Monday Morning Insights

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    Pastor:  How Many Hours Do You Work?

  • 33% said that being in ministry was an outright hazard to their family
  • 75% reported a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry
  • 50% felt unable to meet the needs of the job
  • 90% felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands
  • 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they started out
  • 40% reported a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
  • 37% confessed having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend
  • 1991 Survey of Pastors, Fuller Institute of Church Growth, Pastors at Risk , H. B. London, Jr. & Neil B. Wiseman, Victor Books, 1993, p. 22 (from

    FOR DISCUSSION:  Truthfully... how many hours are you putting in a week?

    Consider the following sobering survey results of the personal and professional lives of the clergy: 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week; 80% believed that pastoral ministry affected their families negatively…


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    1. pjlr on Wed, July 27, 2005

      As an addendum to my previous post, I have to say that the 50 or so hours I put in are those where I am in my office or doing other “direct” ministry related activities.  I don’t count small group involvement (even if I were leading it) or off the cuff “counseling over a cup of coffee” meetings. These are things any semi-dedicated church member would do.

      Before I went into full-time ministry I worked long hours and weeks and it was part of the job or part of attempting to climb the ladder of success, feed and clothe my family etc. It was much easier, even after a 60-70 hour work week and another 8-10 hours of church related volunteer activities, to turn off the brain and enjoy a ball game, movie or going out to dinner with my wife.

      Ministry is a differnet thing altogether.  You live with the sense that anytime now the phone will ring and you will be thrust into a difficult counseling situation, the death of a member of the congregation or something else.  You can’t compare secular employment with ministry in that regard.  In a subtle sense we are on call 24/7 and it behooves us to make sure we take time out to rest and enjoy recreation.

      I always get a kick out of those who work in the secular industry and suggest that just because they put in long hours pastors shouldn’t be complaining or playing the martyr, or even thinking that their work is different.  Talk to anyone who left secular employment for full-time ministry and they will tell you there is no comparison.

    2. Rev. Gary Dunn on Wed, July 27, 2005

      I work 65 to 80 hours a week at a secular job in the oil field. That is not counting the hours I have to prepare messages for Sunday, plus visit and counsel. It does put a great deal of stress on me, and I miss a lot of quality time with my wife. But I have found that if God has truly called you to minister, He will equip you and give you the rest and needed moments for your family. Even though I average only about 4 to 5 hours a night for sleeping, I have not noticed much because I believe that God gives me my strength. I believe what we must do is realize it is a calling from God. When we look at it as though it is a job persay, that is when we find ourselves in trouble and get burned out. God Bless you in your ministry.

    3. Jenn on Thu, July 28, 2005

      Having learned my lesson about working outlandishly long hours (40-60/wk) and going to seminary this past year, I have begun to hold myself accountable to a small inner circle that I will cap what I am doing work wise to 40 hours (I’m on pastoral staff, to be ordained in less than 2 years upon seminary grad). 

      For me, in retrospect, much of the “work” that I was doing was laced with an unrecognized need for approval and validation by others outside of myself.  The challenge with this destructive “worm” is that it bores its way in and through the very fiber of your identity and being. The hamster wheel ministry experience of spinning and never moving forward only placating others was the most instant joy and passion killer I experienced.  It took me less than a year to see how damaging the results were already starting to be in my life; lack of time with friends (I’m single), lower grades (who had time to complete papers when I had x,y and z left to do at work?), weight gain (we won’t even go there…) and my relationship with someone ended before it had an opportunity to really begin (he couldn’t/wouldn’t allow himself to be relegated to a couple of hours a week…after all a relationship is about intimacy - can’t have that with only emails.)

      I think, in my very limited experience in ministry to this point is that it is our understanding of boundaries which help create a more healthy lifestyle.  I’m certainly not going to be the one saying that all Pastors put in a straight 40 and that’s it…I’ve been around ministry long enough now to see how much work we “take home.”  But at the same time I wonder if everything we are trying to do is really necessary for the kingdom or is it just goals we would like to accomplish for our own validation?

      Old habits die hard however, I begin my first official pastoral call (children and family ministry) this next week.  There’s a list of “things” that I would like to see happen for this ministry already in hand.  My lecture to myself is already being reviewed.

    4. Andie on Wed, August 03, 2005

      I work at least 15 hrs a week, and as much as 60 as a unpaid staff member.

    5. nks on Tue, August 09, 2005

      I tent-make in addition to my (stipended) pastoral position and have been working 50-70 hours/week for a couple years. Most people I know in “secular” jobs put in 45-50 hours plus 10-15 at church. I don’t think 70 hours/week is healthy for anyone, but I think 55-60 (including worship and small group) is a reasonable expectation. I’ve observed plenty of pastors who count every minute they spend with anyone at church or reading anything church-related as work time. It’s easy to convince yourself you are working much more than you are.

      A good exercise is to keep track for a week of what you are doing once each hour all day long and see where your time is going. It gives you a consciousness about your time and a better picture of how you spend your work time (as well as forcing you to consider what is work and what isn’t).

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