Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why Do Pastors Work Only One Day a Week?

This is a typical assumption of ministers, but is very far from the truth. Serving as the pastor of a church requires more than one day a week, and is one of the most exhausting and time consuming jobs you could imagine. The average pastor actually works many more than 40 hours a week.

Because of the nature of the job, a pastor cannot escape his responsibilities when he leaves the office. He is on duty around the clock, and often receives calls at home from dawn to dusk, even in the middle of the night. Most of his home activities and social relationships are church related. If he is fortunate enough to get a day off during the week, it will rarely be a day of leisure. It’s usually the only time a pastor can have some undistracted time to catch up on ministry related things.

To prepare a fresh new sermon from scratch, a pastor must pray and receive God’s direction, research scriptures, consult commentaries for clarity, find interesting illustrations, and pray for God’s anointing on the finished product. For me personally, it takes 2 full days (sometimes 3) to prepare one thirty minute sermon of quality. But the demands on a pastor’s time are so great, that rarely can he devote the required amount of time to sermon preparation.

Each week there are many people who want to counsel with their pastor or speak to him by phone. It’s not uncommon for me to have several calls a day come in, and if I take each call and spend a mere 12-15 minutes with each caller (most phone conversations are longer), this could easily come to 2 hours per day, (which is 12 hours per week), just on the phone. I also meet people each week – either in my office or after the morning services – for spiritual advice or guidance. Each meeting takes about 30 minutes to an hour, adding another 3-4 hours to the work week.  Then of course, there are the “walk ins” – people who just show up unannounced and expecting my undivided attention (after all, I don’t have anything else to do).

So far this comes to 40 hours per week. But the work is not done, so let’s continue.

Then there is the time required to conduct the business aspects of the church. I easily spend 3 hours a day involved administrative decisions of our church, reviewing expenditures and other paperwork, dictating or writing letters, analyzing attendance and giving trends, in staff meetings, reviewing schedules, problem solving, strategic planning, setting goals, and planning the quarterly calendar. Besides this, it takes me about 12 hours a month to write my portion of in-house publications for PCC.

Then there are hospital calls to make or other visitations during the week. Calculating the drive time involved to-and-from the visit, this eats up a half day (4 hours).

Then there are a variety of meetings to attend or lead, (such as staff meetings, department meetings, or planning meetings). Not to mention the periodic weddings, funerals, and other social functions that the pastor is expected to attend or officiate.

If you don’t have a calculator handy, all of this comes to 65-68 hours per week. Needless to say, pastors work more than one day a week. BTW, Sunday is a work day for pastors - not a day of rest.

When I hear people say, "preachers work only one day a week" I am always amazed at how ignorant such a statement (person) sounds. Believe me, a church does not run itself Monday through Sunday all by itself. There are ministries to plan, staff to supervise, volunteers to recruit, policies to write, budgets to fund, leaders to develop, money to raise, people to take care of, services to prepare for, weddings, funerals, and buildings to maintain.

And the last time I checked we were still a 501 (c) 1 non-profit organization chartered with the Division of Corporations with the State of Florida. This means we have state and federal laws to comply with, meetings to conduct, minutes to take, books of account to monitor, and bills to pay. We have corporate officers, incur liabilities, employ personnel and allocate resources. Add infitim.  In the midst of this maddening schedule we plan and prepare for the hundreds of people who will show up on Sunday.   Then on Sunday we have to engage ourselves in the most frightening thing on earth – public speaking.

Then there are the evening meetings - they are the bane of family life because there are usually too many of them.

All of this adds up to many, many, work hours each week.  These hours are irregular and disruptive.  Furthermore, not all of my work takes place in the office.  If you don't see my car parked at the church building, it doesn't mean that I'm not at work - it probably means I'm on the clock somewhere else.... when I should be home with my wife.  Oh, if only I was employed in a secular vocation.  At least I would have work hours that were predictable and consistent, and when I got off work I would be off.  Don't get me wrong.  I love my vocation.  This blog is about enlightening those who think ministers work less than they do.

I was in a crowded room one time when a wise guy thought he’d make a joke at my expense. He said in a loud voice, “Ronnie can do it.  Everybody already knows that preachers only work one day a week.” After the laughter died down and everyone was looking at me, I replied to the man in a way for everyone to hear, “Since you don't know what you are talking about, I'll excuse you for your ignorance.” He never said it again.

And for the record, my staff works like this too.

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