How Many Hours Does a Pastor Work Each Week?

July 6, 2013

UPDATE: Listen to the podcast on this topic.

It is one of the most unpredictable jobs one could have. There will be weeks when there won’t be much taking place out of the ordinary, and the pastor will work a “mere” 40 to 45 hours. There will be other weeks filled with meetings, emergency hospital calls, a wedding, two funerals, and line of members waiting to see the pastor. That workweek could total 80 hours.

So we surveyed pastors on Twitter and asked them a simple question: How many average hours do you work a week, including sermon preparation? Though we asked for an average, most responded with a range. We thus took the midpoint of the range they submitted. We also asked this question only of fulltime vocational pastors.

Five years ago, LifeWay Research asked a similar question. The primary difference in the question was that their survey included pastors who were not paid fulltime as well. Of course, the LifeWay Research study was a scientific poll, while my Twitter poll was informal.

Here are the results of the two polls:

 2013 Twitter Poll
(Full-time Pastors)
 2008 LifeWay Research Poll
(Part-Time & Full-Time Pastors)
Less than 40 hours 3% 16%
40-49 hours 47% 19%
50-59 hours 40% 30%
60-69 hours 7% 27%
70 hours or more 3% 8%

Here are some of my observations:

  • The two polls cannot be compared directly. One includes fulltime pastors only. The other includes both fulltime and part-time pastors. Also, the LifeWay Research poll of 2008 is scientifically validated, and is thus much more likely to be accurate.
  • Surprisingly, the median workweek for pastors is the same in both surveys: 50 hours. That means the average workweek is greater than 50 hours for half of the pastors, and less than 50 hours for half of the pastors.
  • Some pastors indicated their workweek hours but excluded sermon preparation time. They were not included in the survey.
  • I strongly suspect that the 16% of pastors who worked less than 40 hours a week in the 2008 survey were part-time pastors. There aren’t many fulltime vocational pastors working less than 40 hours.
  • Most pastors have trouble estimating their average workweek because each week is so unpredictable. The nature of a pastor’s job is on-call 24/7.
  • One respondent had an interesting take on a pastor’s workweek. He said that pastors should be expected to work 40 hours plus the amount of time a committed member gives to the church. He estimates a committed member will give at least 8 hours a week, so the typical workweek should be 48 hours (40+8). That number is very close to the median workweek of all pastors.

Are there any surprises to you in these studies? What do you think a pastor’s typical workweek should be?

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  • lila rose lynn says on

    When I initially wrote a comment on this site, I was tring to ascertain what is a “norm” for a pastor’s working behavior. I still find myself watching my pastor and wondering whether he has burn-out. He says that he doesn’t see being in-office as valuable enough for him to have office hours. After all, he imagines that being at the end of a phone line & able to call a person back is good enough. Don’t think that your parishioners don’t “get” what you are doing or that we minimize it. I can imagine that being on-call 24/7 can be absolutely draining and detrimental to your own family life (if you are married and have kids). However, if you were hired by a congregation/board/district and made promises of a set amount of office time, knew the church’s expectations and agreed –don’t renege later; refusing office time & too busy with hobbies & other pursuits to so much as have a cup of coffee with a congregant. This is what we are experiencing. Imagine any other type of employment where a man takes a job, agrees to work 40 hours a week, but then decides to cut back to 20 hours of work but keep his full-time pay. Please, you wouldn’t have a job! And hearing that he’s still “on the job because he can be reached via phone even when he’s out fishing/boating/painting because the phone is right there all of the time” ? I was so hoping months ago that things were going to get better, but no. I can’t help but search his face for burn-out, because all I see is a man planning & give his Sunday sermon and no other contact with the church body– No vision for the future of our church, no interest in the sheep he shepherds. It’s like our church is adrift . Our family puts in a lot of work weekly to keep the church classes going, but to what end? I can’t figure out where this is all headed and whether Christ is being diminished by the thoughless, careless actions of those most visible and…really, those most responsible for keeping things functioning, safe ,and moving forward. If no one is steering, why am I paddling like mad?

