One of the subplots of the Holiday classic movie Christmas Vacation, starring Chevy Chase, is Clark Griswald waiting for his Christmas bonus. Since a Christmas bonus was something that he had received every year, he assumed this year would be the same and put a deposit down on a swimming pool. Toward the end of the movie, we find out that Clark’s boss, Frank Shirley, in an effort to “save a buck,” decided that instead of a bonus, he would give a year’s subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. I’m not suggesting that church leadership is cheap like Mr. Shirley, but it’s tough to dole out bonuses during lean financial times. A recent survey shows that of the people who donate to churches, only about 5% give a tithe (which means 10%), and 80% of Americans only give 2% of their income. While cash flow may limit giving bonuses for many churches, it should spark other creative ways to demonstrate goodwill toward the staff.
Yule time is a pagan celebration of the winter solstice that goes back thousands of years. But hundreds of years before Nat King Cole ever sang “Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,” the term yule and the period around Christmas became synonymous. All that to say, one creative way to exhibit goodwill toward the staff is to give the gift of time – call it a Yule break. Anyone working at a church knows the amount of time and energy spent to ensure the success of the Christmas season. So many activities, children’s choirs, rehearsals, advertising, social media posts, blogs, videos, financial strategies, giving reminders, and the list goes on and on. By the time the final Christmas Eve service concludes, you can hear a collective sigh of relief. With that in mind, it may be time to consider giving the staff some time off between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
It’s an Unbudgeted Benefit
A savvy budgeter will quickly see that giving staff members paid time off above and beyond the typical holiday and vacation pay is expensive – especially if multiple people are off at once. Yep, that’s the point. And depending on the number of days the church deems to be part of the Yule break, it will not make sense on a spreadsheet. Why pay people not to work? The truth is if your church has vacation and sick time, you already do it. Consider this time off the same way you think of vacation or sick time; it’s an unbudgeted benefit.
I recommend thinking through the logistics well before proclaiming a Yule break. Running a church is not as simple as many think. Planning a complete or partial closure creates a significant tasklist to accomplish before the next church service, like cleaning the facility, counting the cash, making the deposits, paying bills, running payroll, designing and printing handouts, organizing volunteers, marketing and social media posts, preparing a message, etc. Set up a meeting weeks before the Yule break and establish what is essential, where the church can work ahead, who is responsible for completing the tasks, etc. Throughout the process, remember this is a benefit for the team. The goal is to provide goodwill through extra time with their family and a chance to catch up on some much-needed rest. And share the burden as much as possible throughout the staff.
At the end of Christmas Vacation, Frank Shirley recognized that the impact of his cost-saving measures went beyond the financial bottom line; it impacted his most valuable resource – the people. This Christmas, consider creative ways to provide a benefit to the staff, even if your church cannot give a bonus.