Seven Myths about a Pastor’s Workweek

December 22, 2014

It is an old joke, one that is still told too often. You go up to your pastor and say, “I wish I had your job; you only have to work one hour each week.” It is likely your pastor will laugh or smile at your comment. In reality your pastor is likely hurt by your statement. Indeed the reality is that too many church members have made wrongful and hurtful comments about the pastor’s workweek.

Sadly, some church members really believe some of the myths about a pastor’s workweek. And some may point to a lazy pastor they knew. I will readily admit I’ve known some lazy pastors, but no more so than people in other vocations. The pastorate does lend itself to laziness. To the contrary, there are many more workaholic pastors than lazy pastors.

So what are some of the myths about a pastor’s workweek? Let’s look at seven of them.

Myth #1: The pastor has a short workweek. Nope. The challenge a pastor has is getting enough rest and family time. Sermon preparation, counseling, meetings, home visits, hospital visits, connecting with prospects, community activities, church social functions, and many more commitments don’t fit into a forty hour workweek.

Myth #2: Because of the flexible schedule, a pastor has a lot of uninterrupted family time. Most pastors rarely have uninterrupted family time. It is the nature of the calling. Emergencies don’t happen on a pre-planned schedule. The call for pastoral ministry comes at all times of the day and night.

Myth #3: The pastor is able to spend most of the week in sermon preparation. Frankly, most pastors need to spend more time in sermon preparation. But that time is “invisible” to church members. They don’t know that a pastor is truly working during those hours. Sadly, pastors often yield to the demand of interruptions and rarely have uninterrupted time to work on sermons.

Myth #4: Pastors are accountable to no one for their workweek. To the contrary, most pastors are accountable to most everyone in the church. And church members have a plethora and variety of expectations.

Myth #5: Pastors can take vacations at any time. Most people like to take some vacation days around Christmas. That is difficult for many pastors since there are so many church functions at Christmas. And almost every pastor has a story of ending a vacation abruptly to do a funeral of a church member.

Myth #6: The pastor’s workweek is predictable and routine. Absolutely not! I know of few jobs that have the unpredictability and surprises like that of a pastor. And few jobs have the wild swings in emotions as does the pastorate. The pastor may be joyfully sharing the gospel or performing a wedding on one day, only to officiate the funeral of a friend and hear from four complainers the next day.

Myth #7: The pastor’s workweek is low stress compared to others. I believe pastors have one of the most difficult and stressful jobs on earth. In fact, it is an impossible job outside of the power and call of Christ. It is little wonder that too many pastors deal with lots of stress and depression.

Pastors and church staff are my heroes. They often have a thankless job with long and stressful workweeks. I want to be their encourager and prayer intercessor. I want to express my love for them openly and enthusiastically.

I thank God for pastors.

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117 Comments

  • I’ve been a youth pastor for 16 years. Prior to that I worked several blue collar jobs and then ran my own business for 6 years. Whereas I’ve had jobs that were far more physically strenuous and time restrictive, no job that I’ve held, including my own business, had more heartache than my pastorate. You can take an Aleve for muscle pain but there’s nothing that will assuage the pain of the soul when you try to sleep at night and you lament the waywardness of people who ignore the beckoning of a loving God and seek to shepherd them home. That’s an aspect of my job I’ve never felt in any other profession. I love what I do now, but it’s far different than anything else I’ve done. Oh, and I have 500 bosses. I was once told, “you can pastor a church of 1,000 and 7 will drive you from it.”

  • I thought the comments brought much needed balance to this post. I am one of those bi-vocational pastors who works part-time in secular employment and in the ministry (unpaid) for the rest of the week. I can vouch that the secular part of my week is by far the most stressful and challenging!

    If congregants don’t understand the pressures of the full time ministry then it is equally true that many pastors have been in salaried positions for so many years or decades that they have forgotten (or else never knew) the difficulties of secular work in our competitive, targets-driven modern culture.

    I have a foot in both camps and I know which role I would prefer to give up given the choice.

  • … After my previous post, it dawned on me that you have experience, and at this point in my ministry I have mostly opinions. But still, I hope and pray that the ministry does not lend itself to laziness for the men and women called to it. That’s disheartening.

  • “The pastorate does lend itself to laziness.” Seriously? If it does, it’s not your calling. (That’s evident to me and I’m only one semester into seminary.) Surprised to find that insensitive statement in an otherwise thoughtful and necessary post.

  • I would like to add a number 8.

    #8. The Pastor’s job is the only job where people feel they have the right to come and tell you how to do YOUR job!

    How many Pastor’s have had someone come tell you how and what to preach? Especially for funerals and weddings!

  • I have the best job in the world. The congregation releases me from the secular workforce so that I can preach the gospel, study the scriptures, pray and work pastorally with people. I love it. But it is also, stressful demanding and sometimes working with people can leave you metaphorically a cut open bleeding mess. Thankfully God doesn’t require us to do it alone, his promise is always to be there with us. Also pastors need to learn that can’t do it alone without human help either. Church leaders need to do a far better job of identifying, training and equipping co-workers in the gospel.

  • Interesting read….. Whilst I’ve had people make these types of jokes about being a pastor…. This article reminded me about how wonderful our congregation is here in Brisbane, Australia. People who work, play and enjoy family time- then still join us in the sacrificial mission of Making Jesus known in our city and further around the world.

    I truly love these people we serve as they serve Jesus. Such a respectful, God honoring and grace filled community that really work hard together.

    One thing I love about the modern church is how well we understand body ministry, the priesthood of all believers and everyone works together.

    This mutual understanding has gone a long way to reduce buy in to those myths as we all see and respect what we are each called by God to do.

    Also- the relational nature of the community means I’m not some “service provider” but friend, leader and brother to my “family.”

    After 14 years in this place we still have the fire together!!

    Thanks for your article Dr Rainer. I wonder if it’s worth a look at how ministry is less killer on pastors if they approach it in a relational manner vs the highly professionalistic approach we can often default to?

    Peace!!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thank you, Ben. Your words reflect a great deal of wisdom. I really think you are on to something. Thanks for the visit from Australia!