The Lazy Pastor

In due time, propose an alternative schedule. Don’t ask your elders for an immediate decision – give them time (over a series of months if necessary) to think through your proposals. Above all, don’t fight with your elders. Respect them and be sensitive to their concerns; recent history may include a painful experience with a former pastor.

From your first day on the job, keep a detailed work diary. Regular review of your use of time will promote efficiency. Another benefit is transparency. If your elders express concerns, you have a clear record of how your time has been spent. You mustn’t assume that they know the hours taken in study, or visits, or counseling. Be ready to account for your use of time and don’t be defensive about their concerns. Receive their inquiries and suggestions with appreciation.

Dear churches, you need to be fair. It’s unreasonable to expect a young minister to work with the efficiency and skill of a veteran. Some do, and if you have a young minister like that, prize him and give him room in using his time. Ask yourself: Is it possible that our expectations are hindering our minister’s effectiveness?

Wise elders talk routinely with their ministers about their workload. They don’t speculate, but take the time to know how hard he works. The pastor’s use of time is important to them – but they must also be concerned about protecting his time. They insist he take days off and use all of his vacation and study time, because these are essential to his long-term effectiveness.

Where bonds of affection are strong, pastors and elders will strive to understand each other and reach mutual agreement on the shape of the pastor’s workday.

LACK OF SELF-AWARENESS

Some pastors create a perception of laziness when they are unaware of the distractions of our culture and how they affect them. They think they are working harder than they actually do, and are confusing busyness and work.

You are working eight to ten hours a day, five to six days a week, and it’s still not enough time to get your sermons and lessons prepared, visit, counsel, and administer church affairs – much less to serve and evangelize in the community. Are you overworked?

Be honest – are you really working 8-10 hours? Or is misspent time the problem? Ask yourself:

  • Do you count your personal devotions as work time? Your congregation doesn’t and neither should you.
  • When preparing your sermons and lessons, are you fielding emails, responding to texts, making calls unrelated to work, checking news and sports scores, posting on Facebook, tweeting? If you are, then you are not working as much as you think. What’s more, as you respond to those distractions, you then have to take time to refocus. You need to understand how the distractions that consume your time diminish the quality of your work.
  • Your congregation can see timestamps on your posts and tweets. If you’re on social media throughout the day, you’re not working as hard as you should be, and your congregation knows it.
  • Careless administration will lead some to conclude (fairly or not) that you aren’t working as hard as you should. When you drop the ball, you raise questions about your competency and work ethic.
  • Are you habitually late? Do you miss appointments because they weren’t entered on your calendar? These can be the behaviors of a pastor who works hard, but lacks self-management skills.
  • Do you dress sloppily, showing up at work or on visits looking like an unmade bed? Whether you like it or not, neglect of self-care could communicate laziness. I am not talking about dressing formally versus informally; you need to care about your appearance. People might judge that you don’t make the effort to present well to the people you love, and are embarrassed when you represent the church in the community.

Fortunately, self-management is a skill that can be learned, and when learned, improved upon. Many good books are available, like Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done. Read them. Put the authors’ practical wisdom to work for you.

Another area that demands self-awareness is your family. Consider unintended messages that you may be sending.

  • Your wife tells her women’s group what a wonderful husband you are. You drop everything to run to the store for her or to babysit. The women reason – My husband’s employer would never permit that.
  • During the workday, you never miss one of your children’s games or school activities. Again, this is not an option for most employees. You say, “I get up early to make up for the time at the game.” It sounds reasonable to you, but you must not presume on your church’s understanding. Appearances matter. In fact, they are critical.

Pastors and elders need to work together and reach mutual agreement about what constitutes an acceptable work schedule and ethic.

In my experience, the pastor whose sermons show the fruit of disciplined study, who are daily engaged with the lives of his members, and visible in the community are not accused of laziness. At times, elders may want their minister to reallocate his use of time or acquire additional skills. Their motivation is the glory of God and the good of the pastor and the church. Thoughtful and caring elders want their minister to reach his full potential as a servant of Christ. Thoughtful and caring pastors want to reach that potential too; they love their Savior and his church too much to settle for less.

So, pastors and elders, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work – together. Talk together, pray together, and strategize together about how pastor and elders can most effectively shepherd God’s flock. A congregation is truly blessed when the relationship between pastor and elders is distinguished by mutual esteem, encouragement, and affection, as well as by hard work.

This article originally appeared here.

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Charles M. Wingard is the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Yazoo City, Mississippi. He is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS and also the author of Help for the New Pastor: Practical Advice for Your First Year of Ministry.