What DOES a Pastor do all week?

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard the “joke” that people say… most of the time directly to the Pastor.  And believe it or not, I’ve actually had people who don’t know much about ministry say it to me seriously.

So what DO you do all week?

To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the question.  I know that it’s a legitimate question when asked by some people, and I want to help them understand.

But I also know it can sometimes be a mocking or sarcastic question when it comes from the lips of others.

Either way, I’m writing this post to honestly answer the question, and help you understand what your Pastor has on his plate week after week.   I’m listing basic “categories” that a typical Pastor may serve within, and keeping a running total of the hours as we go…  Then, at the end, I’ll give some points of application.  HERE WE GO!

Sermon Preparation

Doesn’t sound like much to many people… but that just shows they’ve not done much public speaking, and even less sermon preparation.  Depending on the gifting and experience of the Pastor, a good, biblically faithful sermon can take upwards of 20 hours per week!  That’s HALF of a normal person’s work week!  I’ve honestly done it in less than 10 hours many times, but that’s not the norm.  For me it usually takes AT LEAST 15 hours each week to adequately study, pray over my preparation, prepare my own heart, and put together any illustrations, media, etc. that I may be using.

RUNNING TOTAL: 15 hours (average)

Discipleship

This might be one on one meetings with people, or with groups in some kind of training or study time.  Every Pastor is gifted differently and uses his time differently in this area.  On a larger church staff, the Pastor’s time devoted to this category is probably used more toward his staff or volunteer staff than with lay-people in the church.  In a smaller church, it’s usually done with up-and-coming leaders, or training of ministry leaders, as well as lay-people.  For me, this comprises anywhere from 6 to 12 hours in a given week.  To be safe, I’ll say 6 hours per week.

RUNNING TOTAL: 21 hours (average)

Counseling

In my view, counseling is part of discipleship, but I’ve listed it separately because it does have a different “flavor” than typical discipleship.  Also, not all Pastors do counseling.  Some refer these things out to an experienced Christian counselor with whom they have a relationship.  But if a Pastor does do counseling (family, marriage, pre-marital, individual), the norm is probably 2 to 3, 1 hour appointments a week.  For the sake of our total, I’ll say 2 hours.

RUNNING TOTAL: 23 hours (average)

Leadership Meetings

Elder meetings, Deacon meetings, various committee meetings, etc. fall into this category.  In my experience there is usually at least one of these a week, and they typically last for about 2 hours each on average.

RUNNING TOTAL: 25 hours (average)

Administration work

This is the basic organization that goes into the smooth operation of a Pastor’s life and ministry.  It takes more time than you might think.  For me, I spend most of Mondays doing administration, which will include returning or making phone calls, dealing with email or projects that need attention, doing follow-up from Sunday morning responses, connecting with leaders within the church for the sake of accountability or equipping, planning how to best use my time, etc.  Total time for me, 8 hours weekly.

RUNNING TOTAL: 33 hours (average)

Shepherding Ministry

This category is pretty broad.  It could include anything from hospital visitation to writing notes of encouragement.  Every Pastor will do these things to differing degrees based on calling and giftedness.  I’d say the average is probably 4 to 6 hours a week.  We’ll use 4 as a baseline for the sake of our total.

RUNNING TOTAL: 37 hours (average)

Weekly worship leadership

Unlike the rest of the church family who comes to worship services on an “off” day from work, the Pastor is actually doing his vocational tasks during the weekly worship.  I show up early to get final things checked off and ready, as well as preach the morning sermon and in some circumstances, perform other aspects of the worship leadership.  For me, this is 4 hours each week.  If the Pastor serves at a church where there are multiple services, the time goes up.

RUNNING TOTAL: 41 hours (average)

Worship Preparation

All that work done during worship requires preparation.  This will include preparation of prayers, communication with team members and those included in pulling off the service, possible preparation for the Lord’s Supper or baptisms, etc.  The degree to which a Pastor actually “prepares” depends again on his giftedness and his ministry team.  For me, this takes roughly an hour each week.