  • While I am quite “late” to this discussion, I thought I would share my own experience as a church pastor…

    I was formerly a public school band director, and I have found that the pastoral ministry has a lot in common – and in this case, the near impossibility of calculating hours spent at “work”… When a band director, I has a relatively set work-week, plus ball games, plus after-school rehearsals, plus meetings, plus auditions, plus adjudicating, plus the countless hours working at home in music score study, organizing, sorting through materials, listening, and other side-related activities to preparation and “doing my job”…

    And this mirrors very closely my “typical” work week as a pastor (nothing typical about it!). I try to keep somewhat regular office hours at the church building. This often is interrupted by meetings, members dropping by, community needs, not to mention the totally unpredictable hospital calls, urgent prayer or other ministry needs, running errands for the church, etc. So even that is hard to put a solid number on. Add to it that even on the days that I try to take as my “off” day(s), usually Mondays, I still generally do a great deal of “work” – from preparing sermon audio for podcast, entering visitor info into a database, preparing visitation schedules, and much more. This also doesn’t add in conferences, associational meetings, time on boards or in associational leadership. So it is no joke when I say I have absolutely no idea how many hours I “work”.

    And I also consider myself “on call” 24/7…

    And while I wouldn’t trade what I do for any other job, I do believe that most church members, even our strongest supporters, have a clue as to what constitutes “work” for an average pastor.

  • This work load/experience for pastors has not been what I’ve seen from our pastor. He rarely comes to the church, preferring to study from home. He has delegated any visiting, supervisory oversight of the church support staff to our part-time worship minister.

    When he arrived several years ago, our church held three services a week … now we have one – Sunday Morning. The pastor preaches about 40 sermons a year, with church lay members picking up the preaching duties the other 12 weekends. The pastor as social anxiety issues and often excuses himself from attending church gatherings due to his disorder. He has, however, made no attempt to seek medical help or treatment for this disorder.

    The church pays this pastor a little more than $75K in compensation, annually. Basically, the pastor’s getting paid about $1,800 a sermon. He is never aware of budgetary or personnel issues, as he has disassociated himself from overseeing or otherwise being informed regarding those critical areas. His support staff seldom see him during the week, with the exception of a short staff meeting he holds weekly on a hit and miss basis.

    The pastor has had numerous physical ailments over the past several years, keeping him from being able to meet all his pastoral duties. Others in the church, along with the part-time worship minister, have stepped up to ensure that church business is conducted properly. Despite his absence … his lack of production … and his now preaching only one 45-minute service a week, he has never asked to have his salary reduced to reflect his contribution to the church membership and operations. No one on the personnel or finance committees are will to tackle the issue … the common thought being that we can’t reduce a pastor’s salary/compensation package. While the pastor hasn’t taken any raises over the past several years, he continues to draw a comfortable compensation package, without doing much more than preaching once a week. This is starting to cause friction amongst some of the older members, but the younger members don’t seem to be concerned as they, too, are only attending one service and are seldom seen at any other church events, so they fit right in with the pastor’s method of operation. Sad.

  • Good read, I do find it kind of hard to relate to. I Pastor a small church in the East TN mountains and there is no way that this church can afford a full time pastor so I am bi-vo and work 2 other jobs. I work in the IT industry about 40-45hrs/week and we also have a photo biz which I work about 10-15hrs/week. But as far as the church I spend less than 40 hours per week for the church. I would say that an avg is 20-30hrs/week which includes sermons prep.

  • Deacon, Ben Carter says on

    Being a Pastor is not a job but a business, God’s business. We must remain Obedient to his word and have ears to hear when he speaks. We strive to be as close to the way he wants us to live and serve as possible. In order to accomplish this, we must make him the nucleus of everything we do. He must be present in our daily life which I believe, runs counter to how many hours (worked) when you’re laboring (serving) for him. This calling is our way of life, how does the natural world enter into it? It doesn’t, unless you claim you’re not from the Kingdom. I didn’t read about a time clock in the word.

    Please tell me:If God Gives us spiritual Gifts (9) [I Cor. 12] in which to do his work, why didn’t he mention the time clock? Could it be because he doesn’t have one ticking when we call on him to help and heal us in our ‘time’ of need?

    Help me out, I’m just a layman in the Lord. I was trained to Develop Personal Responsibility and therefore be accountable to leadership and the Lord first and foremost. But never was punching a time clock mentioned, not even in the bible that I can recall. Service and devotion, does not accept the role and then complaint of his duties, etc.
    I’m not of this earth, I’m just passing through.

    God bless you all.

  • Johnny Smith says on

    I enjoyed the articles and comments from all. I am a full time pastor. I too have been on a trip and left to come home and do a funeral. I never complained because I love my family and they needed me. I know that my wife was disappoin ted some but she too knew that it was important tha I minister to that particular family. I know that one thing is important for all of us to remember, we did not choose Christ, he chose us.

