How-Many-Hours-Must-a-Pastor-Work

UPDATE: Listen to the podcast on this topic.

I recently wrote a post based on a survey I did on a pastor’s work week. I also included better research and more accurate information from five-year old data from LifeWay Research.

In this post, I want to approach the issue from a slightly different perspective. I want to ask the question: How many hours must a pastor work each week to satisfy the congregation? Ultimately, I prefer to hear from pastors and church members and get their perspective.

An experiment I tried several years ago, though, might prove instructive. When I was a pastor in St. Petersburg, Florida, I gave a survey to the twelve deacons in the church (I jokingly said we had eleven good deacons and one Judas!). I listed several congregational responsibilities and asked them to share the minimum amount of time I should average in each area each week. I listed about twenty areas; but they were free to add other responsibilities to the blank lines.

I’m not sure exactly what I was anticipating. I just know that I was shocked when I tallied the results. In order to meet those twelve deacons minimum expectations I had to fulfill the following responsibilities each week:

  • Prayer at the church: 14 hours
  • Sermon preparation: 18 hours
  • Outreach and evangelism: 10 hours
  • Counseling: 10 hours
  • Hospital and home visits: 15 hours
  • Administrative functions: 18 hours
  • Community involvement: 5 hours
  • Denominational involvement: 5 hours
  • Church meetings: 5 hours
  • Worship services/preaching: 4 hours
  • Other: 10 hours

Total: 114 hours/week

If I met just the minimum expectations of twelve deacons, I would have to work more than 16 hours a day for seven days a week. Or I could take one day off of work each week, and work 19 hours a day for six days a week. And remember, I still would only meet the minimum expectations of twelve people in the church, not the entire membership.

Clearly a pastor will sense the tension of so many factors competing for the limited hours in a week. And clearly no one can ever humanly meet all those expectations.

Do these numbers surprise you? If you are a layperson, what are your workweek expectations of a pastor? If you are a pastor, how do you handle such expectations?

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Comments

  1. says

    Super excited that this was your post. As a pastor, tensions from these expectations can be heavy. It is refreshing to have this put in a solid representative way. I believe that building and growing solid leadership will help meet these expectations in an acceptable way. And sometimes, you must just say no so that you can spend the needed time with the family.

      • Ron says

        Thom, do you have anything that I can give to the Personnel Committee at the church that addresses how much time off is reasonable to give a pastor?
        Thanks
        Ron

    • Duncan says

      I first attempted this type of survey in 1982 while interning in a church. I put in my share of 70 weeks and burnt out and got tossed out after that. One of my former elders told me: you could have taken more time off, we didn’t care. So really burn out isn’t just the Deacons demands it is the fear of the pastor that he is dispensable which we are. Minister to Minsters reports 1500 clergy a month are forced out of the churches. looking back, it really wasn’t worth it, the cost to marriage, health and family. Be secure enough in your calling to model healthy spirituality. And by the way..solo pastors work twice as hard as large church pastors…just saying..to add a little controversy…

    • Jeffrey Bell says

      I’m not a layperson, a Deacon or a Pastor and have only recently found my way back to the Episcopal Church after many, many years, a lifetime almost, age 12 to 55! Inspired by all the extreme fundamentalism that exists today I felt prompted to investigate the basis of my beliefs and why such “fundamentalism” seamed so off the point, if you will, to me and really always as! Trust me I will get to my point. I found a few books about the Church on Amazon, my favorite, “Jesus is an Episcopalian and You Can Be One Too.” At any rate, this study brought to the Protestant Reformation which gave me an understanding of the foundation of the Church and exposed me to various denominations that formed at the time, which I guess you could say, is the spectrum of Christian faith. It also highlighted for me how people that essentially believe in the same things can become so separated. My point; The Episcopal Church is founded in reason and simplicity. The simplicity in that the Father Son and Holy Ghost love mankind and want the best for us at all times and in all ways. I think we all need to keep that foremost in our minds and try not to get bogged down in administrative details and social pressures to maintain the serenity that God wants for us with the faith that as such all things will take care of themselves.

  2. Mike says

    As a layperson currently- I expect 40 hours max a week. I don’t want the Pastor overworking himself. I believe it’s his job to shepherd is but train us to do the ministry. So the church members need to be more involved. As a future pastor, I will target my hours when I’m bivocational and attempt to keep it to 40/week when full time. This will force me to better equip and train people for the ministry- because I won’t be able to do it myself.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Mike -

      I love your heart for pastors. In a previous post, I noted that the median work week of a pastor is 50 hours.

    • says

      Mike is right. It is the job of pastor to “train the saints for the work of ministry.”: _Eph 4: 11,12. Even that can be taxing. That’s why I became bi-vocational several years ago. The expectations of the American church can kill one.

      • wayne says

        I believe the Pastor of my church should spend the same amount of time in study that the lay person or congregation person or myself, spends in bible study and prayer each week.

        • Pastor Mickey says

          Wayne, I suggest that you take a survey of your church members to find out how much time they really spend in Bible study and prayer each week and then rethink your statement.

          • Alan says

            I kind of read Wayne’s comment as “tongue in cheek”. I think that would be a great comeback for a Pastor when challenged about his prayer life, “I spend as much time in prayer as you”. That would be very effective at squashing any criticism.

            On the topic of how many hours a Pastor should work in a week though, I look at it through my lens as a public servant. The government pays me a salary and expects 40 hours of work from me. THAT should be the Median for Pastors. There are weeks when I certainly work longer hours because of the needs of specific projects, but as a rule 40 hours it is. I think it would be unreasonable to EXPECT more than 40 hours from my pastor. In fact, I think that on those occasions when he or she puts in more hours then that should be acknowledged and compensated. North American society really needs to reign in their expectations ans slow down.

      • Peter says

        I understand about training lay people to do the work according to Eph 4 but what if they don’t want to work and simply expect the Pastor to do everything while they sit back and relax while calling the shots?

        • says

          (I am a Pastor, and when preaching a Message that the Lord allows me to receive and Share, I make a point of also stating that it is the duty of “Every Christian” to also do their part.) I think if the congregation wants the Pastor to do all the “Ministry” work while the congregation just sit back and call the shots, the congregation needs a lesson on what it really means to be a Christian! It is the Pastor’s job to lead as a shepherd, but is it not also the job of every Christian to: 1) Hear the Word, 2) Study the Word, 3) Share the Word “Accordingly as to the Gifts of the Spirit” ? The Lord gave me a Message (Sermon) a few years ago, “Who’s Job Is It Anyway?” (Which can be viewed at http://thechurchoftheopenword.com/2601.html ) As the Pastor is “Shepherding the Flock” the Flock should be “Striving” to 1) Hear the Lord’s Message Spoken to their spirit, 2) “Study” the “Word” in order to “Know” that what they hear is “Correct” Teaching, 3) Share in the “Duties” of the “Ministry” by “Using” whatever “Gifts” they have “Received” of the “Spirit of the Lord”, Collectively and Separately (As Moved by the Spirit, In Accordance With Correct Biblical Doctrine), as it is the “Duty” of “Every” Christian to do their Part in “Sharing” the “Gospel” of Christ. If the congregation comes only to hear the “Message of the Day” but does Not also “Live” the Message of the Lord in their everyday “Lifestyle”, with the belief that they “Fulfilled” their “Weakly” (Yes I wrote Weakly on purpose) “Obligation”, and received their “Brownie Points”, then there is a “Huge” misunderstanding of what it means to be a “Christian”. Not all Christians are called to “Lead” from behind the “Pulpit”, but it is the “Christ Commanded” duty and obligation to “Love” as Christ” Loves, and out of that Love, “Share” the Gospel with one another, and to “Help” to Edify one another as the “Need” arises, out of a Lifestyle that “Honors” our Lord, in the Use of the Gift(s) we are given at our “Spiritual” Conversion that is born of the “Spirit of the Lord”, when we Accept Christ into Our lives as our Savior in Faith and Truth. (2 Corinthians 5:17). True Christianity is a Lifestyle of Walking With the Lord Always, For Everyone Who Claims to be a Christian!

          • Jeffrey Bell says

            Pastor Knopp, I have to say this is a great description of what it is, and feels like, to be a Christian!
            This is a little off the original point, but even though I stopped attending church on a g basis at 12 years old I have always felt compelled to live this way, at times attempting to deny it only to realize that it is in fact part and parcel of who I am. This tells me that the Episcopal church did a very good job of helping me find Christ in my early youth and I am forever grateful! Beyond that, I have been pulled this way and that by, shall we say more “extreme” denominations, and only through recent study developed an understanding of the difference between those and the Episcopal Church’s point of view, shall we say. Truly, we are all Christians, but some may hold a more radical view which I can only conclude speaks to them and their relationship with Christ. However, and just FYI, it has given me peace to understand those differences. At any rate, I am going to frequently refer back to your description and, especially, when I find myself in times of tribulation.

    • Jennifer Loner says

      My husband and I were both pastors and worked many hours above and beyond. Now we have resigned for this time and are reminded how “lay people” in churches feel. We both work full time and are involved in ministry. If we added up work and ministry time the hours would be crazy too. I struggle with the need I see around me but also the responsibilities of bills, mortgage etc. Often lay people use their holidays to do ministry oriented activities. If you are involved in ministry as a lay person it too can feel like 24/7 if you are available to people. I think if we talk together about the mission and each support each other whether lay people or full time pastor, we would have a healthier church fellowship. We all need to slow down and take time to rest as we are told biblically.

      • Robin Owen says

        I was an active lay volunteer before (and during) my seminary training, as well as working full time. I figure that our judicatory’s recommendation that full time pastoral ministry equals about 50 hours a week is fair – that’s about what I put in on average as a full time employee plus unpaid ministry as a lay person. And I am very aware that evenings spent in church-related activities are time away from home and family for clergy and lay people alike, so I try to model and encourage balance in that area: e.g., does this committee really need to meet each month, or can we handle things with less frequent evenings away from home?

    • Sara says

      Most of the members (including lay leaders) of the congregation work 40+ hour jobs a week, plus they are expected to commit half of their Sunday, several hours of their Wednesday evening, and time in personal devotions every day (not to mention lesson preparation if they are a Sunday school teacher, and various participation in other events and meetings of the church). If a pastor only puts in 40 hours a week (which his work week always includes Sunday for him), then he is expecting far, far more from his elders, deacons, and general members than himself. I think it very hypocritical for him to guilt his flock into serving more and giving more of their time when he often doesn’t give the same or gives much less.

      • Sara says

        By the way, I love my pastor and think he is doing a fabulous job and have immense respect for him! :) However, he has been the exception rather than the norm of previous churches I have attended years ago.

        • Kevin Burkhardt says

          I understand your feelings Sara, but while I’d love to say that my 40-55-65 hours in the office and meetings and preaching is a full workweek, what many people don’t see are the stops in the grocery stores, or the phone calls in the evening, or the side tasks that we do, trying to be spouses, parents, siblings, etc, and yet are still Pastor, Reverand, Preacher, Minister, etc, everywhere we go – which causes some stress.
          As my visiting son once said – “Where is there a place that someone DOESN’T know you?” (LOL)
          … At least for me and some of my collegues, we don’t have “quiting time” like in some jobs, so there is where some of the stress comes in. But thanks for your support of your pastor and his ministry. =)

  3. Trey E says

    Wow! What if the same were required of them at church? Or better yet, at their “job”? Leaves little to no time for other areas church members expect to be perfect for a pastor (i.e. family)

  4. says

    Through the years I have learned that the work is never done! “Enough” and “finished” are not words that define the pastor’s work. However, our body, spirit, and mind do run out of gas. So, each week I do my essential tasks – sermon prep, essential admin, necessary visits – then I do the other stuff until I reach the level of exertion mentally and physically that I am willing to make. I keep a daily journal and log – and on average, I work between 55 – 57 hours a week! I take Friday and Saturday off. Sometimes I have to make an emergency visit – or take care of a need on those days – but that is just the ministry! So far as their expectations go – I don’t ignore them – but I don’t work under them so much. They have never served as a Pastor, so I don’t think they can realistically set those boundaries for me. Thankfully, the church I serve are trusting folks and can see that I am working because the work is getting done! Thanks for your post!

    • says

      As the chairman of a newly formed Pastoral Search Committee, I am grateful that your article was forwarded to me by another committee member! Our previous pastor left because of burnout and unrealistic expectations, even though the Deacons (which I am, as well) encouraged him to pace himself. Our church is typical: a few “seasoned souls”, and the majority are Sunday morning Christians. We try to rouse them, to stir them to get more involved, but it seems to be impossible.

      My hope in a future Pastor is one who will lead by setting goals and encouraging the body to take the slack. Managing expectations are essential, as well.

    • Peter says

      My experience is that my board of deacons have told me what I have to do, checked up on me to make sure i have done it, and if not done to their satisfaction, they withhold tithes and hold the church ransom until their expectations are met.

