Why Pastors Shouldn’t Work More than 40 Hours a Week – And Why Most Do

“If you want to see me on my day off, you will have to die.”

A veteran pastor shared this line with me that he uses to protect his day off. He sets the boundary that the only work he is willing to make exceptions for, on his day off, is imminent death or funerals.

Managing work time and hours as a professional in ministry is a constant struggle. I don’t know many pastors who work less than a 45 hour a week, with many working 50 or 60 hours. Being “busy” and over-worked is the norm for most in ministry (as it is for many in our busy-ness focused society).

After 7 years of being in ordained ministry, I still have difficulty understanding just why so many pastors feel the need to work more than full time. While I have never heard anyone articulate it this way, I suspect many pastors have a sense that the first 40 hours are for the salary, and the rest are for Jesus. I am sure there are a few church folks who may agree, but I think this is a sentiment that originates with pastors themselves.

Many pastors are running around going to every church event, dropping everything for every hospital call or shut-in visit, answering every phone call, arriving before every church meeting and staying for the meeting after the meeting in the parking lot. It seems like many pastors and the churches they serve are completely content with the idea that the pastor is omni-present in body… while never being able to focus well – in mind and soul – on anything in particular.

I once attended a retirement party for a pastor leaving a long time call to institutional ministry. While it was a celebratory event, there was a certain awkwardness about the whole thing. The community he served thanked him for his tremendous service, while his family made jokes about their husband and father that was never home. And when he was home, he was bringing work with him. The community that this pastor served basically thanked this pastor’s family for sacrificing quality time with their husband and father… for Jesus?

I don’t think this is a healthy way to do ministry, nor do I think that Jesus calls pastors to be work-a-holics. 

A few weeks ago, I came across an article by Eugene Peterson called, “The Un-busy Pastor.” It is an article that has resonated with me, even though it was written the year before I was born.

The idea of an “unbusy” pastor seems like a rarity: A pastor who takes the time to contemplatively read scripture so that she is drenched in the word. A pastor who prays often enough and in such a way that she exudes calmness and wisdom. A pastor who is isn’t so busy running around from function to function, that she has time to listen when real listening is needed.

I don’t know what the cultural value of being busy in 1981 was when Euguene Peterson wrote about the unbusy pastor, but certainly being busy in 2016 is sign of importance. Now pastors have no exclusive claim to being busy in today’s world, but like so many other professions and jobs out there, being busy seems to be the way pastors show we are doing our job and worth our keep.

I can’t help but think of the contrast between the omni-present, omni-doing pastor with the idea of the unbusy pastor who, according to Peterson, focuses on prayer, reading scripture, and unhurriedly listening.

Decades ago as the church in North America became heavily prescribed and institutionalized post-WWII, the role of pastor shifted from leader, expert and resident theologian of a community to the chief do-er of ministry for a community. This means the culture now is one where instead of leading communities that do ministry, pastors do ministry on behalf of churches.

However, in the past 10 or years this has started shifting back. As churches contend with the big “change” happening around them (rapid technological advancement changing the way communities organize and interact coupled with decline of institutional christianity), many are realizing that communities need to be a part of ministry again. It can’t all sit on the shoulders of the pastor. As that shift takes place and pastors start doing less so that they can provide leadership and expertise, pastors will have to better understand how to prioritize their time.

In Eugene Peterson’s article the Unbusy Pastor, he suggests that being a busy pastor (as many pastors are) is actually a sign of laziness:

“The other reason I become busy is that I am lazy. I indolently let other people decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day’s work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. But these people don’t know what a pastor is supposed to do. The pastor is a shadow figure in their minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and good will. Anything remotely religious or somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.”

Taking control of our own schedules and prioritizing is essential as pastors shift from chief do-ers to expert leaders, but so is understanding how a pastor’s time is valuable to a faith community.

To that end, I think there are 3 competing ways in which a pastor’s time is valuable to congregations. Balancing these three will be essential for healthy ministry in the future.

1. Quantity

Society, at least legislatively speaking, thinks that about 40 hours of work a week is enough for most full time jobs. Yet, as pastors became the chief do-ers of ministry decades ago, added responsibilities meant more time. And as pastors worked to prove their value to their congregations, they worked more and more and more.