RUNNING TOTAL: 42 hours (average)

Other studies

The typical Pastor, in order to be a good shepherd, is in a constant state of learning – about the culture, the role of Pastor, the ministry of the church, the Bible, etc.  Most Pastors are studying something OUTSIDE their normal sermon preparation for future use or development of training classes, etc.  This could be anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours per week.  For me, it’s typically 3 to 4.

RUNNING TOTAL: 45 hours (average)

Vision & vision casting

The Lead or Senior Pastor is usually the one who does the majority of the actual up-front “leading” in the church.  A HUGE part of that is casting vision.  In other words, he keeps the direction and purpose of the church in front of the people of the church all the time.  Some Pastors are better at this than others.  Others are still learning about it.  For me, I have to honestly say I’m still learning how to do this piece well… presently it takes at least an hour a week for me.

RUNNING TOTAL: 46 hours (average)

Prayer for the flock

Most Pastors spend prayer time each week lifting up the needs of their flock.  This will vary from Pastor to Pastor, but I’d guess the average is 1.5 hours per week.

RUNNING TOTAL: 47.5 hours (average)

Miscellaneous issues

Within the church there are also emergency situations that arise, benevolence cases to be involved with, conflicts, administrative struggles to address, conversations to be had, communication to initiate, fires to put out, etc.  This category is hard to define because it could be anything.  I’d say the average Pastor spends 2 to 3 hours a week dealing with this kind of stuff, as it comes up.

 RUNNING TOTAL: 49.5 hours (average)

As you can see, we’re almost to 50 working hours per week, and I feel I’ve been pretty conservative on most of my estimates.  There is a LOT that goes into the Pastoral role.  And this is only talking about hours worked, not the true “essence” of what it means to a person to carry this kind of load.

Some of the intangible pieces of his job that can’t be quantified, but should be kept in mind are…

  • The emotional nature of the work
  • The bearing of others’ burdens
  • The constant vigilance it takes to be discerning about people, situations, and possible dangers to the church family
  • The genuine spirituality the Pastor must constantly maintain for himself in order to lead well and with integrity
  • The pressures that being in ministry brings to his family
  • The frequent criticism that flock members seem to think is somehow O.K. to hurl in his direction because he’s the Pastor (I’ve had people actually tell me that it’s O.K. for me to be publically criticized because I’m paid by the church.  Somehow biblical teaching about how to approach interpersonal disagreements or offenses go out the window in that case… which I must say is CLEARLY not what scripture teaches).

Add to all this the normal stuff of life that everyone has to keep tabs on… things like:

  • The health and needs of his own family
  • Financial pressures
  • Extended family relationships
  • Health, diet, and exercise
  • and many more things

Looking through this list, and putting yourself in the shoes it describes, the common-sense person can easily see that the role is anything but a “one day a week” job.

APPLICATION

  1. Pray for your Pastor and his family.  They together carry a very heavy but vital role in God’s plans for your church family.
  2. Consider the value, in your life and the lives of others, of what this servant of God is doing… and thank God (and him).
  3. Cut him some slack.  He’s one man, with his own family and needs.  Don’t expect him to do everything the way you think it should be done, in the timing in which you think it should be done.  He simply can’t… and a wise Pastor won’t.  He’ll follow the Spirit’s leadership as much as he knows how.
  4. Trust him.  Most Pastors are genuinely trustworthy guys who care about the spiritual health and growth of the people under their care.  Of course they have their own personal quirks, and there are exceptions who are power-hungry or personally manipulative for the sake of their own left-over emotional needs.  But that’s the exception, not the rule.
  5. Recognize the unique weight of others’ burdens that the Pastor must bear, and that he is to do it joyfully.  Make his work a joy, not a burden by cooperating with his efforts in every way you can (Hebrews 13:7).
  6. Realize that though your Pastor may not have personally entered into your life (yet), he is doing so in the lives of others ,and again, he’s one man.  Pray that the Lord will use him in the lives of those to whom he’s ministering.
  7. Do what you can to regularly encourage him.  He needs it.
  8. Don’t forget his family needs encouragement and appreciation too.  They all make MANY sacrifices in order for him to do his job well.  Make it a regular part of your ministry in the church to lift up his family.
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7 thoughts on “What DOES a Pastor do all week?