  5. Andrew says

    I always bring this issue up, but I feel it important. For many of us bi-vocational pastors, we have at least 40 hours at our career job then have to do additional work at the church. Heaven forbid you try to spend any time with the family!
    I am blessed with a situation where the church recognizes my family, my ministry, and my career sometimes require choices. I am also blessed with a membership that helps out with some of the tasks from your survey (admin, visits, etc). Of course, sermon prep and prayer are still up to me.
    I would wonder if some churches pastored by bi-vocational pastors have the same “unspoken” set of expectations?

      • Jerry says

        They definitely will. A relative pastored a church where some folks began to micromanage his every move. He called them together and asked their expectations. They were more than eager to respond. He tallied them, in their presence, and the total was 186 hours a week….slightly tough to do in a 168 hours. Most astounding…they didn’t include time with family, personal time, or time to sleep. They continued to crush pastors after he left.

    • Tom says

      I am a bi-vocational pastor also. The church I serve is similar to Andrew’s church and the members are very supportive of my constraints and have picked up the slack where needed. For this I am very grateful!

  6. says

    The numbers do not surprise me at all. As a pastor/preacher we are all aware of the “you only work one day per week” point of view.

    It has to be difficult for members to understand their pastors kind of work. I don’t think I fully grasp the kind of work “I” do.

    I am at a rural church in East Tennessee. It is a church that has been in decline for many years. One expectation some in the congregation have of me is to keep office hours. I did that the first year and a half I was here. They were the loneliest hours of the week. No one ever darkened the door.

    Over the past year and a half I have been released from that expectation. I have been able to spend that time in town among people and developing relationships. I often do this over lunch with members, non-members and other church leaders from other churches. It often looks like my job is to go out and eat lunch everyday (which doesn’t happen). The appearance of what I do, looks “easy” to those who do not understand the depth of emotion, attention and care that accompanies this “cush” job.

    There are many that expect me to do “home visits” yet when I attempt to schedule them there is resistance. I suppose I’m expected to visit someone else.

    I have a lot of critics. I have also developed a lot of self discipline. Most of my “job” is work that people do not see. They don’t see the hours I spend in study, writing, praying or observing and interacting in the culture of our town or its people.

    People’s expectations are worth consideration, but at the end of the day it is more important that my time has been spent in submission to God than meeting the demands they have placed upon me.

  7. Len Moore says

    I expect a pastor to be on call 24/7. That being said,
    1. I expect the pastor to take a half a day each week to do the office work/ make sure our secretary is up to date / assign deacons for visitation
    2. A half a day for visitation of homebound and nursing home
    3. At least a half day for physical fitness (this is a must)
    4. Attend no more than 2 meetings a week (one of those eight meetings per month should be meeting with our association and other pastors)
    5. Barring funerals or life threatening surgeries (he cannot send a deacon to) he should take a least two full days and evenings to be with his family. (this is a must)
    6. Time as needed in sermon preparation either at home or at the office
    7. Any other visitation as needed as long as it does not interfere with the exercise or family time.

    The deacon chair should make sure our pastor does physical fitness and spends time with his family.

    • says

      Len, I love your heart for the pastor and the boundaries you list. I would say though to be careful scripting one set of expectations for every pastor. All pastors are different and sometimes the best intentions create structure that is wrong for some pastors. I suggest to churches that they create broader principle expectations, such as rest, administration, etc, but then allow each pastor to script how that’s done and when and then hold them accountable to meeting the broader expectations.

      And, respectfully, while on call 24/7 to God is of course a must (for all of us not just pastors), the pastor should have some times he can shut down his phone and totally connect only with God and the family. If not, those who don’t share your good understandings of these needs for a pastor to rest, will never let it happen. This is where training good lay leaders and deacons for ministry is critically important.

      God bless you, and as was said, you could be my deacon chair any day.

      • Gary says

        I think that there is a big difference between being “on call” 24/7 and being available 24/7. I will drop most anything to be with someone who needs ministry that cannot wait. Also, churches, is your pastor on call 24/7 via his personal cell phone – for which he or she personally incurs a bill each month.

      • Heidi says

        I am a congregational member of a small church that has struggled for years with pastors and accountability. I came to this site through researching pastors, what their responsibilities should be and if we should biblically hold them accountable. (please bare with me on the following comments, pastors) Our current pastor has been with us 10 months. He does not hold regular office hours and states he will not. He will not meet with people one-on-one, even in his office (had a bad experience in a previous position). He does not answer the office answering machine and when told it is full, he says people should call his cell phone (I have been approached by 2 people outside our congregation trying to reach him and he doesn’t return their messages). To my knowledge, he has not contacted each church family, gotten to know them, visit them or find out how they might want to get more involved in the church. He does not do home visits. I have not heard about any hospital visits so am not sure. My husband and I have struggled with attending services for about 2 months now – I am torn between wanting to worship but having these negative feelings surface because once again, we have a pastor who seems to be taking advantage of his salary. I contacted him one time (via text) during this 2 month time and although he responded, he made no effort to strike up a conversation regarding how I am, if we need anything, “miss you at church”… nothing. Let me add that no council (elder) members have contacted us either, but some close congregational friends have (they have these same concerns). He and his wife regularly post their (many) family activities and house remodeling projects on Facebook which makes me wonder… what is he doing with his work hours each week? How many hours is he actually putting in because I don’t see the result. PASTORS: I completely agree with you that most people have outrageous expectations of their pastors. I “get it” that you are spiritual leaders and your first accountability is to God. I believe my church council has failed miserably – they don’t think they should question anything ANY of our pastors do. We’ve had 3 pastors take advantage of this and we have a congregation that does not get involved. The same people always do everything. I used to be one of those people but have backed off in the hopes that others would fill the voids once visualized. I am more than willing to be part of my church and carry out the ministry. But I want to know how my shepherd is going to lead me and what he is doing to earn his salary. Even pastors’ duties need to be viewed as a job, in some respect, as long as their is a salary and benefits involved. Our pastor spends every sermon talking about how we need to be the church, not just go to church. I agree. But I feel he is expecting more from us than he is giving, and that does not motivate me.
        These are my feelings. I don’t know what is right. That’s why I’m asking for input. What expectations are acceptable of a pastor, by his congregation? -especially regarding the administration and communication/business side of the church. What expectations of council/elders is acceptable? And of course, what expectations of the congregational members are acceptable? Thanks for allowing me to share.

  8. Allen Calkins says

    As a pastor, I know there are many unrealistic expectations held about pastors by others as well as ourselves. I think part of the problem is trying to justify the value of our position.
    1) We know some out there, especially outside the church or on the fringe, consider pastors to be slackers. So we work long hours and tell everyone about it in response.
    2) We know some of our most dedicated members work long hours and volunteer on top of that. So we feel the need to match their efforts.
    3) We ‘know’ nobody can do ‘it’ as well as we do so we delegate little and do it ourselves to make sure it gets done right.
    4) We spend so much time doing what everyone thinks we should that we have to work extra hours doing what only we CAN do (like sermon prep).

    Here are some things I try to do to keep from working 60-80+ hours every week:
    1) I take my days off religiously and I carefully guard them trying as much as possible to not schedule anything ministry related on that day and to be away from home with my wife for part of the day, even if it is to buy groceries or window shop. I have learned Monday is a good day off for me because I can ‘pretend’ I have lots of time to do all I feel I need to do before Wed or Sunday. I could not ‘fool’ myself as easily taking Friday off.
    2) I take ALL my vacation. It amazes me how many pastors fail to take their vacation or refuse to be gone on a Sunday. Why?
    3) I consider my work week to be 9-5 Tues-Friday plus 6-9pm on Wednesdays and 5am-1pm on Sundays. That amounts to 47 hours a week. I work hard during those hours. Everything above that I consider ‘volunteer time’, just like what I ask members to do. This keeps me realistic in expectations for evening meetings and Saturday activities. If I am spending an extra 20 hours at church a week the chances are pretty good other vols are spending much of that time with me.
    4) I work off of daily ‘To Do’ lists to try to work on the most important things first, especially those things that only I can do. Using ‘To Do’ lists not only helps you organize your day but it also documents what you have accomplished and keeps things from falling between the cracks and forgotten. I also have a personal ‘To Do’ list.
    5) I am OK with some thing not being done, even for many weeks. I have learned to accept the fact that I cannot do it all.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Allen -

      You demonstrate great wisdom and organization. Your comments are better than the posts I write! Thanks friend.

    • Mark says

      I think your first list is not only great because it hits the nail on the head for pastors, but that I think most laymen can identify with those items in a different way. It underscores that pastor’s are human too, and are subject to the same temptations and insecurities around their labor as the rest of us. (And that the more we work to keep up with the pastor, the more pressure we put on the pastor to keep up with us!)

  9. Brad Hall says

    This is a timely post for me. Just this past week, after a hectic first year in a new pastorate, my wife told me with great emotion that I had to slow down. The church I serve is growing and doing well, but I didn’t realize just how much it had expended from my health and cost my family. I kept saying tomorrow or next week or next month things will slow down. After my reality check I began to look at how many hours I was putting in. I realized I had not had a single day off since July 4th and just this past week I had logged over 75 hours in ministry duties. At 35 years old and after almost 14 years of full time ministry, I realize it is time to make some changes.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Brad -

      Thank God for godly wives! I am so grateful you have come to this point of awareness. Maybe now God will give you 30+ more years of fruitful ministry.

    • Thomas says

      75 hours per week? I cautiously suggest that is pride. Next comes the fall. It is a repeating cycle played out in churches across the country.

  10. Chris Champion says

    I am a “layman” in my local church. I am involved in ministry in the church as a ministry leader with teaching and counseling responsibilities. I probably spend 6-10 hours per week either in preparation, counseling or teaching. I have a full time, 40-hour a week job. I have spoken to pastors in years past and heard them talk about being busy and not having time to get it all done. In the back of my mind I have thought ” I know how you feel, buddy.”

    As a church member I expect my pastor to work. He is not accountable to me for how he spends every hour of every day because he keeps a crazy schedule, but he should be working. I don’t think he should be expected to keep regular office hours. If he was up till 2AM at the emergency room with a church member he shouldn’t be expected to be in the office at 8AM. He should be expected to be getting the job done, and I don’t expect him and would frankly be very disappointed in him if he clocked out at the end of 40 hours and went home with things undone. Pastors need to remember that they lead volunteer organizations. Much is written about energizing the membership to engage in ministry. If church members are working 40-50 hours per week then coming out and giving of their free time for the work of the ministry pastors should be leading by example and working just as hard.

    As for the attitude of some that since I have never been a pastor then I am not qualified to comment or have expectations. I would remind all who feel that way that by that logic there are only four men alive today who are qualified to examine and critique the President of the United States and the rest of us need to just be quiet and trust him that he is getting the job done.

    • Mark says

      While I would generally agree with you, I would point out that the work is never *done*. There is always more to do. The question is about priorities. Of course, just putting in the minimum regardless of needs isn’t a good idea – but I don’t really think that’s what anyone here is advocating. Rather I think the point is that Pastors need to have boundaries around their time, to make sure they are not allowing the job to overcome their other duties. (Such as to their wives and children).

      The importance of the work, and the nature of it, can easily allow it to become priority #1 – overwhelming everything else – it is critically important that a pastor be able to delegate, and to draw appropriate boundaries around himself, his time and his family. In part – I believe this is why God designed the church to be led by both Elders and Deacons — not by one man.

      • Doug says

        I cautiously agree with you and the majority of the comments about pastors guarding their time with family (generally ensuring they don’t burn the candles at both ends), but there is a danger of this ‘guarding’ of time becoming an idol. Like much of the Christian walk, there needs to be balance.

        Having been on the board at our church for too long, Ii have had the privledge of working with a number of pastors. Some were very self managing with their time and others gave so much of their time I don’t know how they functioned. Some were energized by being with people while others felt drained after lots of personal interaction. As a board member, there is a responsibility to encourage, offer, and support the pastor and family, but at the same time not try to manage them. There needs to be open and frank conversation about intentional support for the pastor, (encouraging participation in local pastor bible studies, mentor groups, conferences etc) There needs to be a substantial vacation plan with additional ‘Sundays off” days built in, especially for single pastor churches.

        I would pray that there is a responsible church board that encourages the pastor in all of this. My hat is off to you pastors. Thank-you.

  11. David Walker says

    A pastor should put in 40 hours a week outside of the normal church functions I.e. Sunday worship. Meaning their full time role should match the 40 hours other are putting in and then they should attend the church and be part of its functioning to the same degree other members are requested.

    When I say 40 this should include sermon teaching prep as well as other ministry relates things such as hospital visits.

    As a bi vocational pastor I have to give my forty plus sermon prep ministry and attendance at the general gatherings so I don’t think this is an unrealistic view.

  12. Denise says

    I think most laypeople would say they want their pastor to work about 40 hours a week. They would say they want to make sure he takes time off and spends time with his family. They want to make sure he is not at the church working into the evening most nights. They want all those thing to happen until they have a question for him, or they need to talk to him about something, or someone they are close to (family or friend) needs visited or counseled with or whatever. Then those other wants mentioned earlier seem to take a backseat to what is important to them right now. And that would be okay, if it was only that one person who needed something, but how many people do pastors serve? People (myself included at times) want what they want when they want it. We’re such a selfish and self-consumed culture.

