Why I Don’t Require Office Hours for Ministry Staff

October 9, 2019

By Sam Rainer

I’ve never liked the idea of requiring office hours for pastors and ministry staff. Ministry demands a “go” mentality. It’s hard to go when you have to sit at a desk all day. Assuming you have at least one person in a support role to answer phones and greet walk-ins, then you likely don’t need to require staff to have office hours. Here are a few reasons why I don’t require office hours for ministry staff.

The church bubble is often the church building. I love our church building. I love being in our church building. It’s comforting. Church buildings should be strategic tools for discipleship. However, when the bulk of your ministry is spent in the church building, then the building becomes a bubble. The actual walls start to be spiritual barriers. All pastors and church leaders must do ministry outside the church building. Requiring office hours incentivizes staff to create a church bubble around the church building.

Ministry does not happen on a set schedule. This week our staff dealt with demon possession, child abuse, and sexual sins. Let’s just say these sorts of things don’t happen on a 9-to-5 schedule. Requiring office hours can potentially create a culture where staff no longer feel obligated to take that 2am phone call. Sometimes the best ministry occurs in the middle of the night.

I’m selfish. I’m a lead pastor. I’ll just speak for myself. I can be selfish. The church staff does not exist for me. The staff exists for the church and community. It’s much easier as a lead pastor if I have everyone on campus at the same time so I can access them whenever I like. But that’s not why the church has a staff. It’s better for my soul that I don’t require office hours.

People are more accessible because of technology. Smart phones and laptops mean your staff is more accessible than a generation ago. My staff uses the Slack app to communicate throughout the day.

Trust. If you must have ministry staff present in the office all the time, then you don’t trust them. Or you’re a control freak. Neither are good ways to lead. If your set office hours are an old rule, and you’re simply operating out of what’s been done in the past, then it’s time to change.

Fewer walk-ins. Our culture is changing. Fewer people walk in to see a particular staff person without an appointment. I still have many people pop in my office and say “hello,” but not nearly as many people randomly want an hour of my time without an appointment. This change is partly due to the culture shifting, but it’s also partly due to the fact that the church understands the staff is not sitting at desks waiting on ministry.

Creating a culture of going. Requiring office time propagates a culture of “ministry must come to me” rather than “I go to people.” Every hour someone is sitting behind a desk is an hour not spent discipling or evangelizing. You create ministry. You don’t wait on ministry to happen. The Bible doesn’t call pastors to office hours, but rather to equip the saints.

Our staff meets every Tuesday morning until lunch. This time helps us coordinate schedules and align church operations. It’s necessary to have a dedicated, weekly time when staff are together. But these few hours are the only times ministry staff are required to be onsite. Otherwise, I want them out fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

Jesus didn’t say “stay in the church building.” He said “go.”

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30 Comments

  • Could you share a generic agenda for your staff meetings. I am heading this direction with our staff and would love to see how you function with all staff in one meeting.

  • Randall Macon says on

    Most young staff communicate not in person but rather by social media. They can do that safely behind a desk . If ministers truly were out in the community , that would be great. But they aren’t . You can observe on Facebook where they are.

  • Hey Sam,
    I appreciate the article. And your definitely right about needing to be in the community.
    But how would you apply this to a single staff church? I’m the only Pastor at my church, and beyond all the other ministry demands, I have the task of writing 3 sermons a week. As you know that takes time. And it is what is expected of me. I don’t have the advantage of doing small groups Sunday nights or other programs like that which would free me up.
    Thanks

  • I love this post. I’m on staff at a church where this shift was made a few years ago to not require set office hours for my role. I was initially anxious about proving my worth when someone couldn’t just stop by my desk and see me actively working, but I began to see the benefits of the freedom to do ministry this way. Our new “front door” is actually social media and messages through our website and I love the freedom to engage potential guests and align my availability with theirs. Most importantly, getting outside the office walls has taken my head outside the bubble I was working in and given me a fresh perspective that I had lost after years in ministry. I do actively invest in relationships with my coworkers and make sure that I see them all weekly, because I think face to face communication is important for the team relationship aspect.

  • Today some people can work from anywhere. If I were in a pastor’s office at any time I would think I were in the principal’s or dean’s office in trouble. It is a lot better to meet any of them anywhere but in their office with them behind the desk.

  • This is something I struggle with personally. I pastor a small church in a very large city. It’s also a very young church. The only ones at home are stay at home moms that I probably shouldn’t go visit alone.
    And our culture doesn’t really appreciate someone popping in at their home unannounced. Most members deal with very long comutes from work making it late in the evening before they get home. So I struggle finding opportunities to connect with church members outside of church. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    • Carrie Lohr says on

      Go to the local gym, volunteer at the library, the elementary school, become a coach for park and rec., join the local network group. Just get out on the town and meet people. They are there. Build relationships. That there is doing ministry. Meeting people right where they are at.

    • Exactly my question also Brian. Who are you discipling at 10am on Tuesday? How do find time to meet with guys who work 9-5 M-F and then need to care for their families in the evening? I have no easy answer… so that is why I do sermon prep during the day.

  • Pastor's Wife in MS says on

    I agree with Joe Pastor. My husband is the senior pastor and we have FT youth and worship pastors. We have a PT secretary. We have 9-5 hours, but those are not set in stone. The only thing required of staff is to be present for the weekly staff meetings at 10:00 am. As long as the staff is getting the ministry done effectively, that’s what matters. My husband often even encourages staff to get out of the office and meet people for lunch, go to schools and hang out with the kids, do discipleship, etc. We have seen God be glorified and grow our church in ways that only He can because we put “ministry” before preference of office hours.

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