Why Work from Home Won’t Work for the Church

A philosophical tug-of-war is occurring in the work world. To what degree should people work from home, and how much time should they spend in the office?

Some CEOs are mandating a permanent return to the office on all workdays. Others allow their workers to be remote, even working in other states. Many are splitting the difference with a hybrid approach.

Studies are beginning to show the value of working in an office setting with your colleagues. The bonds between companies and workers are fragile and only made weaker by too much remote work. People say they want remote work because it satisfies short-term desires, only to find out later they suffer because of it.

What about the church?

Long gone are the days of required office hours from 9 to 5 on Mondays through Fridays. Good riddance. Pastors don’t need to sit at desks for hours each day. But the pendulum should not swing too far the other way. For example, it would be unwise if every church staff person worked from home and rarely came into the office.

I’m not advocating for rigid office hours, but having a couple of office days is important. Why? Five reasons stand out.

    1. Collaboration: God did not design each member of the body to work in isolation. Church teams work best together and not in silos. Communication tools like Slack can help fill in the gaps, but there is something to the ability to swing by someone’s desk and ask a question.
    2. Mentoring: Physical presence is crucial for relationships to be healthy. Experienced and knowledgeable pastors can adapt to remote work because of the years spent doing onsite ministry. Younger and newer pastors need time in person with mentors to develop and mature. So much of ministry is learned by observing and repeating older pastors’ good habits and strong disciplines.
    3. Creativity: You can listen to each instrument of a symphony independently, but the expression and emotion of the song are absent unless you hear everyone playing together. There is a creative energy that is lost through a screen.
    4. Productivity: Some work is suited for a home environment, like writing sermons. A lot of church work, however, requires interaction with people or the church campus, such as first impressions, worship ministry technology, and child safety procedures in the classroom. Without time on site, the prep work would be rushed on Sundays.
    5. Camaraderie: Jokes and laughter are much better in person than through a screen. My team enjoys harmless office pranks that would otherwise be impossible with remote work.

What is an example of a schedule that works? I will share my typical week. I work six days a week and am onsite three and a half days a week. Part of the onsite time, however, may include breakfast and lunches with church members, community leaders, and other pastors.

    • Monday: Writing sermons from home all day.
    • Tuesday: Meetings onsite at the church. Available for lunches with members.
    • Wednesday: Working from home in the morning and at the church after lunch.
    • Thursday: Office work in the morning and afternoon, available for lunches with members.
    • Friday: Working from home, usually writing.
    • Saturday: Sabbath and family day.
    • Sunday: Onsite morning to evening and available for lunches and dinners with members.

I’m not advocating for rigid office hours, but having a couple of office days is essential. For my church team, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are when almost everyone is onsite. 

Posted on March 22, 2023

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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  • Brian Sherwood says on

    My work week is set up this way:
    Sunday is my “PREACHING” & “PUBLIC” Day
    Monday is my PRIVATE Day [Sermon prep; don’t want a lot of interaction with people. I “hole” myself up to get going]
    Tuesday is my PROGRESS Day [Where am I with the sermon? Where am I with the week & upcoming commitments?]
    Wednesday is my PRAYER Day [Prepping for Wednesday night prayer gathering. Praying for members, needs, etc.]
    Thursday is my PEOPLE Day [lunches, breakfasts, visits to church members, etc.]
    Friday is my PERSONAL Day [Family & Sabbath Day]
    Saturday is my PREPARATION Day [Looking over sermon. Praying for Sunday. Thinking through the next day].

    I try to be in the office most of the day on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday I’ll come in that morning.

  • Thank you Sam. I’ve seen the data on mega churches before but I have never seen it on Mid Mega before. Maybe there isn’t any data to answer my question? If I had to guess I’d guess a church with 1000 or more each weekend is in top 4 percent but I could be wrong.

  • We have a staff of 27 and all but 3 work from home. Offices for that man staff would take up too much valuable space. This model has never caused us a day of trouble over last 30 plus years we have used it. Staff are very productive and when we need to have a meeting we meet and at or over lunch and enjoy good camaraderie. Average length on staff is over 10 years of service.

  • Jerry J Swain says on

    This sounds like a great, well thought out plan. But with the trend toward part-time and bi-vocational pastors, I would like to hear your opinions on how to manage the home/office balance to maximize the time I have.

    • Sam Rainer says on

      Excellent question. We prefer our part-time people to join us on Tuesday mornings (4 hours) for staff meetings. It’s not always possible, but most of them are able to make it work.

  • Great observations. But what are your thoughts regarding a solo pastor in a small church (80 – 100) where he has no secretarial help, so he is basically the only one in the office. It seems there is still a need, even in this case, for an office presence to answer phones in person, get mail and packages, available for unscheduled “stop in” interaction with volunteer janitorial staff, etc, etc. — Your thoughts on all this?? Thanks!

    • Sam Rainer says on

      Don, you bring up a good point. If possible, I would pick a couple of days (Mondays and Wednesdays, for instance) to be in the office. There are software solutions for phones now (like a Google Voice account), so you don’t need a landline. Solo pastors could set “office hours” the way professors do. That way, the people in the church know when to stop by if needed.