  13. says

    Ephesians 4:11-12
    And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 “for the TRAINING OF THE SAINTS IN THE WORK OF MINISTRY,” to build up the body of Christ,

    I think something is missing.

  14. says

    I didn’t read all the comments, so others may have said this already, but I fear that so much of this has to do with an unhealthy view of the church. If the pastor is expected to do these things, then the church is set up to fail. The pastor should be spending the majority of his time equipping those twelve deacons to do those things and build into the church a culture of multiplication and delegation. Furthermore, so much emphasis on one man can be idolatrous in that members will go beyond having a biblically healthy attitude of honor and respect to thinking of him as their functional savior. “If my pastor can’t/won’t do it, then it won’t be done.”

    I am all for pastors have a strong and robust work ethic, but he is not omnicompetent and and omnipresent. This is where, Dr. Rainer, I think your book Simple Church is very helpful.

    One another note, it is striking that the deacons did not list the pastor’s wife and family as a top priority. How many pastors have poor marriages or end up in infidelity and divorce? Weekly we hear those reports, right? How is he dedicating time to shepherd his family, raise his kids, and model family life devotion to his congregation? If a pastor cannot shepherd his family, he cannot rightly shepherd a church. His family is the prooftext/prototype of his congregation.

    A few years ago on FB there was the popular meme that had multiple pictures along these lines (what people thinking I’m doing, what my friends think I’m doing, what I think I’m doing, what I’m actually doing…). Actually I think there was one for pastors. :) But the perception of pastoral ministry is a difficult one to address. I think one of the best ways for we pastors to do that is invite other people into our lives and give them permission to see how we labor among the flock and engage the community.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thanks Tim. I am praying for a real renewal and revival in congregations across our land. Only He can ultimately turn dysfunction into health.

  15. Nick Laparra says

    Some of the comments to your post are great. Most, however, discouraged me. It seems that many church families, deacons, elders are placing unbiblical and un realistic goals on their leaders. AND they are expecting their leaders to do many tasks that the whole church family should be engaging in (visiting, counseling, discipling, evangelism). I’m not saying our leaders shouldn’t be doing these things. I am saying it is not mainly supposed to be their job.

    I’m sick of seeing church “members” give their tithe and expect the church staff to do all the work. We are all called to make disciples who make disciples. We are all called to do the work of ministry.

    If the church body is doing their part, the church leader can’t and won’t be over-worked.

    • Mary says

      I am a pastor’s wife, and I feel you have hit it on the nail. I don’t know how many times my husband has had to stay after a meeting, to do a “committee’s job”, when there was no reason (that I could see) why the committee people couldn’t have taken care of it themselves. And then they wonder why he can’t get more things done. I pray a lot that some day they will be more considerate. I have seriously considered going to some of those meetings to say, “Your pastor, who you called, was sent to you as a gift from God, to preach and teach the Word, to work along side of his members in serving God and being led by God to increase His kingdom. Things will not happen if the whole congregation thinks they can sit back and wait for the pastor to do it all.

  16. says

    Dr.Ranier,

    I’m curious about your numbers you mentioned. If all twelve deacons list 1 hour of prayer does that equal 1 hour or 12 hours a week in your list. I’m
    Just interested in your methods.

    • Thom Rainer says

      It worked like this: I took the maximum hours of any one deacon’s expectations. So, if a deacon had a minimum of 5 hours a week as the highest expectation for prayer among all deacons, I used his hours.

      • Tom Myers says

        Well, isn’t that the problem? Each respondent wasn’t being unreasonable. (I suspected as much.) It was their “unwillingness to compromise” that creates the problem.

        I’d recommend “time management.” There’s the old 3-D method. “Defer, Delegate, Do.”

        Instantaneous communication has created an expectation that everything will be done right now. In reality, that results in starting everything right now and truly finishing little. The email flashes an alert on the screen, the cell phone rings, and so forth and we try to respond immediately. Stop. Organize your day to respond to email (and paper mail, if you still get any) and voice mail. “Got your voicemail. May I call you at 5:30?” The digital revolution has given all of us access to cheap “store and forward” technology to manage instantaneous communication. Use it.

        Often, too often, merely deferring “solves” the problem. You are not the only problem solver.

        Delegate to others the least pastoral aspects of your workload. These are likely to be among the most rewarding parts of others’ days. They will learn and grow from doing what you might do better. Maybe they won’t be as good as you are at first, but they will grow. With experience, they may do things better than you can. It happens. We all have amazing gifts.

        Do the rest, but question whether the activity you are doing really needs to be done. Time is finite, but demands are near infinite. Keep a “To Do” list. (I maintain mine on heavy paper with pencil so I can erase completed activities and replace those blanks spaces with challenges.)

        Review your days and weeks to determine which 20% of your activities contributed 80% of your results. Trust me that a few activities will be four times more productive than your average and many will be only a quarter as productive. Pack your days with the former; defer or delegate the latter.

        Thank God that every day you are required to perform tasks you don’t like or aren’t good at. These are opportunities to work with Him and to learn from him. He’ll let you splash around, but he won’t let you drown.

        Keep in mind how much time Jesus devoted to “managing” his disciples to prepare them to be “fishers of men.” He’s stil doing it.

  17. John Corson says

    While ministering to a rural church, back in 2007, at a quarterly business meeting, I handed out a similar survey to those present, basically to determine what the congregation thought were the priorities of their pastor. When I totaled the average hours, Administrative/Office duties ranked at the bottom of a list of 16 responsibilities, sermon preparation was next and prayer ranked third from the bottom (averaging 1, 1.6 and 1.75 hours per week respectively). The top four items were all visitation oriented (hospital/shut-in/nursing home, prospect/evangelism, inactive membership contact and visiting active members – “social contacts”) totaling an average of 62 hours and 30 minutes per week. Since this was a mostly rural situation, the average driving time to the various hospitals was 65 minutes. When completing the total hours to include travel times, the average total visitation hours per week was 79 hours per week.

    When adding up the averages of all sixteen responsibilities the total weekly hours came to 143 hours and 22 minutes per week!

    When the church was presented with these conclusions they were blown away. Everyone saw the necessity of cutting back on their “demands” on the pastor, but 90 percent wanted to cut in areas of sermon preparation, administrative, committee meetings, community involvements, denomination and associational involvement and counseling. Six months later, when we re-surveyed the church, the total number of hours dropped to average 123 and 12 minutes hours per week. The interesting things was in area of visitation (all four separate aspects noted above). Nothing changed! They still saw this area as the priority for the pastor, averaging 62 Hours and 10 minutes per week plus travel time = 78 and a half hours.

    As for our Deacons, with the exception of one hold-out, they agreed it would be better for them to handle or oversee the administrative work, attend and report from all committees and represent the church in local and state denominational work. As for counseling, there was a desire that this be minimized so that only “spiritual” counseling was done. Most of the church thought that marriage, personal and conflict counseling should be referred or outsourced.

    Obviously priorities would be reversed or re-ordered in a larger church or in a suburban or city situation, but the “country” church, by far, still loves for their pastor to socialize more.

  18. says

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if the survey included such things as family time, relaxation, and sleep. My guess is the total would then surpass 168 hours/week (or, if they’re really honest, they might write 0 for each of these!).

  19. says

    The expectations of church members for their Pastors–on the part of many–unfortunately scream “LAW” and not grace. The expectations of church members–on the part of many–are unrealistic, demanding, and rude. Church members are not de facto employers. They make up a family, and most people would not treat family members the way I’ve seen some treat staff Pastors.

    A Council of Elders (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9) balances–centers–the responsibilities of a church’s Pastoral staff. Should the staff Pastor become a slackard, the rest of the Elders–because they are all equal, none “over” the other, bear the responsibility to address the issue. No staff man should have to bear the brunt of a disgruntled church member alone.

  20. says

    I’m a full-time vocational pastor. While my church does not pay me a full-time salary, I receive 100% of my income from pastoral ministry. Here is what an “average” day looks like for me not counting my Sabbath or Sunday:
    Sleep – 7
    Message Prep – 1
    Teaching 1
    Ph.D work/research – 3
    Fitness – 1
    Family Time/Margin – 5
    Meetings – 2
    Study/Writing/Other Pastoral Ministry Duties – 4

    Basically, I spend 11 hours a day working M-Th take and take Friday off. Saturday is truly an “anything goes” type of day but at least 4 hours are given for Sunday prep or ministry. Sunday is usually an 8 hour day for me. I think that puts me at 56 hours a week of “work.

    • Stephen says

      Most secular employers don’t pay their employees for some of the things that are getting counted into this pastoral work week, including working on advanced degrees. It’s interesting how most other professionals also work 50-60 hrs a week (ask any doctor, teacher, executive directors of non-profits, upper management of any company, etc.). Then we expect our congregation to volunteer more hours in visitation, teaching, choir practice, VBS, WMU, etc. So if our members are working and volunteering so much, how can we say we should only work 40 hours? That should be our work week…but we should also “volunteer” time too, just as our members do. However, be careful not to become so legalistic in this…counting hours, or suffering publically for the Lord, etc is not our calling. Ministry is a lifestyle and happens all around us. Just know when you need those retreats. Even Jesus knew when He needed renewal.

  21. Steve McCart says

    These are the minimum weekly expectations I have set for myself.

    Sunday morning services 3.5
    Sunday evening services 2.5
    Church wide visitation 2.5
    Pastoral visitation 6.0
    Wednesday evening service 2.5
    Sermon preparation 12.0
    Counseling 4.0
    Hospital visitation 4.0
    Denominational involvement 4.0
    Community involvement 2.0
    Administrative functions 2.5
    Total 48.0

  22. Will M says

    I wonder how every Pastor’s week would change if we created an as yet unidentified, yet critically important intentional block of time, “Leadership Development, Mentoring, and Creation”. Sure, you can argue that that should be incorporated into meetings and administrative duties. But what if Pastors, especially early on in their service at a new appointment, spent even as much as 10 hours a week specifically on developing leaders in various aspects of ministry? What if they nurtured 4-5 effective hospital and home visitors, rather than doing all of the visits themselves? What if they nurtured, empower and granted authority to 5-6 committee chairpersons AND those chairpersons future mentees, rather than attending every committee meeting? What if they worked very hard on the front end in assigning routine tasks to and granting authority to administrative help in order to allow them to know and understand administrative issues without needing permission at every turn?

    Sure, the pain involved in that process is always the congregational perception “Why isn’t the Pastor doing this instead of committee member X?” But what if, while doing that intentional, focused, training, the Pastor and leadership of the church actually communicated exactly that those types of transitions are taking place so that they pastor can be freed to be more effective? Just a thought.

  23. says

    Yes, those statistics are surprising. I don’t think anyone can expect so much from one person. That is why churches have elders, deacons and other leaders that oversee certain groups and activities. While I do understand that people want pastors involved in every aspect of the church, I think we have to be reasonable and realize that, they too, have families and other things going on. We have to allow them to have lives outside of the church.

    A pastor, by the nature of his position, is probably expected to put in more than a 40 hour week. But 114 hours? No! There have to be priorities that the pastor should be involved in, and understanding if some of the other things have to go.

  24. Gabe says

    I’ll add another perspective from a lay person. My wife and I are members of a baptist congregation of 200 or so people with two elders who serve full time. No deacons, no other pastors, etc. One is primarily responsible for teaching, one is responsible for music and admin (I’m sure both do a lot of admin). I’ve attended a mega church before coming to faith, so I’ve seen the large side of things to.

    My first beef would be with the idea that a 40 hour work week is “normal.” The industrial revolution produced an environment that allowed that idea to last for a few hundred years, but we are quickly seeing it dissapear. Most professionals I know or have worked with put in way more than 40 hours a week (and have no choice in the matter if they want to feed their wife and children). Back when society was more agricultural in nature, most subsistance farmers worked far more than 40 hour weeks. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I really don’t know of many people who truely work a 40 hour week. I think it is great for those who are able to, but I think it will be remembered as a brief blip in history, rather than any sort of societal norm. So pastors should not think that working 40 hours a week plus Sunday is normal for them or any of the members. It just isn’t represented by the reality of the information economy we all live in.

    My second point would be that most pastors and members are programmed to death. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening, small groups, outreach, prison ministry, etc. By the time you add up all the “to-do’s” for everyone involved, the entire church has no time for their own family and children. More focus on the essentials would greatly reduce a lot of the demand that both pastors and lay people feel.

    In my brief time observing people in full-time ministry, you usually have two types: 1.) Extremely hard working to the point of exhaustion for all the reasons you mentioned. 2.) Laziness, slothfullness, don’t want to work hard, taking the easy way out. That might sound harsh, but that has been my experience. For the pastors who fall into the first camp, they spend a lot of time trying to make up for the people who fall into the second camp. I’m not really sure what to do about this problem, but I’m thankful both elders at our church fall into camp one.