But when quantity of ministry is the highest value, it necessitates a decline of quality. You cannot write a good sermon if they are all Saturday night specials. You cannot plan for the future, if it takes all your energy to get through the day. You cannot attend to the needs of the community as a whole, if you are running from individual to individual like a nursemaid. You cannot take the time for prayer, reading scripture or to really listen, if your calendar is full of the appointments made by others.

2. Flexibility

Churches tend to hold their functions when most people are not working, which means pastors work when most people are off. Evening and weekends. Standard eight hour work days wouldn’t work for ministry. This means that usually a pastor’s day(s) off are a weekday, and that often pastors might find themselves without something scheduled on a weekday morning or afternoon. This flexibility works well for pastors and is a benefit to congregations, as churches wouldn’t be very good places for community if they operated on bank hours.

But when pastors start to work bank hours AND evenings and weekends, the boundaries around work-life balance disappear. Pastors set an expectation that they can be anywhere, anytime. Congregations then embrace that behaviour. Then when pastors do try to have boundaries, they have to say things like, “If you want to see me on my day off, you have to die.” Flexibility is important for ministry, but not a the cost of a balance of personal time and space. Nor at the cost of a healthy relationship between pastor and congregation, but that is for another blog post.

3. Expertise

Seminary training gives pastors tools and knowledge that simply cannot be found in other ways. The training and education shapes and forms a pastor into a person who should be a scholar of the bible, a competent provider of pastoral care, a theologian and liturgist, an administrator and leader of systems, and an educator and teacher among other things. Of course not all gifts and skills are equal among pastors, but there is a certain expertise that is brought to the table with a pastor. I know that I have studied the bible in ways that my parishioners have not. I know that I have been trained to care for emotional and spiritual needs in ways that most of my parishioners have not. I know that my understanding of theology and liturgy is resource that my congregation wouldn’t have access to without me.

But expertise takes time to keep up and maintain. It takes a sharp, well-rested mind to dig back to readings and lectures buried in the recesses of the brain. It takes time to keep up on current articles and books about ministry or theology or administration. It takes intentionality to leave the mind time to ponder and reflect on the bigger picture of ministry in the parish. The expertise a pastor provides is like a that of a doctor or lawyer or other professional. It should be seen as something that church people cannot receive elsewhere or on their own. Just like Dr. Google is not a substitute for a real doctor, nor is Pastor Google a substitute (says the pastor on his blog).

The balance between quantity, flexibility and expertise has long been weighted towards quantity. The sacrifice has been quality expertise. Too many pastors boast about not reading any books since seminary, nor having the time to do continuing education.

The church for the future needs less of a chief do-er of ministry and more of an expert leader. Pastors need to re-balance. Lots of ministry can happen in 60 hours a week, but good ministry should only take 40. After that you are not likely helping your congregation in their ministry, nor providing the leadership and expertise that the church has been longing for, for some time now.

As congregations and the Church contends with a changing world, Christians need pastors who can help prioritize the mission of the gospel. A pastor cannot help people grow in relationship with Jesus if that pastor is too busy filling his or her days with un-prioritized busy work.

Ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding. Thriving, healthy, mission and Jesus minded congregations will be led and served by unbusy pastors. 

Are you a pastor who works more than 40 hours a week? Why? How much do you think pastors should work and why? Share in the comments, or on the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik


42 thoughts on “Why Pastors Shouldn’t Work More than 40 Hours a Week – And Why Most Do”

  1. I don’t know anyone who only works forty hours a week. The farmers, teachers, doctors, truck salesmen, hog farmers, cafe owners, beauticians, etc. in my area all work far more hours. I’m not taking sides, just stating the facts as I know them. I think it would be wonderful if people didn’t have to work so hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve known a few hard working pastors, but they’re an exception, not the rule. Sundays should not be counted as part of the workweek, in my opinion, because a lot of lay people do basically the same work as the pastor on Sundays without pay. So, if you take that out of the equation, most pastors work only 32 hours a week with the occasional visit or phone call. Most lay people also have limited after hours visits or calls, so those aren’t significantly different.


