From the book, “What People Ask About The Church,” by Dale A. Robbins

— 32 —
How come a pastor only has to
work one day a week?

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.

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 week.

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.

Today's Pastors, George Barna


This article is copyrighted by 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, .

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