    Another point I would make is that many churches either do not trust or do not properly train fathers to lead their family. I realize that not everyone in a church setting fits into a neat little box, but we’ve replaced faithful parenting and discipleship of our own children with the “let the professional handle it” syndrome. It is a father’s job to disciple his family, not the youth pastor, senior pastor, or admin pastor. So either we have a bunch of goat fathers posing as Christians, or the elders and pastors do not trust the fathers to perform their God given responsibilities laid out by Paul.

    The last issue that I think pastors struggle with is that there are not many examples in the NT of ministers receiving a full-time salary for their work. I am by no means saying a pastor should not be paid, I’m just saying the example of the Apostle Paul may serve as a stumbling block to those who receive a full-time wage from ministry.

    Those are just my thoughts as a member of my church that we love and cherish so much. Thanks for the article!

  25. says

    Tom, fantastic question to ask. My rule of thumb is about 50 hours per week (I’ve been in ministry 33 years). I calculate that based on the good supportive layman working a 40 hour a week job, plus he or she giving another 5 hours to ministry and attending church on top of that. I believe studies have shown that working longer hours on something we love is not as draining as the mental stress we take home after hours–ie, constantly ruminating over problems, unmet expectations, etc. Perhaps we should look at this question not only from the actual hours logged (keep them reasonable) but the ability to turn off our brains in those hours when we aren’t clocking hours. Just a few thoughts.

  26. says

    I love it when I read pastors say they should only work 40-50 hours a week yet expect their membership to work a full time job (40-50 hours per week) and then give another 20 or more in service to the church. I don’t want my pastor to burn out and I do want him to spend time with his family. I just want him to appreciate what he is asking of the people he leads and to reflect that in his own work ethic. (Thankfully, mine does.)

  27. Cynthia says

    Insightful topic and comments. However, reading through the threads, I noticed that many calculate the time worked and try to give it a structure that honestly doesn’t exist. As a wife of a pastor, I know that just because my husband walks in the front door and has “clocked out” doesn’t mean that he isn’t still battling the work from the office both physically and mentally, answering phone calls and adjusting his calendar (and often the family calendar as well). There is an emotional toll on the mind and body (and family) that comes with ministry that does not exist in most secular jobs. I’d also like to offer that in my limited experience, most labor laws do not allow you to “volunteer” for an agency you are employed by, so imagine if your secular job “required” or “suggested” you volunteer another 20 hours of your time each week. In my experience, the average church member does not spend 20 hours volunteering or preparing and I would add that any worship service your pastor is leading is likely not a recharging or renewal time for him. Maybe as a church we should consider praying regularly for our pastor and allowing God to direct his schedule more than our own preconceived ideas. Honestly, I’d like to see a church that cares more about their pastor being on mission for the Kingdom of God instead of the inward focused, me-first mentality that is most prevalent in today’s churches. Each pastor has the same number of days in his day/week as anyone else. A little freedom to concentrate on the activities that will make the largest impact and reach the largest number of people could go a long way.

    • Jessica says

      Cynthia,

      I’m a pastor’s wife too, and I agree with you. Our experience has been that people have no idea how many hours he truly works. And each member has their own set of expectations which they just assume you will know. Don’t meet their individual expectation and you wind up with a disgruntled congregant. Yet they have never told you their expectation of you nor have they asked themselves if it’s even reasonable in light of the number of people in the church. My husband struggles to get one day off each week and feels pressured to attend everyone’s event. All those extra minutes really add up, but few congregants, or even deacons, stop to consider that.

      • Cynthia says

        Jessica,
        I’m certain you understand. I hope your husband will soon find a groove that will allow him at least one day off and a church that can understand that need. My husband and I might be a little “odd” but we enjoy traveling to a large church in a nearby city on Saturday afternoons and placing our children in their children’s programs and sitting together in church to worship without the added responsibilities that we face on Sundays. We find it very refreshing.

        Your comment about people “having no idea” made me think of a blog post I’ve previously read (also by Thom Rainer) http://thomrainer.com/2012/05/16/a_day_in_the_life_of_a_pastor/

        • says

          As a pastor’s wife and pastor’s kid, I feel that I have some understanding of this topic. Let me point out that in a typical job, an employee doesn’t take his family to work with him in order to spend time together. Our family does quite a bit of ministry together in order to spend time together. My children are not bothered by funeral homes and can navigate most of the hospitals in our area. I work full-time and my full-time pastor/husband also has another job. I feel that most churches want 100+ hours from “the family” for very little pay/benefits. Be careful of expectations. that are outrageous!

      • Steven says

        A few years ago the local newspaper did a “faces of faith” bio on me, and interviewed a couple of my congregation’s leaders as part of that. When the article came out, I was pleased to read that one of them told the reporter, “I’ve learned that even when he’s doing the things he loves like canoeing or fishing, or even when he’s mowing the lawn, Pastor Steve is often thinking about the church, either working on his sermon or imagining and how we can be more effective in our ministry.”

  28. JonathonG says

    As I read through the replies on this post, I started to write about the dangers of unrealistic expectations by the church and over committing by “super hero” Pastors. Instead, I’ll just state that I experienced both of these as a PK. The combination of these two can be fatal to your ministry and your family. It eventually tore our family apart when I was still a child. I had a seething hatred for the church for much of my youth and young adult years. I can expand on this if asked.

    Our God is focused on addition and multiplication, not division and subtraction. How much time should a Pastor work? It’s a simple math problem. If you are adding to the Kingdom and multiplying disciples who make disciples for the glory of God, you are on the right track and there is no other measure of success in ministry.

    If your schedule is causing a division in your family or subtracting from the fullness in Christ that God has for you as an individual, then you are on the wrong track and it’s time to fall back and regroup. There is no “one size fits all” and our God will never divide one family in favor of another.

    You may not be able to do all that the church requires of you, but Jesus has promised to be with you and He has given you everything you need to do what it is He expects of you.

    In our case, there was plenty of fault to lay at the feet of all involved, but grace abounds and God has healed our hearts many times over.

  29. Scott says

    I am a lay person who has been on staff in the past. No matter how many hours a week a pastor spends at his calling, it will never be enough. The problem with being the pastor is that you have (fill in the size of your church – 25, 50, 200, 7000, 2500) bosses and each one thinks that one area of ministry is more important than another. We have a pastor now who runs himself absolutely ragged trying to cover all the bases. As you might expect, none of them gets covered well. As has been said in previous comments, well-trained and gifted lay leaders can be a big help in many areas, but with many they won’t meet the criteria. After all, the question was “What is expected of the pastor?” Therein lies the problem. If a deacon shows up at the hospital, someone gets their feelings hurt because it’s not the pastor. So much of what a congregation does that wears down the pastor is just pure selfishness.
    I agree with some of the other posters that the pastor should concentrate his time in study and shepherding. The most important thing a pastor can do to minimize selfishness in his congregation is continually point his people back to Christ and not himself for their security. He must gently and respectfully explain why he cannot be involved in every program the church puts forth and meet his first obligation as a minister of the gospel.

  30. Tomm says

    Thom, I love this discussion. I am a new pastor and am working over 50 hours per week bi-vocationally. I do not feel the pull of expectations from my congregation in a great way (yet) but I can sense a level of disappointment when I have to say no to a home visit or hanging out (though I want to) because I have to go to work or spend time with my family (we have 2 kids under 5). I put a lot of stress on myself as our church was a 20 year old church that dwindled down to 15 people. I know that I have to pour time into it and into my community to build relationships and to live missionally, like I want to, but I also don’t have the resources yet. I am putting expectations on myself. I am interested to know how my team feels and think I will ask them to answer some of the same questions. And I definitely need to make sure I am equipping and releasing those on our team to live their dreams and to fulfill roles within the church. I sure could use some input. Thanks Thom.

  31. Jordan says

    Hey Thom, thanks for the info. As always, very helpful/interesting.

    I’ve been in ministry as the senior minister at a small church for 6 years. 5 1/2 have been overworked and never feeling comfortable about my hours. I often had a lot of guilt even after 60 hours of work a week.
    After being exhausted and wanting to do be in ministry for as long as possible, I needed a change. So after wise counsel, I adopted a practice of dividing my week into 21 segments. I devote 15 segments to ministry and 6 to family.
    I never get all that needs done, fully accomplished but its been healthier for me and my family.
    It’s flexible and allows for me to easily carry over a segment if I have a funeral that week and overdo it on segments.

  32. says

    When I first saw this blog title, I thought of Acts 6:1-7. However, after scanning through the responses, I didn’t notice anyone touching on that plain-as-day biblical job description for a pastor (verses 2-4). The results of the proper delegation of authority? “…the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly… (verse7).”
    I’m not sure what the equivalents of waiting on tables would be in today’s church (that aren’t a pastor’s responsibility), but I’m betting much of what is expected of them fits into that category. Wonder if we freed them to “keep the main thing the main thing”, we’d see churches explode with growth as the Jerusalem one did.

  33. says

    A good article, although indicative of an unrealistic expectation on the part of those deacons, one that I have never found in any of the eight churches I have worked for, which surprises me. My personal experience is that an average work-week runs 50-60 hours, including all of the things on Thom’s list. I find this is often the case for many of my members, so I do not consider this unreasonable, although I am not paid as much as those same members. There is a disparity of pay scale with similar secular careers, but that is an understanding I accepted as a part of the calling to ministry. Ministers are not hourly employees. There is no such thing as a 40 hour work week. Ministers are more akin to supervisors or managers who are paid to do the job no matter how many hours it takes. Occasionally I have worked longer weeks during times of sacrifice when the church was mounting new programs, conducting seminars and conferences, etc. But again, the same is expected of my secular counterparts, especially when they own their own business. No one works harder than an owner. Two of the principles that I have endeavored to honor are as follows: #1 – I am not paid for Sundays. My members volunteer their time to come, and I volunteer my time to serve. I do not ask them to do what I am not willing to do. My paid work week is Tuesday through Saturday. Yes, that often means twelve hour days. Again, my secular counterparts often do the same. Why should ministers do less? #2 – I believe in the Sabbath Principle of 6 days shall a man (or woman) work, and the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest. For me this is often Mondays. Even though I am always on call 24/7, even on Mondays, I do my best to make it a Sabbath rest, which doesn’t mean couch time. Here is where there is a bit of role reversal for the minister. The Sabbath rest means ceasing from your occupation, job, business, or whatever you do for a living. For a minister, that is ceasing from church work. For the members who don’t do church work six days a week, this does not mean ceasing from church work. On the contrary, going to worship services for our members is a Sabbath rest. This may sound like “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, but when you love what you do AND you are being paid for it, life is good. God bless.

    • Sara says

      I love your post! Especially this line, “My members volunteer their time to come, and I volunteer my time to serve. I do not ask them to do what I am not willing to do.” And this one too, “Ministers are more akin to supervisors or managers who are paid to do the job no matter how many hours it takes.” You shouldn’t be surprised at all that in eight churches you served that you did not meet a deacon board with unrealistic expectations of you! Thank you for serving in your role without having a attitude of superiority over your congregants and for working hard at your job!

      My only squabble would be with your view of the Sabbath. Where does your idea come that the Sabbath is different for you than for your congregants? Where is the Scriptural basis for a pastor taking his Sabbath on Monday (for instance, did the Levitical priests celebrate the Sabbath on a different day than Saturday?!)? Personally, I think people have come up with some pretty strange ideas about what the Sabbath should mean today simply because the Bible does not teach that church needs to celebrate the Israelite 7th day of rest, and so all kinds of ideas and purposes have to be construed in order to follow something that the Bible doesn’t say we need to follow.

  34. says

    Pastoral ministry is a wonderful place to be a workaholic. And it is a wonderful place to be lazy. It’s really easy to fall into either road ditch and I think it is possible to swerve from one ditch to the other.

    One thing I had to learn early on is Prov 29:25: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” Trying to satisfy expectations is a recipe for burnout.

    Perhaps, the most important strategy is to talk about it. Posts like this are a chance for everyone involved to listen. Thanks for the post.

  35. Philip Doggart says

    I was going to answer the question directly, but a single answer will be the wrong answer. There are too many qualitative factors to come up with a single answer; however, there are some principles. For reference, I write as a lay elder in a church where there is a pastoral team.

    The best use of my lead pastor’s time is to train the lay elders. The more we are equipped to do, the more equipped the church will be. That removes a great burden from the pastor. I value my 1-2-1 with my pastor more than any other meeting. That should allow him to spend his time on the most important things and not to do everything.

    He should not work longer than his elders average working week plus their average voluntary time given to service in the congregation. How you treat a Sunday in that equation is open debate.

    The pastor should be given flexibility in his week so that he can attend his child’s school event or be involved in his local community. If he can be salt and light locally, the rest of us have no excuse!

    There is no right answer, but the lay leadership has a duty of care to make sure he does not burn out and he looks after his family.