      1. In all Christian love, you obviously haven’t a clue the work that goes into preparing Sunday Worship. To say that hard working pastors is an exception is, quite frankly, insulting.


        1. “In Christian love” is a thin veil for you my friend. I absolutely have a clue as I’ve done multiple worship services myself and know exactly how much work it requires and still pales in comparison to my workload in engineering. So, have a nice day.


  2. I don’t know any full time workers who have only a 40-hour week. Seriously, all the farmers, teachers, beauticians, doctors, truck salesmen, accountants, cafe owners, day-care providers, hog farmers, caterers, etc. in my area put in long hours, many more than 40/week. I’m not disagreeing with your position, but it really is that way where I live (MN). It seems as if we are always at work. (It would be a great relief to have a 40-hr week.)


  3. Well said. In response to those who point out that many, perhaps most people who are full-time employed work more than 40 hours per week–indeed. The job of professionals is to get the job done, but the job of a pastor is to serve the Gospel, to lead the church in such a way that the everyday lives of its members are filled with Christ’s love, that the witness and ministry of these people continues to grow. A good pastor doesn’t come up with a resume filled with little achievement-lets, but is a servant encouraging the body of Christ to grow. And here’s the thing, an important part of that ministry is ordering one’s own life in such a way that it models the life we are talking about. Hurry, busy , do-this, do-that, parade around that you are more important than others because you have less time for them–these are the disordered values of the world, not the compassionate and abundant life of the body of Christ.

    I do not think that pastors should feel sorry for themselves. If you look through history, it has always been the case that there are a few high-profile very prosperous clergy, but that a huge proportion of the best clergy have been ill-paid –now it usually comes from being paid less than full time salary for many in parishes. Clergy need to be self-confident leaders, not self-serving or self-pitying. They need to structure their lives to be joyful, relaxed, and filled with abundant joy. This entails structuring work life so that there are times on, and times off. Clergy need to be confident of this, and not give attaboy points to those who look busier–neither should they be “clock watchers”

    A student gave a tremendous sermon, which was published in some widely -read venues. Some pastor commented, “Well, once she gets into the parish, she won’t have time to work that much on her sermon.” I didn’t respond to that comment, but my response to such a put-down would be, “You don’t have time to waste on all that “work” you think you are doing, if you can’t reflect and think and work to produce your best possible sermon every week.” We as clergy and as a church must set our priorities on a Gospel of true abundance–not worldly wealth, but a deep appreciation of God’s love in the life we live.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe that we should focus much more of our energy and attention on the Ministry of the Baptized, which is not what they do in or for the church, but in discerning how their faith in Christ is and can be lived out in their “non-church” lives. People’s stories are full of this, if we but look, and when they appreciate it, their ministry and the ministry of others grows.


  4. I knock down about 60 hours a week on a regular basis. I spent a great many years doing a good job of maintenance work in congregations that were basically on auto-pilot, motoring along from season to season and year to year. I was a good manager and could show fruit in these places with minimal effort and leadership. My work now is a bit more complex and missional. I do the administrative, delegatory, and interpersonal duties that being a senior pastor requires. But at the same time I am also helping my church and others follow God’s call into intensive relationship with the poor and marginalized in my town. This means I find myself tromping into tent camps late at night for various emergencies, helping homeless friends newly enrolled at the Y learn how to use the workout equipment, gleaning food at the end of the day from local restaurants and partners who donate to us. More so now than ever, ministry is life.


    1. That sounds like a vibrant ministry. I am curious to know how you would distinguish the work of the pastor with a social worker or inner city worker in your case? I am interested in knowing how other Pastors understand their role and ministry.


      1. I would also consider my gleaning to be denying a called parishioner’s ability to do the same. I find people who want to and excel at doing nitty-gritty visits to shut-ins, in-home communions, and I do NOT attend all meetings. The elected folks are perfectly capable and I DON’T need to know which A/C condenser needs replacement or which room needs painting.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a United Methodist Pastor in Northern California. Our Bishop (who appoints us to our churches) states openly that he expects an average work week for Pastors to be 55 hours.

