This is a guest post by Dr. Paul White is a business consultant and psychologist, and is the coauthor of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman. For more information, go to www.appreciationatwork.com. Here is Dr. White’s guest post:
How to Reduce Holiday Stress for Your Ministry Team
“The Christmas Rush” is something everyone experiences at some degree during the holidays, but it takes on a whole new meaning for church leaders and volunteers.
Ministry workers have the same holiday activities that others have—buying gifts, attending Christmas parties and events, and visiting out-of-town relatives—in addition to ministry demands that can deplete a church team’s time and energy. For pastors, worship leaders, and Sunday School teachers, there are extra Christmas programs, such as the Christmas Eve service or a special holiday concert, which require additional weeknight practices, time-intensive preparation, and the coordination of many different people. There are decorations that need to be put up in the sanctuary, Christmas trees that need ornaments in the foyer for a gift-giving ministry, and there are gifts that need to be bought for the Sunday School class or cookies to be made for small group study.
This is the perfect recipe for stressed, uptight, and frantic people. Are you excited and ready to worship yet?
So as a church leader, what you do? Take high blood pressure medication? Check out and reappear in January? I’ve written recently on general ways to reduce stress and avoid holiday burnout, but here are two steps you can take to support your ministry team and reduce the stress level for you both:
Reduce the “Should’s”
The holidays become crazy because we have so many “should’s” – and they are coming at us from everywhere: past positive memories, family traditions, the church’s traditions, personal expectations, Martha Stewart, TV commercials and those magazine articles on “How to Make Baby Jesus Manger Cookies.”
Help your staff by reducing the sense of obligation you place on them. You can also help them evaluate opportunities by saying, “We could do that, but we don’t have to for this to be a success,” Or, “It’ll be fine without having to go the extra mile.” Many times people just need the permission to say no, or to say when enough is enough.
Actively Appreciate Your Team Members
Statistics show that the majority of people don’t feel truly valued in their jobs or volunteer work, with 70% of employees who say they receive no or little appreciation at work, and one third of volunteers do not return after one year of service. And when people don’t feel appreciated, they start to feel used—becoming discouraged, irritable, and edgy. They’re not fun to be around and this attitude can spread and affect the entire team.
One challenge in effectively appreciating your team members is that not everyone’s “language of appreciation” is the same, and therefore, some attempts at appreciation may miss the mark. Most people think of appreciation as being verbal—saying thanks, a written note, or a public award—but in reality 25-30% people don’t like to receive recognition in front of a large group. For another 25%, a gift card to Starbucks or the local Christian bookstore will not convey the intended appreciation. Some people feel appreciated in spending personal time with you; others just want help cleaning up.
In my business consulting with leaders, I have found that for people to truly feel valued, appreciation needs to be communicated individually (rather than a blanket thank-you to all involved), in the language that they value (see our online inventory to identify each person’s preferred appreciation language), and in a manner that they perceive as being genuine.
To be honest, it takes some time and effort to communicate appreciation effectively. But it is worth it when you hit the mark with a team member, and you watch as they start to glow (or become teary-eyed) and their commitment to you and the ministry deepens dramatically. When your ministry team starts to feel appreciated for what they do, you won’t be able to get rid of them even if you want to! And you will have melted away any holiday stress they were feeling previously.
Dr. White’s book The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace applies the “love language” concept of New York Times bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, to the workplace. This book helps supervisors and managers effectively communicate appreciation and encouragement to their employees, resulting in higher levels of job satisfaction, healthier relationships between managers and employees, and decreased cases of burnout. Ideal for both the profit and non-profit sectors, the principles presented in this book have a proven history of success in businesses, schools, medical offices, churches, and industry. Each book contains an access code for the reader to take a comprehensive online MBA Inventory (Motivating By Appreciation) – a $20 value.