  36. Doug Towle says

    This is to say nothing of pay and benefits to the pastor. We don’t do this for the money. However, congregations substitute “A workman is worthy of his hire” for “Hungry dogs hunt best” in far too many cases. It’s a good thing our treasure is laid up in Heaven!

  37. Mike says

    The reality is we do not pay pastors to do a job, we pay them so they are freed up for ministry. An elder/pastor is a church member like everyone else and it is crazy to say he should limit his ministry to 40 hours per week because that’s how many hours most people work at their jobs. I’m certain that most people with leadership roles are working closer to 50 hours per week and if you wanted to be consistent you would add those 50 to the number of hours those people are serving their church family to come to a total number. In my case – and I’m not an elder – that might be 3 hours some weeks and 15 or 20 other weeks. (This is I think Phillip’s point above). As a wisdom issue, if a pastor is consistently spending more than 55 hours per week ministering to those outside his family it might be time for introspection.

    I realize that many congregations have horribly unrealistic expectations and those shoukd be graciously addressed rather than ignored ormendured, but I think many pastors bring this on themselves because they like to feel needed and retain formthemselves activities that others should be doing.

    • Sara says

      “The reality is we do not pay pastors to do a job, we pay them so they are freed up for ministry. An elder/pastor is a church member like everyone else and it is crazy to say he should limit his ministry to 40 hours per week because that’s how many hours most people work at their jobs.” Amen!

  38. says

    114 hours! And I thought doctors (residents) had it bad with 80 hours per week.

    I recommend giving pastors a doctor’s salary ($200K per year minimum) to compensate for these hours.

  39. says

    I know I could be opening up a can of worms here (and don’t mean to… at least not in a feisty way), but the results you found from your small survey are one of the reasons I think the model we are using is broken. It’s not just the issue of expectations but also the actual responsibility of the pastoral role in a church beyond 10 people. There IS too much for one man to do. I don’t think the LORD (or Paul) intended such a lop-sided workload to be placed on one man. Multiple staff helps. Plurality of pastoral Elders helps. But still… I think the problem is our structure, not the number of hired guns we employ. Smaller equals bigger (in terms of impact) in my mind… and I think the scriptures support this view (at least inferentially).

    For what it’s worth… (probably not much)

    • Sara says

      Completely agreed!!!! Yes, it should not be a one-man show! It is also crazy to me how many of the pastors weighing in on this discussion think they should not have to work more than 40-50 hours per week, and yet their non-paid elders and deacons work that much (or more!) at their jobs and then volunteer many hours per week to the church out of their love for the Lord and His ministry….not to get paid.

  40. Thomas says

    Pastors … being a part of the fellowship is not part of your “hours served”. As part of a large church with many pastors on staff, I’ve noticed that unless a pastor is ‘on the clock’, they are absent from fellowship. Example is Sunday evening service. The only pastor in attendance is the one ‘on the clock’. All other church staff is missing out on fellowship with the body. If the rest of us behaved accordingly, no one would be a part of the fellowship.

  41. says

    How would the numbers be different for my husband who is a missionary and works as a co-pastor in our church plant, in addition to leading/teaching a Bible school that trains nationals? You have to add travel, support raising, correspondence and the hours spent just trying to understand the culture and language in everyday life. It seems daunting, but all by God’s grace!

  42. Elena says

    I remember in my first term as a missionary being told that it was expected for us to work at least 40-50 hours a week but that none of the things we would ordinarily be doing as a believer could be counted toward those hours, no church attendance, bible study, visiting etc (even if in a leadership role). We’re in our third term and I’ve never been able to shake off the feeling that nothing I do actually “counts”.

    • Brian says

      I know how you feel I was in the ifb a year ago as a evangelist and pastor “part time” the only thing that counted torwards my ministry clock was door to door evangelism. I was putting in a avg. of 50+ hours a week after two and half years we had to give it up. We’re southren baptist know and I’m looking for another pastorate I’m currents serving as a youth and children’s pastor. But the work is never ending.

  43. McKCathy says

    Most laymen work a 40-50 hours a week in secular jobs. In addition they attend Sunday worship, Sunday School Classes, Wednesday night services, choir practices, special programs, and home Bible Studies. They may also participate in evangelism, various service projects, and other good works within the church. I would say the pastor should do no less. The Biblical standard is six days of work to one day of rest. It is a blessing to a congregation when the pastor works behind the scenes for 40 hours and then joyfully attends or leads the scheduled church events. If this becomes an impossibility, then perhaps the church is scheduling too many events which become a burden to everyone in the congregation and not just the pastor.

  44. Marc Driesenga says

    Thom, Greatly enjoyed reading this thoughtful little piece. It made me think, as I am a missionary, what (similar) expectations might be made of me (and others) by our supporters back home. I feel like the missionary position has changed, but the stereotype has not. I would be curious to provide my supporters a similar type of questionnaire to see what their expectations of myself would be. It also made me think of pastors in developing countries who do not draw a paycheck from their ministry, but rather work a full-time job during the day (40, 50, 60 hrs/wk) and then do full-time pastoral ministry on top of that – again, not drawing income from it, but still expected to fulfill the role! Again, thanks for the post

  45. Richard H says

    One wise lay-leader said, “If the pastor is working more than forty hours a week, we aren’t doing our job.”

  46. Pastors Wife in AK says

    As the wife of a pastor, I see how hard my husband works and that his time is not his own. I am curious what your take is on bible studies, men’s ministry meetings, etc. where he is involved, but not necessarily leading. Would that be considered part of his ministry duties, or would that, like some have implied to me, more along the lines of an extra thing (although he is expected to be there and be involved). Their reasoning being “well, we work 40 hours a week, AND to bible study.”

    • Pastors Wife in AK says

      I forgot to clarify, he’s expected to be at ALL of these ministries, in addition to the more than 50 hours or so a week he is already putting in.

      • Sara says

        I think the people at your church have a very good point. My pastor expects us to be at all the services and activities of the church, but he leads by example – always joyful to be leading or attending. If your husband is only working 50 hours a week, consider yourself lucky because my husband works a whole lot more than that as a commercial fisherman and owner of three businesses (and believe me, he’d cut back if he could, but we’re barely making it by as it is!)!

  47. Joel says

    What a difference would be evident in the church in America if every pastor actually did spend 14 hours a week in prayer!

    • Pastor's wife in CA says

      What a difference would be evident in the church in America if every CHRISTIAN actually did spend 14 hours a week in prayer!

  48. Spud says

    To the pastor that mentioned being bi-vocational. one word, loser. not my opinion, but I have found it to be the opinion of most of the “full-time seminarians” I have come in contact with and most search committee members I have served with. Personally I like my ministers to have real-world experience and admire them all the more for it.

  49. Murselle says

    I am both a part time pastor and a member of a local church. My opinion of how much time a pastor should work in a week it connected more to priorities than hourly commitment. First, the pastor is called to lead the flock into a closer relationship with God in a spiritual way and then to do whatever is necessary to provide social help for the needs of the people, next. If he is a good delegator, he will be making disciples of others to help in this exponitional ministry, and have more time for getting closer to God, himself. We can get wrapped up in doing good things and miss the most important thing–the great Commission. What I expect is that the doors be open for scheduled services even if deacons or others do the preaching when the preacher needs a break or is overwhelmed by unexpected emergencies. Our local church has built a big, beautiful building that is used about 6 times a month for adult messages. No one flinched when the pastor cut the schedule down to this. What I also expect if for the pastor (and deacons) to not play favorites to people whose opinions are safe, and socially accepted, and to preach the whole word of God. I know this if a time saver but doesn’t allow for growth. If the staff isn’t ready to be totally committed to the Lord, then they should allow those who wish to go deeper to do so without being beat up by those who don’t.
    What I am trying to convey is that ministry, time-wise, can be kept to a minimum by controlling the activities of the church and keeping it more socially oriented. Or the whole church can step up and embrace the process of making disciples that carry on the work, spiritually oriented as the priority. This can be frightening and seem to be a loss of control, but we are all foolish to think we cannot trust the Holy Spirit to keep it straight. He is the one who has built it in the first place throughout the centuries.
    The approach to ministry will be different from pastor to pastor, according to how he sees ministry, and the time will reflect his approach. What concerns me most is that many preachers will not follow the vision God gave them for fear of the brethern, and the possibility they will not be able to work any longer in a larger church is they are dismissed. I say to you, walk the path God gives you and He will take care of your future. The church is only a small part of evangelism in this age of cross-culture discipleship, and great is the harvest.
    So if we look at the over-all picture of our effectiveness in “seek ye first the kingdom” of heaven, we should not micro-manage the time of the minister. How he gets it done, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, is fine with me. And of course, his priority should be God, family, and then church.

  50. Mike Shideler says

    As a layperson, I worked in the skilled trades, we were often required to work 48 to 50 hours a week. 40 is nice.

  51. Greg says

    Reading this post and some of the comments I can’t help but think of the family requirements for elders. Just when is the pastor supposed to be able to raise and train up his children? He may be the husband of one wife, but if he is expected to spend all his “free” time at home sleeping so he is ready for the next day, then he probably better move to the corner of the roof.

    To all pastors I appriecate the hard work and time you give to your ministrey. We can debate the finer points of if it is a tradtitional profession, or a calling, or something else altogether. The bottom line is that you all give and give and give, often with few avenues to receive. And as one who has been blessed by all that giving I thank you.

    • Sara says

      You ask, how is he supposed to raise up and train his children? Well, some of that will be delegated to his wife and but also, why not include the family on some of his duties and do ministry together? Kill two birds with one stone so to speak? It’s what many of us lay people do all the time! For instance, I take my kids with me to visit elderly folk from our church – I’m doing the work of the Lord and I’m training my children about what is important and how to serve. My youngest child sits on my lap during choir practice – yes, there’s no childcare so I have to, but it’s still good time spent with my child and they can be blessed by it. Don’t forget that the pastor is ministering and training his wife and children when he is preaching from the pulpit too!

  52. Loren says

    Very interesting. I am curious how you tallied up the numbers. Did you select the highest number from each category?

  53. Tony Gulbrandsen says

    I have read the stream and have found that there is an element missing that seems very prevalent in my ministry. I am a vocational, full-time pastor of a single-staff (me) church. To compartmentalize my week by saying X hours for prayer or Y hours for sermon-prep or Z hours for visitation can never accurately reflect my “normal” week. I have posted office hours. Yes, as someone said above, they can be quite lonely. But that is when I am able to get my studying done. But the part that is missing from the stream is what I call “recovery time.” And I am not talking about Sabbath time to recover my mind and body. I am talking trying to get back to the task at hand. When someone stops in during my office hours and needs to talk, I spend the time talking to them. Then, it is time to return to my sermon. I simply can not get refocused on where I was for at least 30 minutes. Now, some are probably going to say I need to only schedule appointments for talks, but you can’t “schedule” a physical, emotional or spiritual crisis. Add anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for each counseling session to recover and the hours of the week just start slipping away.

    I have learned after 10 years of ministry to simply focus on the specific ministry in front of me right now, and trust God that all that He wants me to accomplish will be accomplished. I do almost legalistically protect my Mondays as Sabbaths unto the Lord, but beyond that, I just do whatever it is I need to do. I did track my time once over a 3-month period. I included “recovery time” as a category. I found that I averaged 55 – 60 hours per week during that time. There were weeks that didn’t make it to 40 hours, but then there were weeks that didn’t let up after 80 hours. And that is simply the ebb-and-flow nature of ministry.

    • Mark F says

      Wonderful point about recovery time Tony!

      This has always been something that has effected me. I am a very people oriented person and if someone stops in the church office, which happen somewhat regularly here, sometime to see me and sometimes to see someone else, I can not just ignore them and continue studying. To me this would be disrespectful and hurt with forming relationships so I take a few minutes to stop and say hi and the next thing I know I have been off track for 15-30 minutes just stopping for 5.

      The other thing that seems to me to be missing time at many churches is driving/transit time. I live 30 minutes from the closest hospital and an hour from the normal hospital that our people go to. So for me to go and make that “short hospital visit” I use over an hour, quite often 2 and a half hours.

      But then on the next moment our church board will be upset that I was not in the office during my office hours and someone called and complained

  54. V says

    Wow, this is interesting, horrifying, and helpful all at the same time.

    One thing I think this discussion overlooks is the assumption that American (or possibly Western) norms for work are the appropriate norms that we as the church should be following, whether we are pastors or laypeople. Sure, it’s our culture – it’s the water we swim in – and we have to learn how to deal with that appropriately, but that doesn’t mean that Western work practices are actually conforming to God’s design for human beings.

    It’s clear that the expectations that congregations put on their pastors are absurd, and when they get to the point that pastors are working 16 hour days 7 days a week, it’s just as clear that those expectations are opposed to Scripture. God *commands* a Sabbath rest for all people, and there are SO MANY verses that instruct us to enter His rest. Matthew 11:28, Psalm 127:2, and Hebrews 4:11 immediately come to mind, aside from the scriptures that directly command you to observe the Sabbath. Pastors need to make getting rest the same priority that Scripture does. Lay people need to respond not by saying, “I work 60 hours a week and volunteer my time on top of that, so why isn’t he working as much?” but by examining their own lives to make sure they also are making the Sabbath rest a priority in their lives as well.