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  6. I used to be a 70+ hour a week pastor; and with that work load never disregarded my daughter. I didn’t want her to be a lonely frustrated pastor’s kid badmouthing her clergy mother or accusing me for all her mishaps due to my lack of presence and attention while church kids thrived from benefitting from my pastoral guidance and counseling. Instead, I spent quality time with her and supported her in academics, sports, and extracurricular events and activities even if it meant staying up until wee hours in the morning finishing up sermons, administrative work, and reports. Then I realized that the busier I got, the less time I had for the spiritual and I became weak; something that pleased the enemy since I would get weaker in all, becoming enslaved to that trap. I also realized that if I wanted to see my daughter graduate, go to college, get married, see my grandchildren then I needed to take care of myself. And, it only took a cancer diagnosis and treatment to help me focus on what I really needed to do: prioritize by having my daily fill of Bread and Water first thing in the morning and meditating without being mindful of the time. However and how long God needs my attention is how long I am going to sit and listen. I need to be strong, my family needs me strong, my congregation needs me strong, and the community I serve needs me strong. And healthy . A read through John Maxwell’s “The One Minute Manager” was like soup for the soul. And, I can’t forget to mention Bishop John Schol who not only exemplifies self-care, but has made it a requirement for cabinet, connectional table leaders, clergy, and lay leaders in our conference. It’s ok to say no; especially when we have enough time to realize that our bodies are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit!

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  7. It is easy to make a statement like that when you pastor a churcb that can pay you a decent salary with benefits and it take care of your family needs. As for me, I am bi-vocational minister who works 40 hours a week as an educator in a local school district. I have bills and a wife to take care of. The only way I will do full time ministry at a church is that the church must either match or exceed what I earn as an educator. That is not being greedy; rather it is wisdom. Unless God tells you to quit your 40 hour, 9-5 job to go into ministry full time, I think it is wise to work 40 hours a week to take care of yourself and family. God is not going to love you less or bless you less just because you work a job and is also in the ministry.

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    1. @Charles. I am glad that has worked for you. For some of us, the call of God is made so strong that we cannot do that. I left a very good paying job in research for Johnson and Johnson to go to seminary full time and go into ministry. I have had in those 17+ years some full time churches, and currently 2 half-time churches. I can say that when I left my “job” to serve God full time that while some of the vacations and other luxuries went away, God provided all we needed as a family. We never missed a car payment, a house payment, a loan payment, or went without food. I could not have served God as I do without leaving the lab and its also usually greater than 40hr a week commitment. Sometimes I may miss the science some; but my joy and peace in doing what I KNOW God has called me to do more than make up for that. For me, wisdom was following God’s call into ministry with no reservations, even if it didn’t seem the path to some others (who tried to counsel me otherwise).

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Why do I work over 40 hours per week – because I was appointed to a four church parish who are in three communities spaced on a 41 circuit. There are great people who are very interested in mission and ministry and many step in to ease my work schedule – however the UMC job description which is required to be given to a physician regularly for the doctor to state the pastor to pass describes a 6 day a week, 24 hour on call availability, and is to be considered high stress, and expect more than 8 hour days, therefore no less than 50 hours and most DS and Bishops expect 60 hours. All the while reminding us all to do excellent self-care! lol, they and we try!!


  9. I think that part of the guilt I have about not over working is that I watch volunteers in the church work 50-60 hr weeks and then volunteer another 10-15 hrs/week at the church. I am not saying this is a good reason to work so much – in fact, I think it might be a reason to reconsider how much we do together as church so that we don’t fry people. Also, my taking time may just five them the permission they need to do a little less. But, it certainly plays into my guilt.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t always log my hours, but I am pretty good about Monday as my day off and Friday as my sermon writing day. And I try to work only 2/3 of any day. So if I have evening meetings, I either come in later in the morning or go home for much of the afternoon. My congregation tends to value my day off as much as I do, so I have to lead them in understanding of it. I’m grateful that they understand I don’t have to be at every event and meeting.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think it’s the tension of the love you have for people and the church & the boundaries you need to flourish and model a healthy life. It’s not a tension felt only in ministry, but is punctuated by the obligations and expectations of others. At the end of the day, it comes back to modelling wisdom, raising teams, and releasing others to labour alongside you.


