Why I Don’t Require Office Hours for Ministry Staff


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.”

Posted on October 9, 2019

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • K. Smith says on

    Great insight and great discussion.

  • lovelypeace says on

    My church is the living example of how problematic office hours can be. Our old youth minister was required to be in the office M-F from 9-5, then expected to do evening and weekend events/meetings. No one was too surprised when he quit. Then, when my husband was the webmaster, they expected him to set up a couple of office hours. The church job was a second job, so sometimes office hours happened and sometimes they didn’t. Then there was the brief experiment the church did with evening office hours, but that failed because they didn’t do a good job of letting people know about the change and abandoned after a month because nobody showed up.

    Needless to say, I loved this article. I don’t think office hours are all they are cracked up to be. Sometimes, people really don’t need to be in the office to do their work. Or they need to work at different times because their things aren’t during normal working hours.

  • Josh Elliff says on

    I’ve been on all sides of this in different ministry positions. I can say that there are benefits to having some scheduled hours in addition to having freedom. Now that I’m in a place to make some of those decisions for our staff (and my staff are all part time 30 and under) I operate more on the flexible side than the scheduled side. I agree- if you are always in the building you aren’t out connecting in culture! I make it a point myself to take breaks from sermon prep and other scheduled things just to be out in our community meeting people and talking. I love how one man said it “Jesus led an interrupted life, we should too.”

  • This is a great ministry mentality. I was in a previous ministry situation where being at work meant being at your desk. That was literally spoken.
    Needless to say, it appeased a micromanaging pastor but crippled true ministry opportunities. Thankful to be in a new situation where ministry is not treated that way, and allows for meaningful interactions with people in the community. I actually end up putting in more hours this way…

  • Anonymous says on

    I agree so much with this mentality: there aren’t souls hiding under a pastor’s desk waiting to hear the Gospel. I am thankful this is how our Senior Pastor views ministry and the community. How do you manage the business side of church though? As part of the church support staff I sometimes have a really difficult time fulfilling my work duties because it is hard to track a pastor down – to get receipts or details about an event that needs support follow-through. How do you find the balance? Is this frustration just part of the territory?

  • Jerry N. Watts says on

    I was in a secular job where the ‘boss’ would have an 8 am meeting JUST TO MAKE SURE everyone was in the office. Additionally at another time, I heard of a Lead Pastor, who would have ‘prayer meeting’ at 8:00 am each morning. Prayer is great, but the purpose of this meeting was obviously, to make sure everyone was there at the appointed time. Another situation is a church staff member who never arrives until 9 – 9:30 am (I have been by there close to 10 am and they haven’t heard from him), takes lunch at 11:30, arrives back at 1:30 (+ or -), then picks up the kids from school at 3:30, and he has made his day. So it is fair to say, that we can argue the difficulty both ways. Some people are self-starters and will fulfill the ‘ministry’ without being managed, but like it or not, a ministry position is one that the lack of self-motivation can inadvertently develop to the point it is seen by all as laziness. This honors neither the church, ministry or gospel.
    Because I understand your position very well, I would simply add that (as much as we dislike this) no all people are the same. Some may well require more structure than others. Thanks for the article.

    • Jerry – You are correct. Leaders must manage differently with different people and teams. However, I would not create an entire structure to deal with one problem person. If that individual is not doing what is expected with hours, then there are much deeper problems with him/her.

  • Dave Bonney says on

    Right on! I’ve felt this way for a long time. It’s nice to someone else articulate it.

  • David Trawick says on

    Sam: I completely agree. As a Staff Pastor, my time was wasted for years sitting behind a desk on campus most days in the week during business hours, especially as the pastor of evangelism and outreach. However, I am not so sure it would apply equally to our other departments, such as finance and accounting, facilities maintenance, and security. I think they need to be on site consistently.

  • Joe Pastor says on

    I’ve served in FT ministry for 33 years. I prefer “flexible office hours.” Some office hours are expected, but there’s flexibility in those hours. Example: If a youth minister is out late at an event, by all means, come in late. Etc. Additionally, some of our staff is FT, but some of our staff is PT. The part-timers have other FT jobs, so because of their other jobs, they have to designate one day a week to do the foundational aspects of their church work. But here’s why I’m hesitant to have no office hours at all: In my experience, some on staff are highly motivated, they are Type-A personalities, and if anything, we need to push them to spend more time with their families. But others on staff are far less motivated, and they are less disciplined. I wouldn’t say they’re lazy; they’re just not very high-octane. For these personalities, more oversight and discipline is needed. So here’s the rub: It doesn’t work well to have two different standards for different people. Therefore, we end up with some offices hours required for everyone, but we are flexible with those office hours. BTW, we are in a church of 125. (Perhaps some things are different in a larger church with only FT staff???)

  • This is indeed interesting. I nearly lost my job because of office hours. Not that it is bad, but it is refreshing when your lead pastor understand ministry. I like and tend to agree with your view. My ministry work starts normally anytime from midday until late in the evenings, that’s when people come from their work. The context of work is among factory workers and they don’t work 9-5 hours. While I agree and belief in sermon preparation and reading, I strongly belief that ministers must start thinking of how best they can serve through discipling, evangelizing and pastoring their people. I have realized it is easy and convenient to hide behind the desk to look busy, whereas the main purpose of being a minister of the gospel can be missed. Thank you very refreshing and thought provoking.

  • Great article. A question I have – how should a church leadership team (elders, in our case) provide oversight and accountability of the pastor without “micromanaging” and being “lords” over him? More to help direct his efforts such as how much time in the building versus in the community, time spent on sermon preparation, discipling, etc. knowing that there are providential circumstances that don’t lend themselves to a 8-5 office setting?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Mike –

      If you believe time management is an issue with a pastor, then begin with a gracious conversation. Perhaps the group overseeing does not realize all that the pastor is doing. If the pastor is truly mismanaging time, then I would first treat it as a development/equipping problem and not one of discipline. There are a lot of resources out there on time management.

    • Mike – I would also answer your question with this question, “How much direction and oversight would I expect from my supervisors in my profession?” If the leaders in your church would not like receiving the level of supervision they are offering to the pastor then they shouldn’t offer it to the pastor.

  • Brandon Johns says on

    Because I have 3 part-time staffers, this is even more important for me. We actually talk alot, whether it’s by text, phone, email, etc. We have 1 big staff meeting a month that everyone has to be in attendance. But after the meeting, we go eat (with our families all together) to foster relationships among the staff. This wouldn’t have worked in other churches I have served necessarily, but it does for my context here and I think my church appreciates it.

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