    Just my two cents as a lay-person / worship leader / close friend and family member of several vocational ministers.

  55. mrswebfoot says

    The deacons were probably not really thinking about what they were saying! I hope so, anyway. Unreasonable expectations are not only a “Western” problem. Extreme pressure is put on pastors everywhere in the world. It’s not easy anywhere. Thank you for this post. God’s people need to be educated in this area so that they do not kill their pastors off, or drive them out of the ministry. Lots of food for thought. A pastor’s wife can help a lot in this area, too. As helpmeet, we wives can help protect our husbands from excessive demands coming from church members.

  56. says

    Not sure if I should take this article seriously, or laugh at the sheer naivety of it all. To actually think there are a set number of appropriate hours a pastor should strive to fulfill, and stick to, to me is just beyond what it truly means to serve. What are we teaching future leaders in the church with this nonsense? Help me understand how service to the body of Christ is limited to a fixed number of hours. It’s not. Shame on us if we believe our job isn’t to provide for the needs of the Church whenever and how ever long that may be. You cannot place a price tag or a numerical limit on the amount of service and leadership you give to your local church. Let’s stop drawing lines in the sand. Let’s stop treating service to the King and His people like a mathematical equation that can be properly computed in order to maximize ideal responsibilities.

    The answer to how many hours a pastor needs to spend providing for, guiding, loving, and nourishing his church is: whenever and however they need you. They don’t operate according to your convenience. You sacrifice your time for them. How did we get this so wrong….

    • Joel says

      I agree that all our time belongs to the Lord, and there is a danger that conversations like this can prompt us to start hording time for ourselves and refusing to “spend and be spent” for him and his people. Pastors certainly should be working hard in ministry, suffering gladly, and giving freely.

      At the same time, we need to recognize that the number of hours the church “needs” us is exactly zero. The church doesn’t need us; it needs Jesus. A pastor’s job is not “to provide for the needs of the church”; someone else has already taken on that responsibility. True, pastors are his servants and tools in that work, but we must always remember that he alone is the Savior and Head of the church. He is our Lord, and so we must serve diligently. But he is also our Savior, and that we means that we must entrust the needs of the church into his hands and regularly accept his gift of rest. To do otherwise is not service, but pride.

      How exactly we strike that balance between trusting and obeying is another question. Measurements and targets can (at times) help us, and as Americans, we tend to like them. But I agree that there is genuine danger in getting so caught up in the numbers that we lose sight of our calling. At the end of the day, our Lord is perfectly capable of taking care of his church all by himself, but he has graciously given us the privilege of participating in his work. What a gift! Let us embrace it gladly and steward it wisely and well.

    • Scott Wakefield says

      Since you’ve opened the door to response by your slightly biting tone, let me be the one to say what a lot of seasoned pastors who have read your post are thinking: ‘Lemme guess… Young, perhaps unmarried, probably no kids (or not many, and they’re young), and not many years in ministry?’ Here’s why I know… (aside from the fact that I now stalked you on FB and followed your link!) :o) … ‘Counting hours’ isn’t mutually exclusive with faithfulness to God’s calling in ministry, nor is it necessarily indicative of lack of passion or selling out to a form of consumeristic methods. But you haven’t gotten enough time in ministry yet to know that. Be forewarned… Operating at everyone else’s convenience, even if for good reasons (and there are no bad reasons in ministry), can all too easily become its own self-righteous idol that limits the power of God’s work in and through you. It can become a hindrance, in fact. Sometimes you find that your goal of openness to any and all opportunities for service and ministry was also the evil one’s and one of his most effective weapons against you. “Providing, [sic.] for the needs of the Church whenever and how ever long that may be” has limits, and it would behoove you to understand them. (In fact, your own long-term ministry potential might hinge on this more than you now know. And, for the record, rest is a biblically granted method to prepare for real ministry/suffering/incarnation/passion. And God initiated the ‘counting hours’ thing.)

  57. Matthew Black says

    There’s only 168 hours in a week. If a Pastor was to live up to this obligation it would only leave 54 hours for family time, sleeping and the day to day necessities. We would only have 7 hours a day for what I just listed. There has been those weeks when there has simply not been enough hours in the week. I have also had those weeks where God sees me getting weary and lightens the load. We will never live up to everyone’s obligations. We must strive to honor God and remain faithful to the call.

  58. Jonathan Kroeker says

    What complicates things more is that a pastor could log in 60 hours a week but still be lazy because he is not prioritizing, delegating, or working in a focused manner. Another pastor might get the same amount of work done in 45 hours. Congregants shouldn’t judge merely by the amount of hours logged but the quality of work being done.

  59. says

    This must be for fully funded pastors. For those of us who are bi-vocational, the numbers are actually worse. We are working another job to support the family, and our spouse is most likely working too. And then we have the church stuff added on. 60-70 hours may be the norm for bi-vocational folks.

  60. Grant says

    Im not sure. I am currently a full time pastor. We need to be careful in this conversation that we don’t make ourselves the least committted person in the church. We do this by considering normal church functions as hours worked, dont think that is helpful. Every other member of our congregation has worked all day and all week by the time they come to an evening meeting or weekend service. As pastors we should work hard, and I dont believe counting the hours on Wednesday night or sunday morning works. Put in 40-50 hours mon-sat with a full day off. Stereotypes exist for a reason, they aren’t completely misguided – laziness is a sin and pastors can be guilty of it. Prioritization of time is important, study, prayer and counseling shoud absorb most of our time.

  61. Ken says

    This article and these posts confirm for me that every pastor is different in his giftedness and every church is different in its needs. That’s why pastoral ministry cannot be reduced to a simple formula. It’s also why each individual church must be clear on its own vision and priorities and let the pastor lead in that direction. In my case, I average between 35-40 hours each week on sermon preparation alone. (By contrast, I saw a post here where the fellow averages 1 hour per day on sermon prep!) Needless to say, I don’t spend as much time on visitation as I would like (or, sometimes as my members would like, and they gently “nudge” me). But, they understand why I don’t visit as much when they hear my sermons. They know those sermons didn’t produce themselves! To them, having solid practical expositional messages expressed with great clarity at every service is a priority, so they cut me slack. They know that if they invite a visitor to the services, they will not be embarrassed by their pastor’s message. The visitor will hear a solid message. In fact, nearly every time we have a guest speaker or they attend another church on vacation, someone comments, “We sure are blessed to have you as our pastor. No one knows how to preach like you!” So, that’s what they give me liberty to focus on. Furthermore, they see my pulpit ministry as the primary place for “counseling.” If they attend the services faithfully, they know they will be receiving the spiritual guidance they need for their lives. Other churches, of course, would not value sermons so highly: they might want a “people person” who is constantly visiting with the people, and they merely “endure” his sermons. My own father was a bi-vocational minister. I don’t know how he did it! I could never do that!

  62. chen says

    It is interesting to read this post -I appreciate the discussions from the perspectives of full time pastors, bi-vocational pastors and so called “lay-leaders” in the church. I also appreciate the discussions from pastor’s wife’s point of views.

    In all the discussions, I think, not a lot of elaborations on the real role of a pastor in a church. What Bible mandates a pastor/elder to function in a local church? Are they workers, leaders, counselors, trainers or ????
    When a pastor thinks he is a worker for a church, a demand of working 40 hr per week is reasonable; a leader then as many hours as needed to lead; an example to show how God lives in his life then is a whole life time – including how to take care of his own family.

    As congregation’s expectation on a pastor, I do believe, also depends on how a pastor situate his own position in a church – a worker, then demands working hard, a leader then demands leading well and an example then sets an example according to Biblical teachings!

    How many hours should not be in the equation, how effective as a biblical pastor is the key and I believe that congregation knows!

  63. Cal says

    After reading this article, my question is, was there ever supposed to be one pastor per local church bearing the full load? Even thinking of Paul’s example, who nowadays refuses to take a wage but provides for themselves while ministering perhaps every other spare moment? I thought the Scriptures spoke more of a plurality of leaders, elders and deacons. A body with pastors, teachers, evangelists etc… I read this and found it challenging for the modern interpretation of how the church should function:

    “If our churches truly implemented New Testament patterns of ministry, one wonders whether there would be any real need to support one, full-time pastor? If the local church had a functioning priesthood (as opposed to the passive, spectator event that is the mark of most churches) and an equally shared eldership, there simply would not be the urgency or necessity to hire someone on a full-time basis. This is because (1) leadership responsibilities would be shared; (2) one man and his gifts would not become the focal-point of the meeting; (3) corporate teaching would be shared and not left to one sole pastor; and (4) each member would actively participate and contribute to the meeting.”

    I’m not a pastor myself (in any official way), however the way I understand it is that there should not be just one man carrying the local church. When I read the New Testament I find that there is not this problem, partly because it is not just one man carrying the full load, and secondly because it is not viewed as a ‘job’, but many had jobs in order to support and provide. Should we reduce our calling in this life to the same terms as a job? I would think that we are called to a 168 hour week of whatever is needed and wherever the Spirit leads. Whether I, or we, do it or not, is there any biblical grounds to reduce the Christian life and the part we play in the body to a job or set of hours?

    Just my thoughts and questions.

  64. says

    I totally believe and understand that a/the pastor has unrealistic explanations placed on him regarding his role as senior pastor. Thanks for giving me an exercise to do with my deacons. What do you think a realistic biblical breakdown of responsibility should be?

    For instance I preach 3 different sermons a week. I will have 25-30 hours a week easily on those three sermons, if not more. If I have 5 hours of administrative duty, 6 hours of service/worship time, 10 hours of prayer, 5 hours of community involvement, and 5 hours of counseling, I’m at close to 60 hours and I haven’t visited anyone yet. This gets very tiring especially with no help…

    I don’t want to be doing things and wasting time on what God hasn’t ordained me to do in His Word… Thoughts?

  65. David Hoffelmeyer says

    What a tough issue.

    Personally, as a future pastor, I feel called to work very hard. Many members in my flock will work 50-70 hours and rarely have a neat and tidy 40 hour week. I think creating a 40 hour cut-off is dangerously leaning toward this generation’s disdain for hard work more than it is toward a biblical view of work. That said, I don’t want to model a workaholic life with the attendant idolatries and family neglect that so often follow.

    I think this issue calls us to pray constantly with our families and fellow elders to seek the Lord’s leading in every season. I think there will be 70 hour weeks in ministry, but that must not be the norm. There may also be a 35 hour week now and again with an extra half day off to get out of town with the family, but that can’t be the norm either. The harvest is plentiful, and the Lord is calling us to work it and to rest in his provision.

    • Sara says

      Love these sentences: “I think creating a 40 hour cut-off is dangerously leaning toward this generation’s disdain for hard work more than it is toward a biblical view of work. That said, I don’t want to model a workaholic life with the attendant idolatries and family neglect that so often follow.” Yes, it is a balance!

  66. says

    Don’t we as elders / deacons / members of congregations have unrealistic expectations? 114 hours per week is nearly the same as three full-time jobs. None of us would be willing to work at our jobs for half that time, but we expect it of our pastors without a second thought. No wonder pastors burn out and become disenfranchised so easily.

    The estimate of 114 hours per week still seems low. I think some things were missed:
    * Only 5 hours a week of church meetings? Must be the summer slump!
    * 28 hours per week of sleepless nights — worrying about people in the congregation or worrying about not getting everything done or agonizing over the next person who’s going to come and complain.
    * 21 hours per week — more sleeplessness — wondering how his family will be able to hold together under the pressure of his job — and his so frequent absence — and wishing, guiltily, that he could spend more time with them.

    God bless our pastors!

  67. Rachel says

    I am a layperson and agree that 115 + hours a week is unrealistic. But we all have jobs that aren’t just jobs… they are our life. Like, for instance, being a mother. I am a stay at home mother, wife and homeschooler. My job never ends. Never. My husband is a secondary principal at a private Christian school. His job rarely ends. He works a 50 hour work week AT his school but then does, at the very least, another 15 hours of work OFF campus. But my husband and I both feel called by the Lord to do the jobs we do. We don’t ever allow ourselves to think about how many hours we have worked this week. Our whole life, every second of every day, is to be used for one purpose, and one alone… to glorify our Lord. So frankly… I think pastors, as well as laypeople, should work 168 hours a week. Minimal. :-)

    • Jacob Mendez says

      I like your comment Rachel comparing the pastorate with the call of being a Mom. The job of being a Mom never ends unless you stop being one and you are a Mom 168 hours per week, same way with Pastors, they never stop being Pastors so their work never ends. 168 hours might sound unrealistic but it is real. Thanks pastors for all the work you all do!

