thousands of visitors come through the door, and we hope they come back. And if they do come back, what does the weekend after Christmas look like? Is it the same caliber as Christmas or is it back to normal? And if it’s not the same, do visitors come back a third time?
I honestly don’t know the answers to all those questions. They’re just rattling around in my head a lot lately. I’m watching my twitter feed and getting texts and emails from friends who are burning the midnight oil going crazy trying to get through Christmas. I’m hearing things like, “Once I get through Christmas, then we can grab lunch or talk,” and “Quick break, then back to the grind.” I know I’ve said those things myself.
Of course we want to make our church welcoming for visitors and we want visitors and regulars alike to enjoy a great experience. But I don’t know—have we taken it too far?
Of course, I’m talking to a group that has very little ability to change the status quo. Most of us technical artists do what is asked of us by the service planners. Then again, maybe we go way above and beyond the call of duty, to our own detriment. Maybe we need to dial it back a notch.
I also know getting the chance to do a really big production can be a lot of fun. I get it. Remember, I did this for 10 years on staff and 15 as a volunteer. I’ve been there, and I really do understand. I also understand that I feel really lost this year at Christmas because I don’t even know what it means anymore. I’ve been telling people I am having a hard time even acknowledging Christmas because it’s not cold and snowing (at least in SoCal) and I’m not prepping for Christmas Eve.
I’m all for excellence, winning the lost, doing great things, and all that good stuff. But I also wonder if we should at least have a discussion about why we’re doing all this and what the cost/benefit ratio is. Like I said, I don’t have the answers here. But I hope I can start a conversation. What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know.