    Bless all of you as you minister to your flocks. As most, I am a single staff pastor. I do feel tired and burned out sometimes but when we get to heaven to be with our Master, we will have all of eternity to rest.

  • Rose Lynn says on

    I would totally like some input from pastors. My husband is on the church board and is basically placed in a position, currently, to broach the pastor on his work schedule/pay grade. We don’t know what to make of it. Certainly, the man deserves to have a livable wage for hours worked, but the trouble brewing in our church is that we never know if the pastor is working (with the exception of Sundays for perhaps 4 hours, prep& study time that I’ve no idea how to count, & a 2-3 hour Bible study midweek,. Also….men’s prayer one morning a week if/when he shows & men’s breakfast once a month). He has taken a secondary job as a chaplain a few years ago that he gets paid $3,000 a month for 25 hours weeks. He took the chaplaincy out of desire to reach that people-group. However, many of his family members & close friends feel that the chaplaincy has sucked his time from the church body. No one ever finds him at the church office. We can’t get in to the building to do paperwork for Sunday School classes etc. It appears that he spends a great deal of time pursuing his hobbies as he posts them online frequently. He has been at this church from the beginning and been in this town for decades, He owns his house, but still gets several thousand a year for housing. He owns his cars, but still gets an automobile stipend. Rightly, his medical insurance is well paid for & he gets retirment paid into. If I were to imagine he was actually working 40 hours a week, he would be making a nice wage for our area. However, it looks like he is maybe working 25 hours (big maybe) and making a great deal an hour. Recently, he began delegating more & more of his work to people in the church. Yes, I say HIS work, because I don’t think shunting marital coun seling off to some stray man or woman in church is apprporiatye (what a mess that made, however short it lasted). Yes, perhaps he has burn-out?? It just looks awfully bad to be handing off your work to others, taking the same salary/benefits, basking in the sunshine while others are doing your work for free. I suppose I sound like I’m ranting, but I have a husband who puts in 60 plus hours at work each week & is constantly trying to take up the slack where needed. It’s disheartening. It doesn’t help to see our pastor appearing (in his high cost clothing) to do the bare minimum. I see integrity in him, but this just stinks. He talks about wanting to hire an associate pastor to soak up this excess work, but our church has only about 200 people & several of these are children. where’s the money going to spring from? He makes a MINIMUM of 40% of the church’s total tithe intake. I just don’t know what to think of it. I know trouble is brewing in our church. I actually fear a church split or some type of implosion. My husband is trying to keep it from getting THAT bad. I’m praying that my husband and the pastor both have God’s wisdom while they talk about finances and choices.

    • Rose Lynn says on

      I’m responding to my own posting, just in case someone else comes along and sees my previous post.
      My husband recently spoke to the pastor & let him know that several people were complaining or wondering where he was. The absence of a live human from the main church office or even via telephone has people worried, angered, disappointed or upset. The major difficulty for my husband was “how do I approach the pastor with this?” My husband is on the board & people do gravitate to him with their concerns and complaints as he is older than most on the board. He didn’t want to hurt the pastor’s feelings, but felt the pastor needed to be aware that it does look as though he is drifting away from the church body AND this makes people wonder if he has burn-out, needs a break, or just doesn’t care. My husband and I prayed over his approach on this, because we KNOW that our pastor has integrity and is a good man as men go 🙂 . Anyway, they did meet and speak & I hope that pastor prays over what the church needs & wasn’t distraught over the complaints. I do believe he needs to consider his time use, because being at the end of a phone or answering service may not be quite the same for a church member who calls in deep distress but only reaches a machine. We care for the pastor, we care for the church body, we don’t want things to implode. I’m committed to prayer & I hope our minds are focused on what the Lord wants from us. In these hard economic times (especially the Pacific Northwest) people are needing the church more than ever, Christ more than ever.
      To all pastors, THANK YOU! and your families for giving so much of yourselves to others.

  • Danny Cochran says on

    While we pastors often talk about being on call and having our plans interrupted, we sometimes forget that we have flexibility in our schedules that many of our members do not have. We can take an extended lunch break to go to the gym. We can arrange our schedules to attend school programs and ball games. I serve in an area where much of the labor force is in manufacturing and must keep a rigid schedule. I can stay up late tonight working on sermons and take a break tomorrow to do something for myself. Some weeks are very demanding but it evens out in the end. Sometimes I forget that.