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.”