  12. Some thoughts, it is a good article and Eugune is right. In the light of this should we ask full-time workers not to volunteer extra time to church/mission work… balance is needed but this is slightly prescriptive in saying 40 hours. It is only with the luxury of modern-western living that 40 hours work becomes an option as the daily slog of existence for most people historically (and globally) requires more than 40 hours a week effort of paid work, preparing food, visiting sick relatives, etc. Balance is needed, Sabbath is needed . However, in a consumerist western world which idolises entertainment and leisure time we need to to be reminded that we are missional people and that we live in a broken world and the call of the christian minister includes at times hardwork, long hours and sleepless nights. Also, if the church is family then our family responsibilities extend beyond 9-5, 5 days a week. At the risk of being misunderstood balance is needed and sabbath is needed.

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  13. I can fully appreciate the tension here. Officially as a Church of England vicar, I am an “office holder” which is 24/7, 168 hours a week. On the other hand, there is an understanding that a 48 hour week is acceptable. What confuses the issue is where we are defined by other people’s expectations. I have settled on realising that above all I am called to model (in my weak, imperfect way) what it is to be a disciple of Christ. My vocations as father, husband and vicar are part of my all-encompassing calling to be a disciple of Christ. Therefore, for instance, I take my day off each week because God rested on the 7th day (I am not God and certainly no beter than God!) and because I expect my congregation to take time off each week. I spend time with my family because I love them, because I am trying to be obedient to God, and I hope and expect the congregation to do the same. I have colleagues who spend much more time “vicaring” but I am sorry to say that for many of them (especially those who do not take time off) they are on the path to burn-out.
    Sorry to waffle on so – your post has been an interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m an Anglican Priest in Western Australia, now working ⅔ time looking after 3 rural parishes – a retirement job. Before that I was full time in a ministry training job, working 50-70 hours most weeks. The Anglican Diocese of Perth specifies the expectation on clergy at 48 hours per week for a full time position, proportionally less part-time. My ⅔ does mostly work out at 32 hours/week, but not much has to be added to that in the “off” days for the pressure to build. And a day lost to unexpected work such as a funeral or a conference has to be found somewhere, because there is no spare. I put an “I’m not busy” sash over my FB profile pic as a statement a year or so ago; I could say that I haven’t had time to remove it since! – or more truthfully that despite its evident untruth I still hold to the ideal.

    Moreover, I still hold most firmly if not always as completely as I would like, to Monica Furlong’s justly famous “What I want from the clergy” diatribe – many years ago. She wrote: “I am clear about what I want from the clergy. I want them to be people who can, by their own happiness and contentment, challenge my ideas about status, success, money and so teach me how to live more independently of such drugs. I want them to be people who can dare, as I do not dare and as few of my contemporaries dare, to refuse to work flat out and to refuse to work more strenuously than me. I want them to be people who dare because they are secure enough in the value of what they are doing to have time to read, to sit and think, and who face the emptiness and possible depression which often attacks people when they do not keep the surface of their mind occupied. I want them to be people who have faced this kind of loneliness and discovered how fruitful it is, as I want them to be people who have faced the problems of prayer. I want them to be people who can sit still without feeling guilty and from whom I can learn some kind of tranquility in a world which has almost lost the art.”

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  15. I’m a recovering workaholic who falls off the bandwagon from time to time and I still work 50 to 60 hours per week. Part of my problem is that I just don’t how to compartmentalize my life into “ministry” and “not ministry.” I mean … if contemplation of a sermon “counts” as ministry? Then I work in the shower. If peculating an idea for a program or thinking about solutions for a problem “counts” as ministry, then there isn’t much time when I’m not working. Does volunteering at a homeless shelter constitute work? What about volunteering with the Girl Scouts in the church? Is that for my 11 year old … or is that to strengthen the compassionate outreach? I do Junior Achievement presentations where I talk about my ministry as management of a not for profit. Do that “count?” Like I said, a recovering workaholic … and I do much better now than years ago. I take my time off … and get called on the carpet occasionally. I do my best with my family … all of whom have lots of things scheduled, too. I just can’t help resenting it a little, when someone expects me to tell someone “gee, I’m sorry you are contemplating suicide but it’s my day off. Can you call me back when it is more convenient for me?” Life … like poop … happens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think you are different from many. And being on call and taking work home with you (sermonizing in the shower) is something that comes with the job. I would suggest that if you weren’t doing that, you would be too busy!

