Why We Take Time Off Over the Holidays

Kent Bateman, the author of this post, serves as one of our pastors and our communications director. For more information about our leadership, visit our Leadership page.

During the holiday season, we do something that might seem strange to some people: we don't host Gatherings for two weeks (details here). This is something we've done pretty much since the beginning of our church, and since it's a little different, we thought we'd take some time to explain it in a blog post.

In the beginning, our church was mainly made up of young folks, many of whom scattered and traveled over the holidays. Because of this, taking two weeks off made a lot of sense. But as we grew as a church, the rhythm of taking off two weeks during Christmas became a really healthy rhythm for our staff and our church family. It gave all of our pastors and their families time to relax and enjoy the Christmas season, and helped people in our church not feel like they were missing out if they traveled over the holidays.

Church ≠ Sundays

In addition, we always like taking opportunities to symbolically remind people that the church is a family, not an event. Christmas and New Year's seems like a great opportunity to do just that. We also cancel Gatherings for Sundays like Super Bowl Sunday, in an effort to encourage people to go and be the church on a very easy day to be missionaries in our city.

While Sundays are important to what we do, they are not the whole of what we do. So although our churches will not gather corporately gather on December 28 and January 4, they continue to function as churches just the same.

What to Do the Next Two Sundays

Since there are no Gatherings the next two Sundays, here are a few ideas on what to do instead:

  1. Host your own informal worship gathering.Christmas is a great time to lead your family in remembering Jesus together. Join with your LifeGroup or another family to craft your own Christmas-themed worship gathering. Get the kids together in a living room and talk together about who Jesus is and what he's done for us, and then sing a few Christmas songs together. If you'd like some resources to study Christmas and/or the Advent season together, there are great ones available from Verge Network, The Village Church, and Desiring God.
  2. Be a missionary. Christmas is a great time to be hospitable. Almost everyone is in a partying mood, so invite some friends and/or coworkers for a Christmas party. Make it an event and play a game of White Elephant, or low key and just with some Christmas cookies in the oven and coffee on the pot. Our culture still generally slows down on Sundays, so Sundays end up being a great time to have people over without everyone feeling pressed for time.
  3. Serve our city. Christmas is usually the hardest time of year for nonprofits in Columbia to find help, so contact somewhere like Transitions or Babcock Center about opportunities to serve. Usually, there's plenty of opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus by meeting practical needs alongside great organizations in our city. (Serving together as a family or LifeGroup is also a great thing to do!)

Whatever You Do, Do it Because of Jesus

No matter what you choose to do over the next two Sundays, I'd encourage you to not just do it mindlessly. If you host an informal worship gathering, remind yourself that it's because Jesus' incarnation is news worth remembering and celebrating. If you host a party for friends or co-workers, remember that the reason we welcome strangers is because Jesus welcomed us first through his humble birth and death on the cross. If you serve our city, remember that we serve others because Jesus first served us.

Every opportunity is an opportunity to remember the Jesus. So my prayer for you and your family is that you take these next two Sundays to celebrate him just as much as we would if we were all at a Gathering together. We'll see you in the new year!

We'll resume Gatherings at our Downtown and Two Notch church on Sunday, January 11. For more information about our Gathering schedule over the holidays, read this post.

Why Do We Take Two Weeks Off Around Christmas?

For two weeks around Christmas our office is closed and we do not have any gatherings. We do this for a few reasons:

  1. To give the leaders in our church family a break. It takes a huge group of people to pull off two campuses and 5 gatherings each and every Sunday. From Host teams to production teams to Kidtown workers, there are hundreds of man hours involved on a weekly basis.  We want these volunteers to continue to see their service as a blessing and not a burden, and sometimes a break is very helpful in that regard.
  2. To allow pastors and staff to rest. Dropout rates amongst pastors are startlingly high due to the weight and constant pressure they experience.  A pastor’s job is never done because people are never done, and there are always more people who need Jesus.  Being a pastor is as much a way of life as it is a job, and there are always things to be thinking about, people to be praying for, things to study, and opportunities to research.  Having a couple of weeks off gives our pastors time to attempt to only think about enjoying time with their families and friends as they celebrate the incarnation of Jesus. We hope to see our current pastors continue being pastors for the next 30 years, and if a short break is helpful then we are delighted to do so.
  3. To remind us all that church is not a once a week gathering, but rather a community of people unified around Christ and his mission. One of the great failures of the church in America is that we have reduced our idea of  ‘church’ to an event we attend.  In our experience oriented culture there is no shortage of consumer Christians who are simply looking for the best ‘worship experience’ to call their church.  We hope to consistently push against this, and this is one particular way that has proven helpful.  Even when we do not gather, we are the covenant people of God committed to the mission of God.  Our gatherings do not define us or make us, Jesus does.  We hope you enjoy Christmas by taking some time to meditate on Jesus’  holy, missional, and sacrificial birth which lead to His holy, missional, and sacrificial death on the cross to atone for our sins. Please use these weeks to drink some eggnog, worship Jesus, and leverage time with your friends and family to be the church and push back darkness in Columbia (or wherever your travels take you).