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Is It Possible for Pastors to Work This Many Hours?

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, Fla., I gave a survey to the 12 deacons in the church (I jokingly said we had 11 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 20 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 12 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: five hours

Denominational involvement: five hours

Church meetings: five hours

Worship services/preaching: four hours

Other: 10 hours

Total: 114 hours/week

If I met just the minimum expectations of 12 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 12 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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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.