This has been a typical criticism of ministers, but is
very far from the truth. Serving as the pastor of a church requires vastly
more than one day a week, and is one of the most exhausting and time
consuming jobs you could imagine. Researcher George Barna says that the
average pastor works "far beyond" 40 hours a week.¹
Because of the nature of his job, a pastor cannot
escape his responsibilities when he leaves the office. He is on duty around
the clock, and receives calls at home from dawn to dusk, even in the middle
of the night. Most of his home activities and social relationships are
church related. Even a large percentage of his family conversations involve
the church in some way. If he is fortunate enough to have a day off, it will
rarely be a day of leisure. It's usually the only time a pastor can find
undistracted time to pray, study or do other ministry related things.
From my experience as a pastor, it is common to devote
ten to twelve hours every day to ministry related activity. Sunday is
obviously the longest day of the week, seldom less than fifteen hours. For
many years it was my practice to arrive at the church at 5:00 a.m. to pray
and finish work on my sermon or Sunday School lesson until services would
begin. After lunch with my family, I would return to the church by 2:00 p.m.
to pray and prepare for the evening service. Depending on the length of
service, and how many people were "in line" to speak to me afterward, I
might get out between 9:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. I can remember many occasions
I was unable to leave before 1:00 a.m., making a twenty-hour day.
With that introduction, let's add up how much time it
can take for a pastor to do his job. The pastor of an average church will
usually preach two services on Sunday, perhaps another one on Wednesday
night and maybe even teach a class for Sunday school. To prepare a fresh new
sermon from scratch, he must pray and receive God's direction, research
scriptures, consult commentaries for clarity, find interesting
illustrations, and pray for God's anointing upon the finished product. When
I was an evangelist it was not unusual to spend dozens of hours, preparing
and praying over just one sermon. According to Barna, it takes the average
pastor ten hours to prepare a thirty minute sermon or teaching. If the
pastor presents only three sermons or teachings a week (some do far more),
this would total 30 hours of preparation. But the time demands on the pastor
are so great, rarely can he devote this much time. Even at a minimum of six
hours per presentation, this would come to 18 hours of preparation time a
If the pastor prays an hour and a half daily (10.5 hrs
a week), spends a modest six hours preparing for each of his three sermons
(18 hrs weekly), and works at the church on Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00
p.m. (15 hrs weekly), this would come to 43.5 hours a week devoted only
toward his speaking ministry.
But for most pastors, the preparation time for their
pulpit ministry is a very small percentage of their overall
responsibilities. Each week there are many people who want to counsel with
the pastor or speak to him by phone. In my case, I personally take an
average of 20 calls a day. If only nine minutes is spent with each caller
(most are much longer), this will come to 180 minutes or three hours per
day. That's 21 hours per week on the telephone. I also usually counsel with
about 10 people per week — either in the office or after services. Each
meeting usually takes about an hour, for no less than 10 hours weekly. I
usually visit with a few persons each week, either in the hospital or in
their home, for a total time and travel of about five hours weekly.
So far this comes to 79.5 hours per week. But we
haven't even considered the time it requires to conduct the business aspects
and administration of the church. I spend no less than 2.5 hours daily (12.5
hours weekly) in making administrative decisions, reviewing expenditures,
signing checks and paperwork, dictating letters, analyzing the financial
budget, directing church staff, reviewing schedules, problem solving, etc.
Besides this, it takes me 12 hours a month to write my portion of the church
newsletter and publications.
Then there's the attendance at midweek service each
Wednesday (2 hrs), the monthly board meetings (2 hrs), evening committee
meetings, the Saturday night prayer meeting (1.5 hrs). Not to mention the
periodic weddings, funerals, committee meetings, business meetings,
ministerial functions or social functions that the pastor is "expected" to
attend. Even if the pastor doesn't conduct every meeting he attends, he is
always "on duty," wherever he goes.
If you haven't a calculator handy, this all comes to
more than 96.5 hours per week. Since there are only 168 hours in a seven-day
week, and we hope that a pastor could sleep an average of eight hours a
night (56 hours weekly), this means 95% of the pastor's 110 waking hours
could be consumed with his responsibilities.
This is, of course, not the way it ought to be, but I
regret to say that it is all too often, very close to the pattern of many
ministers. Especially in a smaller church, where there is little or no staff
to help, the load of the pastor can be overwhelming.
Needless to say, it is not true that a pastor works
only one day a week.
¹Today's Pastors, George Barna
This article is copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1995, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA 95949. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.You may download for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain published quantities of this title, email us.