by Thom Rainer
This excellent article reminds us of the unreasonable expectations most people have of their clergy. Yes, it is universal, so don’t be put off by the protestant setting.
If you pursue the priesthood, you’ll be in a parish most likely, and you will be dealing with these kind of expectations.
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?