      The argument that saying no to someone in crisis because it is a day off is a straw man argument though. That is a matter of priorities. That crisis means the monthly report doesn’t get written, or that casual visit gets bumped a week or you bow out of a meeting to find balance. The day off needs to come higher on the priority list. Ultimately, being overly busy is a failure to prioritize.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. If someone is dying (literally) then that is a priority, day off or not. But if your parents’ Golden Wedding happens to coincide with a date a couple would like for their wedding? Offer the couple the choice between a different date or a different minister. To do otherwise would not model honouring your parents or cherishing the sanctity of marriage.
      The distinction between work and other stuff is often blurred: traditionally vicars did not count the hours they “worked” because the majority of it is spent in the fuzzy grey area. between “official duties” and “not at work”.
      So I would agree that all of the above can be counted as “work”; I would also include prayer, study, going on retreat, advising/listening to a colleague. You are going to disappoint some of the people all the time – just make sure it is not always the same people.
      Despite what I have written above, I would not want to add to anyone’s burden which combines overwork with a sense of underachievement. That is the spirit of the times we live in, and is not of God.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. No offense, but I find this article rather amusing. If you work a salary position than your job is to get your work done. Please show me one salary position in America that works only 40 hours a week, you can’t that is our society today. Don’t get me wrong 40 hours a week sounds great, just ask your church to start paying you hourly and you will get there in a hurry.

    As someone who has worked about 15 years in ministry as well as worked years in the business world what I find often are pastors who have never worked outside of the church assuming things about work. The same pastor who wrote this article probably expects his leaders and volunteers to work 40 hours a week (more like 50-55 in real life) plus volunteer in whatever areas they volunteer in for the church (likely 5-10 hours per week). Not to mention spending time with their family, etc. So here is my question should the shepherd or the sheep work more/harder. Is it the shepherds job to say my day is done, take it away sheep?

    What I find, no offense, is a lot of waste in most jobs and especially ministry related jobs. Most of the having to sit in the office from 9-5 has to do with insecurities of the pastors more than expectations of the people. How much of that 9-5 is actually getting work done and how much of it is reading articles like this on “how things should be”? I have worked in churches with offices that expect you to sit there all the time and I refused and was not even the senior pastor, it actually gave the other pastors freedom to be flexible with their schedule, so man/woman up and lead.

    I currently work at a decent sized church with 10 ministerial staff and we don’t have offices for anyone on campus. Guess what, our people do not expect us to be sitting around 9-5, we schedule appointments as need and flex our schedules to take advantage of time. Maybe the solution is give up the corporate office model and then your people won’t think you are available during all the bank hours and you can schedule your week as needed. Here is the problem, to do that it would take some real personal discipline and leadership. Here is another thing I have found, the congregation you have been blessed and entrusted to serve is usually not your enemy/problem. If you have a clear strong work ethic, you have proven to be trustworthy, and you provide quality in the work you do then they will trust you and appreciate you. They will be the ones celebrating you and giving you the freedom to not schedule that meeting at that time or not be able to talk now. You just have to stop being insecure and trust them enough to be honest and you have to be confident enough in what you are doing with your time currently (which is more likely to be the actual problem). Remember these are the same people working themselves 50-55 hours a week, plus volunteering for your church 5-10 hours a week, plus trying to lead their families, raise their kids, invest in their spouse, serve their neighbors.

    Wait now that I think of it, why are we complaining that we get to work as hard as them, encouraging, equipping, praying for, serving, organizing, and teaching them? That sounds like a pretty nice gig to me. I wonder what Jesus and the disciples would have thought about a 40 hour work week, last I check we are to get one day of Sabbath, how many hours does that leave in a week?


