Seven Myths about a Pastor’s Workweek

December 22, 2014
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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 thought I had something to say, something to contribute. However, reading through the majority of replies to Tom’s article, I realise it’s just better if I keep quiet and move on.

  • Not out to ruin my fathers reputation says on

    Im a pastors son. I’m sick of seeing post like this. They make me laugh.

    For years now I’ve seen what a pastors life is like. We didn’t get to spend much time with dad. He always “said” he was busy with “church stuff”. Mom was always angry and stressed out about some church skit or how the music sounded. I watched my dad work the schedule he chose. There were no real office hours. If he was there he was glad to spend time with you but it’s wasn’t often he was there.

    Mom and dad spent a lot of time out of town. Something the modern day worker can’t do. We went on a lot of luxury vacations.

    I respect my dad and love him very much. He loves the people but as far as his job goes, it’s probably the easiest seventy grand you could make. Let me tell you why.

    My fathers been in the ministry for years now so as far as spending a few days a week prepping for sermons that doesn’t happen. He has notes from old sermons and he uses them on a regular basis. That’s just for the sermons he doesn’t have memorized. He could get up on stage for a year worth of sermons and never prep.

    So we can just cut a few days out of the week because he doesn’t spend them on sermon prep. Secondly he typically golfs about twice a week. Not on the weekend because that’s his time. He does it during the week with other preachers. Yes on occasion he get’s a call to visit the hospital but does that really take a college degree? In fact most of the time it’s not urgent. He just say’s “ok Ill swing by tomorrow” . It’s easy to go visit the hospital and my father was never called out during a family event or christmas day to go to a hospital. So stop feeling sorry for pastors by saying they always get called out. They don’t.

    We got to use the church van as a vehicle many times. We lived in the church parsonage so our living cost was free. Not just rent but all the bills. He comfortably went to bed when he chose and he could sleep in without anyone saying a word if he would like. Didn’t have to set an alarm clock.

    My dad’s a good man but his job was incredibly easy for the generous salary he makes.

    Now It’s a new game. We have a pastor at my church that locks the doors during the day. There’s camera’s in foyer area so he can avoid you based on appearance. No one will come to the door regardless of the fact that his car is there. So you know someones inside but I’m sure they don’t see you right?

    He doesn’t miss a thing. In fact he makes it to all his kids games and events even when there’s a church event. He doesn’t have to spend time with sermon prep because someone else set’s up the power point and his sermon notes can be purchased online. You see in our community the pastors meet and they all agree what sermon series they want to speak on and they share notes. It’s not kneeling down in prayer to see what the lord would like for us to speak on. We never disrupt the sermon series with anything in depth because that might rock the boat. You wont hear a sermon about hell, or homosexuality, divorce, or sin for that matter, but we certainly make time for a good old fashion tithing speech between a few praise and worship songs.

    I know what my pastor makes and it’s just shy of one hundred grand a year. He said he’s giving up his vacation to do missions work but I have a problem with that because his mission work has become about two months out of the year and he still has a church. Not to mention he get’s a salary from the missions organization on top of his regular salary while he’s gone on vacation …… oops, sorry. Missions trips. Im talking tourist destinations not jungles and deserts.

    Then there’s our bi-yearly ministry conferences that the church pay’s for. Where he takes his family to places like Disney world and the church is obligated to at least pay the motel bill. They pay for all his food and expense to get there and back. Poor pastor.

    Here’s the awesome part about the modern day pastor. Everything is delegated. They ask for volenteers to do things like clean up or work days. Other people set up sunday school. Heck someone else even locks up the church. The sermons are weak and without in depth content. It’s just enough to say “I preached”!

    I was a minister for several years and I left it because I saw the modern day abuses for a salary that makes the middle class man look poor. I saw men with zero accountability and zero interrest in helping the poor.

    We’re becoming sports figures. You know? When we were in high school we enjoyed the game but now we’re in the big leagues and someone else is always covering our tracks. We don’t really care about the game now that we’re in the big leagues we care about the money. We’re not happy with our ridiculously large salaries and we’ve learned to work the system. This is a metaphor you see.