    • Hi Loren,

      Yeah, it’s tough making estimates since each Pastor is different, and the load changes from week to week. The 2 to 3 is probably average, with some weeks ranging much, much higher than that. That’s probably true for all categories… BTW, I think you posts are starting soon on my blog. Looking forward to the response!

  1. Good rundown, Carey- thanks for doing this good work- I’m with Loren- it’s conservative overall, but good. Grateful for your blog!!

  2. I would think counseling would take up much more than two hours a week. One thing too, about the time preparing a sermon, that to me would be the really hard part, to come up with something that would keep people interested week after week.

  3. I found this interesting and helpful. But if we are talking about an Independent Christian Church I believe there are some adjustments that need to be made.

    As an Elder at an Independent Christian Church, I find using your categories for what is expected from our Elders puts a little different light on what should be paid time and what should not be paid time. Our Elders using these categories put in a low of 9 hrs and a high of 18 hrs each week. Half of our Elders have full time jobs and until retirement this year my full time job required 50 hours a week. Even so I put in a minimum of 9 hrs a week as an Elder. Elders are not paid positions so I would assume that a better view would be to subtract the time an Elder puts in from this total time a paid pastor puts. For example, any good leader spends at least sometime reading on how to become a better leader. I would not consider this time should be time paid for a pastor. Prayer for the flock is the same thing we all should be doing this should not be paid time for a pastor. All 8 of our Elders teach Bible Study let us assume it takes 4 – 8 hours or so to prepare. I believe it would not be unreasonable to deducted this amount of time from sermon preparation time. Elders do little counseling so I would leave that alone but we all do shepherding .5 – 2 hours each week.

    Do you see where I’m going here? There are things that Christian do that I feel paid Christian leadership should not consider part of their paid time.

    Pastors hours from this blog 48 to 65 each week now sub-track the 9 to 19 hours our Elders put in the adjusted figures are closer to 39 to 46 hours a week.

    I do feel that if you do not have an active group of Elders your figures may be more correct. In that case, I feel sorry for you.

    However I believe there needs to be correction in the areas where a it is just the thing we do when we accept the position of Elder (independent christian church) or Pastor or just any professional position in any organization. If you are a salaried Pastor then your figures would be closer to being correct. Professional positions in industry, in my experience start off with the expectation that you will work a minimum of 50 hours a week and that does not include reading or self improvement which you have to do or you get replaced.

    So why should we consider this any different when we talk about Professional Pastor position?

    Reading is reading but self improvement come in prayer for and in serving others.

    Just my 2 penny’s worth. Would like to have some feedback on my thoughts. Most pastors get 2 days of plus 1/2 of Sunday so that does make their working days long. Do not get me wrong in that I think a Pastors Job is easy. Just need to compare it to what you expect your volunteer people to devote to developing God’s church when you consider your hours worked.

    (Please have grace with my grammar and spelling you would not believe what did for a very good living and how without Gods help that would never been possible)

    • Very interesting perspectives Gilbert, thank you for sharing. I agree, my thoughts were aimed at the role of a full time, vocational pastor. I have to admit that since writing the article, my views have changed somewhat. I’m not so convinced anymore that paid staff is the greatest idea. I know it’s necessary in some cases, but in my opinion, puts the pastor more into a role of “employee” and less in a role of “family member” – which in my view is not a healthy thing for anyone involved. Thanks for chiming in.

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