    1. What I find interesting about replies holding your perspective, and particularly from your generation, is that they demonstrate my point. It is clear that you didn’t read much beyond the title of the article. Rather than focusing on the content, which is about what expert quality leadership from a pastor looks like, you got hung up on defending the number of hours worked.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nope, I read every word, but as a pastor I am tired of whining pastors. I can see my remarks were rather convicting. It is more about the individuals own insecurities and the reality of work ethic and not putting out “quality” that leads to a cycle of busyness which by the way has no coralation with hours worked.

        I am curious, what generation do you think I am a part of? It is fine to avoid the issue and true critique and say, “you didn’t pay attention” however that is much more of a statement about why you are working too much. I on the other hand only on occasion work to much. Most the time my family and I are comfortable with the hours of work, my other leaders and congregation or extremely pleased with the quality of leadership and work I am providing. But yes, I am not paying attention, just like your over demanding congregation I am the enemy.


        1. I am curious as to why you would assume I am whining or why I would see the congregation as an enemy? My article was clear that I hold pastors accountable for over working.

          I also live what I preach. I rarely work more than 40 hours, and I volunteer somewhere other than my place of work. I am flexible to the need to the parish, but I also value quality ministry over quantity. But what I find most is that when I am rested there is rarely more than 40 hours of work to do.

          What I hear you saying is that everyone else works 55+ hours, so get over it and do what everyone else does. Well, I live in Canada where we actually have modern labour laws. It is the law that salaried and wage earning employees are entitled to overtime pay or time in lieu. I flex my schedule to make sure in the weeks I work over 40 hours, I take time in lieu.

          But perhaps most importantly as Eugene Peterson suggests, the issue is one of prioritizing. When a pastor is busy, we are ceding our schedule to someone else, rather than take responsibility for our own. Not to mention that social scientists have shown that productivity decreases after 40 hours. This makes sense to me anecdotally, when I see colleagues falling behind in the 60 hour work weeks, while those of us keeping to 40 are getting ministry done. http://lifehacker.com/5894523/how-many-hours-do-you-work-per-week-hint-if-its-over-40-you-may-have-a-problem

          Given that you, DJ, took the time to comment on my post, in two rather defensive posts, I am wondering who it is that is feeling convicted. Yes, perhaps my first reply was somewhat snippy.

          But in all honestly, I am truly curious to understand how when quantity of time work is so out of balance that quality and expertise don’t suffer. How can a pastor be running around barely keeping up be a studying, praying, listening presence to a church community?


  17. Thanks, Erik, for sharing your perspective. The mostly unspoken standard in my presbytery is 50 hours a week. I really don’t know why we’re expected to work more than 6 days a week.

    I’ve worked part-time in most of my ministry positions and am always conscious of working within the agreed-upon hours. Part-timers in many jobs often end up with full-time work at part-time pay so I promised myself I wouldn’t do that.

    I’ve worked very hard to be healthy on many levels and I don’t want to lose it by thinking I’m the best minister when I work the most hours. I sometimes think the 50-55 hour work week is a vestige of a time when clergy were mostly male and the spouses stayed home to take care of the family.

    Although there is an expectation in many companies to work more than 40 hours, there are those in the work world who are saying no to that standard. My husband, a software architect, and some of his colleagues hired in after stating they would only work 40 hours due to family obligations. They would go over occasionally in a crisis. The company accepted this and still values their work and commitment.

    I’m entering a new part-time position soon and will be negotiating my hours once again. I appreciated reading your post as I gear up to confront the workaholism of American workers and of ministers by saying that half-time is 20 hours not 25. I’m glad there are others out there like yourself who are modeling healthy ministry despite expectations (without defined reasons) for over-work.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Unfortunately your underlying premise propagates the notion that pastors are employees who are simply working a job for a congregation. Jesus doesn’t expect pastors to be workaholics because pastoral ministry is about a life change, just as the first disciples went through. The calling of a pastor is truly to be omni-present for their people, as a shepherd is for their sheep. Keep a balance and take advantage of down time to be with family, but never drop your guard against the devil who is always on the prowl. That is what we are called to do!


  19. Eugene Peterson has a great book called The Contemplative Pastor where he talks about unbusyness more indepth. I make a point to read it about once a year so I can remember and ingrain these practices. He has many good points to offer for pastors (and people in general) about making ourselves less busy so we can engage in ministry a bit deeper.

    Liked by 2 people

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