    What is happening. Im reading these post above like people are saying “poor pastors, they work so hard”. They choose their career and either their in it for the cause of Christ or it’s just a pathetically easy job with an insane paycheck and more perks than the modern day drug rep. Oh and I almost forgot. Do you realize how many pastors are writing books now. I’m sure my pastor will be writing one any day so the flock can purchase the mandatory book of “pastor so and so”.

    So before many of you get all teary eyed and saying “poor me” or “poor pastor”. It’s probably not what you think at all. Stop feeling sorry for the pastor. Yes there are very good men of God out there but many of us have lost the vision. It’s not about God any more. It’s becoming about us. Look at the people getting killed by ISIS, or the pastors outside the U.S. that live on food they plant. They have to walk miles to get anywhere and their lives are in danger every day. Those are the people we should feel for. Not men with large salaries and a group of delegates.

    I know it hurts but these myths …..most are not myth at all.

    • Uknown says on

      First of all, for all pastors out there. Try living the average persons life of working a 9-5 job and having a boss up your butt all day long. Most pastors don’t even have a boss. And what they do is not that hard because of there circumstances. Its a lot harder to be holy when your circumstances suck, life being a homeless person, barely affording to pay your bills, or other reasons. I believe in god but I just want to say that it is a lot easier for pastors to live there lifestyle than everyone else because of there circumstance. A lot of them don’t have a mortgage, and other stuff and they just have an easy rent. And again they don’t have a boss and deal with what the average person deals with everyday.

  • regarding #5: for the last several years our church has run consistently four Christmas Eve services beginning at noon going until 8:30 PM. This day has become known to my children as “the day we don’t see dad “. As the worship pastor with a young family, I long for our Sr. pastor (whose children are adults) to understand that his kids had an entirely different Christmas Ministry Experience than what mine have.

  • I find that most people have little understanding of what is involved in pastoral ministry. Sundays are probably the most exhausting days for me; preaching two sermons while trying to tap into the presence of God and the Holy Spirit in order to lead a congregation in worship through the proclamation of God’s Word is not easy. A lot of times, people will want to chitchat before the service starts, while I am trying to focus my attention on God’s leading and guidance for the service and on allowing God to speak through the music, scripture readings, prayers, and sermon; I would be more than happy to chitchat after the service, but as the leader during the worship service (along with the minister of music) I have a lot of details to manage while keeping in touch with God’s desire for the service. THAT IS NOT EASY! And between sermon prep, visitations, meetings, etc. during the week, I do not get to spend nearly enough time in prayer. If I spend 30 minutes in prayer a day, I am lucky, and considering the amount of emotional and spiritual outpouring that a pastor does during the week, it is not enough.

  • the most comical part of reading “most” of these comments are
    1st – the article quickly getting off topic and taken out of context
    2nd – the bitterness from lay members, full time, and bi-vocational pastors & wives
    3rd – I am a 44 year old tri-vocational pastor. I pastor a christ centered drug and alcohol restoration center (full time 0 pay), missions pastor at my church 20+ hrs a week average, ($500.00 a month), work as a gunsmith from my home to make up the rest. I have been married for 25 years, I have 2 biological children, 4 adopted bi-racial children (in the non-racist south “sarcasm”) and just got a surprise with a + pregnancy test from my 43 year old bride! Amen…
    4th – I understand frustration, I understand horrible experiences, I understand how hard it is to work a secular job, but what I don’t understand is how any of these negative comments will bring Glory and Honor to the Lord. I also don’t understand how we can expect others to love the Jesus we claim as our savior by acting just like the rest of the unbelieving world.
    5th – Do I have it all together? No sir!!! Am I the “perfect pastor?” Not by a long shot!!! Am I the best dad? Whatever!!!! I just know that walking with Jesus is not easy, as a pastor, lay member, or any other profession. So I will finish by saying this- pray for and encourage your pastor (lazy or overworked, he has to answer to God). Pastors, if your not God called, get out…. We have too many professional Christians in our pulpits! If you are God called, love and shepherd your congregation, no matter how hard and unappreciative it may be. Always put your family before your ministry, the ones who complain also have to stand before the lord! – that is all

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