  68. Reco Williams says

    I think a Pastor should work at least 20 hours per week. The problem I see with most Pastors are that they are just unorganized and they blame lack of time on that. Most Pastors wing it, with weekly planning, sermon preparation, and calendar planning. This all makes for a church that will not grow. The successful churches and pastors I’ve seen spend a lot of hours doing “church” work. It doesn’t always mean being in the office, but they make sure the needs are the church are taken care of and they are a responsible shepherd.

  69. Brett says

    Thank you so much for posting this, Dr. Rainer! I am a pastor of a small, rural church. I have recently had to request to return to a bivocational status because the church was not willing to financially support my family. (My wife stays at home with our three children.) Though I have a full work week at another full time job, it has become obvious that they are not pleased that I can’t devote as much time to them. Pastors are severly taken advantage of in the rural churches.

  70. Gretchen says

    my husband is a pastor. Well, he was. He’s gone on to work in another pastoral capacity but not at a church, for these EXACT reasons.

    He always had a good handle on the number of hours he should be expected to work. His job was to preach and administer the sacraments, that’s it. All the other stuff – meetings, counseling, etc are part of his job but not the MAIN PART. And those parts CAN be handled by Lay people. In fact, they SHOULD be handled by lay people to build a stronger congregation. The pastor can oversee and instruct but when the members expect the pastor to do it all, that’s too much.

    I wonder, though, if some of your hours would be overlapping? For example, sermon prep and prayer, couldn’t it be fair to say that they go hand-in-hand? And besides that, Administrative functions 18 hours a week? Seriously? does the pastor count the Sunday offerings? That seems a little too much time to me.

    but still, the bottom line is that if a pastor knows what his boundaries are, then he needs to clearly communicate that to the congregation in a loving way. Congregations are like children – they push the envelope, they want more, they ask for the world. But it’s the pastor’s job to put his foot down and tell them, this is not MY congregation it is YOUR congregation. I am not leading, I am walking beside you.

  71. Pr. Ken says

    THIS is why I am glad that church council is gracious enough to not care how many hours I report, just so long as “the job is being done.” There are weeks that are in the 50s and 60s and weeks in the 20s and 30s. I am gld for this very well thought-out article.

  72. Anne-Marie Hislop says

    I do not think in terms of hours, but rather the responsibilities I have. I’m an interim and my contract is for 50 hours/week. Some weeks I undoubtedly work more than that, some likely less. I have good boundaries, a good sense of my own limits, tend to be open and direct about what I can and cannot do, and have a commitment to self-care. I am also not a leader who ‘does it all herself.’

    Being an interim, part of how I see my role is to train (re-train) congregations about the ‘care and feeding of a pastor.’ So, it is really important for me to be clear about my limits, take my days off and vacations etc. When we talk about the pastor’s call and ‘job,’ I speak in terms not of time, but of function. Still, if a congregation says to me, as one did, “we will want our next pastor to be out in the community a chunk of his/her time” my question to them is, “Ok, then which responsibilities are you going to take off the pastor’s plate?”

    Unfortunately, too many of us do not communicate clearly enough what our limits are. Being caring people who are dedicated, we try to be everything to everyone and to do it all. But ministry is never done… and it will eat our whole lives is we let it. If we teach the congregation to expect too much, they will (or at least some will). If we set boundaries, some will gripe about our commitment – but if we do not, it is we who will pay too high a price.

  73. Mary says

    I’m retired now, but my experience was that being “on call” 24/7 does take its toll on pastors. I am a strong extrovert. I loved my congregation and never felt exhausted even though my work weeks were 60 – 75 hours. But after being called to serve my denomination in an administrative role, I realized how incredibly free and relaxed I felt for the first time in years. Even though part of the job included sermon prep and preaching each Sunday in a different church, knowing that congregation was not my “responsibility” was (I confess) a great pleasure.

  74. voicu says

    I think the mentality of workweek is a shaky start; so is the lay-person clergy line. Those that receive their sustanance from the “common purse” are simply freed from having to earn the daily bread in a non-church setting; that can be a pastor, a secretary, a janitor or whatever financila need the congregation understands God is calling them to attend to. The church as an insitution is copying so much of the bussines model that it can easily be lead on the wrong path in what is demands of those that serve (in any ministry). It’s a very complex issue and without a firm ground it turns into “church bussines”.

  75. Steven Wilkinson says

    Many years ago we had a pastor / Chaplin that used extensive amounts of scripture in his sermons. He expected the congregation to take notes, study and apply the actions or attitude that was being presented in the message. He expected us to apply the Word of God into our lives. Some individuals in the congregation complained to the Senior Chaplin for the bases who spoke with this pastor. The following Sunday the message was on the responsibility of the people of God to confirm what is being taught and to hold the Pastor or Speaker accountable for teaching the word. He had the courage even in the military environment to resist the pressures to do what a few of the congregation wanted and he taught the Word. I was blessed that God placed in my life brothers who taught me (and the church) that the body of Christ is not a bureaucracy where the Pastor is the CEO. The pastor is an equal part of the congregation who has been anointed by God to shepherd those who follow. It is the pastors duty to do what scripture teaches and to lead his flock to do like wise. It is the flocks duty to listen, learn and study and to press in on the pastor so that he is supported in the spiritual battles and knows that he is loved and cared for by his brothers and sisters. In my fellowship each member of the assembly has the right and duty to come to worship prepared first to praise God, second to minister to our brothers and sisters, third to have sought the Lord through the week so that we would be open to do whatever the Lord asked of us. This mean if there is a song on your heart you share the song, if there is scripture on your heart you share scripture, if there is a word or message you give that. In all things it is done to edify the body and praise and magnify our God. I work overseas and our fellowships are a lot smaller than in the States. In part this is by design. We need to teach and learn that we have liberty in God to do the things that He places on our hearts and in our minds. When I was younger in the Lord and first exposed to this concept there were many times in which the Lord would give a scripture and I would sit there like a stump on a log. Someone else would then give that same scripture and a message and direction would flow. It is a beautiful experience and as I learned that the scripture was part of Gods message to the church and that I should not be afraid to give that word. Yes there is discipline and order but trusting God and waiting on Him opens the door for the people of God to move as God directs and not as our program defines. Brothers and Sisters in the Lord what I a saying is that it is time to wake up the people of God. We have a work to do and it is not getting done. The work is for the whole body and not just the pastor. There is a series of books written by Watchman Knee I strongly recommend that if you have not read his book on the Church that you do so. It is not your scriptural task to do the work that your congregation should be doing. Walking with and praising Jesus is also not only a Wednesday and Sunday obligation. The people of God need to know in the inner person that walking with God is a full time privilege that was given to us by Jesus through His death and Resurrection. What a wonderful gift we have and I for one will not take it for granted. Maranatha

  76. Jacob Brimm says

    As a Pastor I understand the importance of being there for my congregation, and others in need. While I do support a set target hour for the week, it is important to understand that each day is not the same so not every week will be the same. Some weeks may call for exhaustion and 80 hour weeks, some days may not give a break and require 24 hours; on the flip side, some days may be a short 3 hour day, and some weeks not need more that 20 hours. It is important to be avalible at all times, but it is equally important to have resources to lighten the load on the pastor ( deacons anyone). A pastor should have set office hours, with set days off (save emergencies), a secretary or someone to schedule the less than emergent visitations as well as to keep the pastors mental health in mind. We are human too, and God wants us to be healthy. With a team in place, which is the purpose of church staff, the load will be manageable! Dont focus on hours to target for min/max time, focus on accomplishing the mission and utilizing the resources at hand to do it well!

  77. says

    As a pastor of only 15 years, I know I have much to learn and I know this is not a novel concept, but what ever happened to the idea that the teacher / pastor is to teach & lead the students / sheep (congregation) including what Biblical expectations should be held? When in our churches did it become the students place to direct the teachers on what is expected of them. I seem to remember a time when Peter tried this with Jesus and it did not go so well. The shepherd must be sensitive to the needs of his flock, but if he basis his ministry is the cries of the sheep alone and not on the leadership of the Holy Spirit God’s order in the church is lost. I am congregational in my Polity, but Spirit lead in ministry. We must remember and teach that there is a vast difference between perceived and real needs. Pastors and congregations must learn that God alone is our master and the judge of our service. Perhaps if our pastor (or any other servant in the body) is not meeting “our” expectations of performance (I am not addressing Biblical moral or ethical failures which must be judged and acted on), we need to spend time on our Knees asking God to change our expectations or show us what we need to do to come to their side and help. It is never good when the sheep believe it is their responsibility to direct the shepherd. Rather than agreeing on reasonable expectations for pastors, perhaps we should make sure they meet the biblical standard of spiritual maturity, are God called and gifted for serving as a pastor, and trust God to direct His servant?

  78. Bret Sanor says

    I think it would be interesting to show this demand on the pastor to the congregation then ask them what their expectations for themselves should be in helping meet those demands. Also, maybe show what the pastor’s expectation of his people are. i.e. how many hours a week do they pray for the pastor and the congregation? Might be a fun experiment, could also backfire but at least everyone would know where they stand. :)

  79. Traci says

    I, too, struggle with how much time I should spend on different activities and the feeling that I’m never really “done”…part my own expectations and part the expectations of the congregation. And part of that struggle is how to think about the activities that church members, many of whom work part or full time, are volunteering their time to do: VBS, church bazaar, special programs. I come from a tradition that believes all people have a “work” vocation and a “church” vocation, and that gets messy for pastors; do we “work” 40 (or 50 or 60) hours a week and then “volunteer” in addition to that? Someone commented that Sundays shouldn’t count because everyone is in worship, but pastors aren’t just worshiping, we’re leading worship, which is totally different. But there are only so many hours in a day, some tasks take more of an emotional toll than others, and I’m not sure people always think about that. Sure, the funeral is my “job” to do, but that doesn’t mean my mood and energy level aren’t affected beyond the block of time when I’m physically present with the family. (Wouldn’t it be weird if they weren’t?) Funerals are an extreme example because we have little control over when they occur (although I do appreciate when the funeral director asks instead of tells me when the funeral is going to be!) But I know it’s not a good idea for me to spend all day doing some of my more challenging visitations and then try to be happy, upbeat super-pastor at VBS in the evening. It’s more complicated than just “work x number of hours, volunteer x number of hours” every week.

    • Sara says

      You said, “Someone commented that Sundays shouldn’t count because everyone is in worship, but pastors aren’t just worshiping, we’re leading worship, which is totally different.” Does not the choir director and worship leader work on Sundays? Do not I who am a Sunday school teacher work on Sunday? Sunday never feels like a day of rest to me either! I teach Sunday School and then have my three little ones by my side during church (often by myself as my husband is gone much of the year) to train them to worship, then have the potluck meal (which I had to prepare for the night before or that morning), then choir practice, a second service at a nursing home and visitation with the elderly. I am completely EXHAUSTED by the end of each Sunday…but also satisfied and invigorated by serving and worshiping my Lord with His people.

  80. Christina Berry says

    This is a great post, and the comments are equally interesting. I’m a pastor and a wife. Not a pastor’s wife, but a pastor. I love my congregation and they love me, and I think their expectations are reasonable. They are very supportive and much of my overwork is due to my own expectations of myself. Fortunately, God gives me a thump every now and then about that.
    One aspect of this conversation that I didn’t see in the comments is a continuing challenge for me. That is the fact that in a small town, ALL of my social activities are either with church members or in view of church members, or within the view of people who know I am a pastor and know people in my church.
    Whether I am at the grocery store or the High School play or the county fair or the sandwich shop, I’m the pastor. And when I’m with church folks, no matter how much we care for each other and how deep our friendship is, I am, first and always, their pastor. So unless I leave town (which I do frequently with my husband) I’m always “working’ on one level. I don’t resent it or resist it, but I am aware of it. I don’t know if others experience this, too, but I certainly do. I’ve dealt with it by taking two or three days off together every month or so and getting out of town, where I can renew and ride bikes and kayak with my sweetheart, and not worry about Mrs. Soandso’s gall bladder or Mr. Whatchas grandson.

  81. says

    This is such an important issue. I am happy to see so much participation in the discussion.

    My father was a minister. He had few boundaries related to his time, and because he was a role model for me, I developed the same problem. Someone finally helped me get a handle on time issues when i was in my 30′s.

    In addition, everyone was our best friend. Members of the congregation were welcome to stop by the parsonage (next door to the church) at any time. That included dinner time. We would stop eating and invite them in! (We like our mashed potatoes cold.)

    I had no concept of the various levels of friendship until I was in my 30′s. The neighbors, the parishoners, and the electrician were all the same. So I would talk at length with everyone. When that is the case with people who have been hired to do repairs, it runs up the bill!

    Growing up next door to the church is something I would not wish on anyone. Yes, there were positive things about my childhood, but you wouldn’t call it “normal.”

    Keep talking, everyone. It’s so important to identify the components of this life that aren’t working.

  82. Bob Rasmus says

    James:
    If we work past 50 hours we expose ourselves to the public hypocrisy of deeming the sabbath a command from which we are exempt, that our families and covenants are of contingent value, and that the biblical invitation to rest and reflection is declined.

