5 Myths about a pastor’s workweek

Posted: May 26, 2015 in Ministry
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Just the other day I read this blog post….and all I could do was to say YES….YES!

If you are a pastor, and you affirm the thoughts below, leave a comment…

If you are a church member or attender, your thoughts are welcome too!

Read below…for I think that for some of you it will be eye opening!

The Myth of Free Time

A Lifeway Research poll conducted in 2009 revealed that almost 60% of pastors worked from 50 to 70 hours a week. About 78% of pastors worked anywhere from a minimum of 40 to 49 hours per week. One in ten worked 70 hours or more a week so the idea that the pastor doesn’t have a real job is contrary to the facts and pastors predominantly work more than most people who hold jobs in the secular fields. If you throw in bi-vocational pastors the average is more like 70 + hours per week with many approaching 85-90 hours a week. That is like having two full time jobs and when you include the necessity for squeezing in time with family, there is precious little time left in the week and by the way, they need sleep too. Most only sleep about six to seven hours a night. It is near the very bottom as far as pay is concerned for those holding a professional degree which should shatter the myth that pastors are in it for the money. One man once asked a pastor “What do you do all week?” as if he only preached sermons on Sunday. The myth that pastors have a very short work week is found to be just the opposite. Some actually believe that pastors have all week to work on their sermon but the truth is that sermon preparation takes about 15-18 hours per week, administrative duties take about ten to twelve hours per week, visitation (e.g. hospitals) and outreach can take about eight hours per week and it takes about eight to ten hours per week working on bulletins, newsletters, agendas, committee meetings, deacon meetings agendas, preparing for board and other meetings and creating agendas for them, dealing finances like banking, deposits, as well as making utility payments, and calendaring for future church events and activities. Add a few more hours for meetings with community leaders or representatives combined with responding to emails, prayer requests, and phone conversations and you have a very long week already and this is not close to a comprehensive list of a pastor’s duties.

We Don’t Get Depressed

Most pastors pour out their life and give out counseling to hundreds of people in their lifetimes (free of charge) and try to encourage and exhort others in the church when they often receive little or no appreciation themselves. It’s like they are constantly pouring themselves out like a drink offering with hardly anyone else filling them up. The idea that pastors are somehow more spiritual and are immune to feelings of discouragement, depression, and mental fatigue is totally misleading. The great majority of church members and those who live outside of the church walls believe that pastors are somehow above getting depression and suffering through long periods of sadness. The unreasonable expectations by most doesn’t help and if a pastor actually does seek help in the form of counseling, then this is seen as a weakness even though the American Medical Association said (in 2012) about 20% of the general populations suffers from clinical depression, although much of it is untreated and in the pastoral field, it is thought to be slightly higher. For some reason people seem to think it’s okay for them to offer multiple counseling sessions but the stigma is that they shouldn’t have to seek counseling themselves.

A No-Stress Job

Do I even need to write on this? Have you ever spoken with a pastor about whether they have a lot of stress or not? If you’re a pastor then I’m preaching to the choir but I can’t imagine a more stressful job than pastoring a church. Church membership’s expectations of the pastor put a heavy load on him and make him responsible for the church’s finances, growth, evangelism, outreach, maintenance, utilities, insurance, Sunday school curriculum, member’s conduct and so many other things. All of that weight is unfairly placed on one man’s shoulders and if something goes wrong, it’s entirely his fault. It is little wonder then that many pastors are suffering from depression and burn out and the average pastor stays at one church only about three-and-a-half to four years. We shouldn’t be surprised by what stress does because even Jesus needed time to get away and rest. They were constantly pressing in on Him and it had to wear on Him. Even though He was the Son of God, He was still in His humanity too. By the way, the size of the church, the number of cars in the parking lot and the amount of finances available are not true indicators of a church’s spiritual health but people point the finger at the pastor for that too, although God is no respecter of persons any more than He is a respecter of size.

We Know the Bible

Yes, we do know the Bible but sometimes I have to tell people “I don’t know” and they look surprised. I tend to say that where the Bible is silent, so must I be. Do pets go to heaven? Why does God allow babies to suffer and die and children to get cancer? When Job was suffering the loss of everything; his wealth, his children, and later, even his friends turned on him and blamed him for all of his suffering, Job never did get an answer from God as to the “Why.” Job just had to shut His mouth when God rebuked him for his self-righteous attitude but God was even angrier at Job’s friends for the way they treated and turned on Job. I suppose many people believe we have a greater insight into the secret or hidden will of God and I get asked frequently “What’s God’s will for me life?” but I cannot possibly tell them what God has planned for them because I can’t find an individual’s life-plan in the Bible. All I can tell them is that until they obey the revealed will of God (e.g. Rom 12:2; 1 Thess 4:3, 5:18) He is not likely to show them His secret or hidden will for their lives and besides, if it’s hidden, then it’s none of my business trying to guess what it is. It’s obviously hidden because that’s God’s business and not mine…or theirs.

My First Priority is the Church

Sorry, but this is totally wrong. My first heavenly priority is to God. I will answer to Him and not to the church membership but even further, the family is the first earthly ministry priority because if a man can’t even take care of his family, he has no business trying tend the flock of God (1 Tim 3; Titus 1). Most people think that they can just pick up the phone and call the pastor any time, day or night, and he’ll come running. Nope. He has a family. He needs to stick to his schedule but of course emergencies happen but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I had one of our church members call very late one night when my wife and daughter was in bed and I was getting ready to go to bed myself…but he just called to “chat.” I spent 20 minutes on the phone with him and when I was finished with the call, I was so wound up that I couldn’t sleep. It seems like he treats me like this: “Well the pastor doesn’t really have a real job” or “He can be flexible and doesn’t have a work schedule like me” and so many reason, why not just pick up the phone and call him any time you want.

Conclusion

Certainly these myths are only the tip of the iceberg. I cannot hope to give you a comprehensive listing of pastoral myths in one article, let alone in a whole book! I hope the congregation realizes just how much time and effort the pastor puts into his calling. We are no different from other people. We get stressed, depressed, worried, burned out, overworked, and are frequently underappreciated, but the thing a pastor must remember is that they are first and foremost accountable to God and not the membership or anyone else’s expectations. It is a very special calling and even though we are no better than anyone else, we do have a greater responsibility to God and that alone can keep a pastor up at night. If you do nothing else, at least pray for your pastor. He needs it desperately.

Pastor Jack Wellman Jack is an author and pastor at the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane, Kansas. You can find more writing from Jack atWhatChristianWanTtoKnow.com and FaithInTheNews.com

Leave your thoughts below in the comment section!

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Comments
  1. Maya Bechtel says:

    The local seminary tells its students that 50% of graduates will leave pastoral ministry after 5 years because of stress and burn-out. It is not a matter of working hard—many people do. It is a matter of trying to meet impossible expectations put upon you and not given the support you need. I watched as my whole family burned out of pastoral ministry after 15 years. I am glad that my husband now works for a non-profit ministry. One boss not 300!

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