    Of course, this is directed right back at me, but I believe the pastor is called to do the work of the church in a reasonable time each week, and if the demands of the job are unreasonable, then the church and the pastor have to change their expectations. Granted, easier said than done.

  83. Pastor Alex says

    One of the problems for North American Pastors is the idolatry of business. I was at a church that had just downsized from two pastors to one. Their expectations didn’t change and I tried to keep up. Four years later I was burned out my marriage was gone and I was homeless. It took eighteen months for God to put me back together enough to go back to work. A few months after that, my wife and I renewed our vows.

    I had been working 60 weeks trying to meet expectations that couldn’t be met. Now I have a different philosophy. I listen to the explicit expectations and plan my time around them. The unspoken expectations I ignore. If people complain they become explicit and I decide along with my personnel committee what to do with them.

    Getting back to the idolatry of business. How many ministers do you know who compare schedules and the busiest one wins? I have been guilty of this myself. We spread ourselves so thin trying to be all things to all people that we are like that orange drink made from powder. It’s wet, but it isn’t the real thing. I would rather be a single glass of fresh squeezed orange juice than gallons of the orange drink. Do we really think that God demands that we sacrifice everything to the church? The most effective ministers are the ones with healthy family lives, strong boundaries and an ability to be present when they are needed – filled with the Spirit and strong for the long difficult times in people’s lives.

  84. LPB says

    As an ordained minister, I believe it is important to set boundaries with the congregation. No phone calls before 8:00am or after 8:00pm unless there is a death or an emergency room visit involved. I need downt-time the same as anyone else. If I have a yoga class scheduled for self-care between 6:00 and 7:00pm some evening, then we are not going to have a church meeting during that time. I would not expect my church members to field my trivial calls between 8:00pm and 8:00am and I would not expect them to give up an important self-care activity to be available to me. Therefore, I deserve the same respect as I give to my congregation. The church cannot go on the assumption that the work of a minister is always 24/7. Sure there are going to be crises to handle and emergencies, but my time is not just open to everyone whenever, wherever.

    • Sara says

      Wow, I am so glad I have friends that aren’t like you. When I was going through some difficult marriage issues, one dear friend (a busy mom of 6 boys and a husband in seminary!) told me I could call her ANYTIME (she specifically said even 2am!) if I needed to talk and be prayed for. She truly cared about me. While I completely agree that all the people in the congregations shouldn’t be calling the pastor at all times of night, it seems very self-centered for you to limit yourself to your friends when they might need you. I hope your time is open to God whenever and wherever.

  85. Lois says

    As a matter of stewardship, I believe the gifts and talents of all in a congregation should be utilized for God’s work. For way too long, we have allowed the arrogance of the members to consider themselves exempt from the work God calls us all to do. As a pastor’s wife for 49 years, I have had a ring-side seat to this.

    I think the search committee needs to take the gifts and talents of the congregation into consideration when choosing the areas of focus they want the pastor to handle. It is such a waste of God’s grace to expect that the pastor can or should handle everything that goes on and all too often the result is burnout. We are all partners in the mission of God in the world. I pray we may start living out the fact.

  86. says

    It is not about hours it is about what a congregation values. For example I find the people that most value calling and pastoral care usually rank sermon prep lower. Conversely people who are in the church every Sunday value sermon time and prep higher than pastoral visits etc. I would never ask congregation or committee how many hours I should work on every task. Instead I would as the group to rank from most important to least and then build my day around that.

    This brings up a deeper issue. What kind of church do the people want? That may seem obvious but often is not. Too often churches pick a pastor based on their personal perception of what a pastor should be. My contention is decide what type of church you want to be and then pick a pastor that fills that vision. This will help congregation and pastor have realistic expectations of what is important and how many hours it should take to fulfill that vision. Some churches are preaching/teaching churches while others value mission or relationships etc. Few churches take the time and energy to determine what type of church do they want to be.

    Rev. Frank Szewczyk

  87. Dennis Tinsley says

    Dr. Rainer,

    I always enjoy your posts. Thank you for what you do. I have two quick thoughts.

    1. Is there value in “true” accountability within a smaller group of people, with a vested interest in the mission of the church and the health of the pastor, vs. “pseudo” accountability of the masses? How many bosses does a guy need?

    2. Most of the responses have been through the lens of established, traditional churches (of which I am a part). Does the same paradigm for time invested by the lead pastor and staff hold true for church planters? Does the entrepreneurial nature of that work change the expectations with regard to time management?

    Dennis

  88. Gail says

    As the Admin and assistant to a Pastor and also recently becoming a Pastor, I know that most people have no idea how many hours their Pastor works as well as the people who work along side of them. I for one work almost non-stop and I know my Pastor does also. People need to remember that we all are human and have families and the same needs as they do. Some Pastors will not even take time for themselves-not good. Just as anyone needs time off and vacation time, so do Pastors. Don’t get upset if your Pastor isn’t available to you 24-7. He or she is human. We are all trying to further the kingdom and doing what God has envisioned us to do, but…………
    People need to show love and respect for their Pastors – you have no idea how many hours we all work.
    Blessings-Love my work as we further the Kingdom.

  89. Sara says

    I am a stay at home mom. I homeschool my three young children. My husband is a commercial fisherman and is gone for weeks at a time during fishing season (and then home one day and gone for a few more weeks). In his absence, I manage the household and our various businesses which involve hours of paperwork, packing and shipping (my kids help too), and running errands. When my husband is home, he is often in his office catching up on paperwork, doing taxes (there’s a lot when you have three businesses and you do all the accounting), on the phone and computer, doing maintenance projects for his boat, etc. There are no boundaries of “on the clock time” or “family time” or any of those other cute, modern categories in our life. We live life as a family. We work together, worship together, serve together and play together. Often my husband is gone, but still our lives revolve on us all doing our part as a family and helping where we can. Would my kids like their dad to be around more and would I like him to be able to help me with the kids more? You bet, but this is what my husband has to do to provide for our family. And we’ll survive – no, we’ll thrive, as long as our focus is on Christ and eternity.

    If I look at this past week and what I’ve “clocked” for church, it would look something like this: Sunday school at 9:30 (I teach the preschool/kindergarten class), main service at 11:00, potluck meal at 12:15, 1:00 choir practice, 1:45 afternoon service at a nearby nursing home, visitation with the elderly ending at 4:00. On Wednesdays I have a 2-hour Bible study in the morning (plus about 30 minutes of Bible study work each day of the week ) and 1-hour evening church in the evening (preceded by a 30 minute choir practice and followed with about 30-45 minutes of fellowship afterward). Every Friday or Saturday, I spend about 4-5 hours in preparation for my Sunday school lesson (it’s true! I often have zero curriculum and have to do it all myself!). I co-organize fellowship groups for our church, which requires several hours each month (not to mention my participation in my own group!). I attend a monthly Women’s Fellowship meeting and serve on the hospitality committee. I invite families over from church with the main purpose of ministering to them (not just my friends!). About every 1-2 weeks, my kids and I visit an elderly person or two in our church – not just because I want to be a blessing to the elderly, but also because it a good training for my children. During the summer, I schedule weekly park dates for the women with young children at our church. I estimate that I give about 20 hours (sometimes more if there are special events) a week to “church work.” But I never think of it that way. My life is not put into neat little “work, church, family, personal time” boxes. Does my marriage suffer? Nope. Do my kids feel neglected? Nope. Am I getting burned out? Not usually (in fact, I still waste a good deal of time as it is!). And I daresay that separating our lives into these perfect little categories is a very first-world, non-agricultural, modern, self-centered, and entitled way of looking at life that never would have even entered the thought of a pastor several hundred years ago! If my pastor were only putting in 40 hours a week (and, in my opinion, thus living the life of luxury and leisure!), while expecting his hard-working congregants to attend all the meetings of our church and be involved in serving (which our pastor often encourages) on top of their more than full time jobs, I’d be one unhappy church member. Thankfully, there are many, many committed people in our church like me and we also have a very committed pastor whom we all respect and love. We all work hard. And it’s a good thing. Because there’s a harvest out there and there’s a great need for workers!

  90. Kaye says

    My husband, when he was a pastor, made sure he put in forty hours per week mininum PLUS the hours that he expected other members of the church to attend (above their forty hour work week). He felt that it was only fair that he work as much as the average church member plus church services/activities.

  91. says

    Thanks for this post! This is an ongoing conversation in which I’m involved on many fronts, as I coach pastors and other church leaders around the country on a weekly basis.

    Having been an ordained Presbyterian pastor since 1989, I’m very familiar with the expectations you’ve highlighted here, and definitely appreciate how that’s only one segment of a congregation. The external expectations on pastors are, in a word, nuts. We can talk about all the reasons this might be the case, but I’d suggest that one of the main reasons these expectations exist in the first place is because we pastors have historically struggled with our own self-understanding. We are called to “equip the saints for ministry,” rather than be the focus of ministry ourselves. We are a part of the “priesthood of all believers,” but have allowed the church’s understanding of priesthood to be more about us than anyone else. (The fact that so many pastors dress in vestments of one kind or another only highlight this inappropriate distinction.) The priesthood of all believers was one of the critical issues of the Reformation, and yet we’ve devolved back into a pre-Reformation posture on it.

    External pressures and expectations will always be there for pastors. What is most critical is that pastors themselves shift their self-understanding (in other words, we can’t wait for congregants to make this shift). We are one part of the body of Christ whose call/role is specific. Everyone has a call/role in the church related to their giftedness, and it’s just as important as ours. Where we pastors get tripped us is in the stories we write in our minds about what it means if we don’t live into the expectations (real or imagined) of others. We’ve got to be okay with who we are in Christ, what we’re called to (and the corollary: what we’re not called to), and develop some loving courage around letting people be disappointed with unmet expectations. The focus, though, is the positive of who we are in Christ and our particular call, not “what we’re not gonna do.” Healthy boundaries are always better received when coming from a place of positive affirmation, rather than lines in the sand that we dare others not to cross.

    Thanks again for this post!

  92. says

    Thanks for this post! This is an ongoing conversation in which I’m involved on many fronts, as I coach pastors and other church leaders around the country on a weekly basis.

    Having been an ordained Presbyterian pastor since 1989, I’m very familiar with the expectations you’ve highlighted here, and definitely appreciate how that’s only one segment of a congregation. The external expectations on pastors are, in a word, nuts. We can talk about all the reasons this might be the case, but I’d suggest that one of the main reasons these expectations exist in the first place is because we pastors have historically struggled with our own self-understanding. We are called to “equip the saints for ministry,” rather than be the focus of ministry ourselves. We are a part of the “priesthood of all believers,” but have allowed the church’s understanding of priesthood to be more about us than anyone else. (The fact that so many pastors dress in vestments of one kind or another only highlight this inappropriate distinction.) The priesthood of all believers was one of the critical issues of the Reformation, and yet we’ve devolved back into a pre-Reformation posture on it.

    External pressures and expectations will always be there for pastors. What is most critical is that pastors themselves shift their self-understanding (in other words, we can’t wait for congregants to make this shift). We are one part of the body of Christ whose call/role is specific. Everyone has a call/role in the church related to their giftedness, and it’s just as important as ours. Where we pastors get tripped us is in the stories we write in our minds about what it means if we don’t live into the expectations (real or imagined) of others. We’ve got to be okay with who we are in Christ, what we’re called to (and the corollary: what we’re not called to), and develop some loving courage around letting people be disappointed with unmet expectations. The focus, though, is the positive of who we are in Christ and our particular call, not “what we’re not gonna do.” Healthy boundaries are always better received when coming from a place of positive affirmation, rather than lines in the sand that we dare others not to cross.

    Thanks again for this post!

    • says

      P.S.–I also agree with the sentiments and experiences of many congregants above who posted of unreal expectations on them from pastors! Personally, I think all of us need to take a deep breath, step back a bit, recover a sense of who we are in Christ, what our call is (and isn’t), and keep front and center the sufficiency of Christ for all ministry.

  93. Danny says

    My question about the article is how did those deacons become deacons at all? Are they Christians at all? “Working hours” were not even a question in Jesus’ ministry.

    The same way it’s the fruits that count. A pastor whose heart is for Jesus will work for Him and for His church and give his best. How many hours? I think it is a bad question. It should be up to him.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Various opinions of how a pastor should pastor – Some think I should be the only speaker the church has. Some think I should make every hospital visit. Some want me to do more administration. Some believe I am the resident counselor. Some think I should know every detail of every ministry and every event on the church’s calendar. You get the idea. As diverse as the people of a church are exists the range of opinions here. Thom Rainer recently wrote an interesting post on this issue and how many hours a week accomplishing expectations would mean a pastor should work. Read it HERE. [...]

  2. […] Seek outside help to analyze the mission critical tasks your church will require from the interim pastor. In consultation with a denominational executive, your departing pastor (if the relationship is good) or another local pastor, determine how many hours per week will be needed to do the job. Please, don’t rely on lay leaders in the church; the research is clear: this is something lay people rarely get right. […]

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