He only works one day a week!
A church was calling a new pastor. When it came time to discuss his salary, there was considerable disagreement. Some members said the church should follow the denominational guidelines. But others objected, with one man protesting, “Why should we pay him that much? He only works one day a week!”
Most of us are unfamiliar with the work load of various occupations. For example, someone who lived his whole life in a large city may think that a farmer only spends a few weeks planting and a few weeks harvesting. Other than that, he just sits around and watches the crops grow. Or people may think a policeman just drives around in the squad car for eight hours, stops at a donut shop, and writes a few tickets. Having grown up on a farm, and with several members of my family in law enforcement, I know those stereotypes are not true!
Even church members may not know how the pastor spends his week. Some see him only on Sunday morning. Even though every church is different, here’s a typical week in the life of a pastor.
Sermon preparation: Eight to 12 hours. The rule of thumb we were taught as seminary students was that we should spend one hour preparing the sermon for every minute we preached. For a 15 minute sermon, that’s 15 hours of “prep time.” That prep time is for studying the Biblical text, developing a theme (or main idea), outlining and writing the sermon, and then practicing or rehearsing. More experienced pastors can do it a little faster.
Leading worship: Two to six hours. Some churches may have only one service per week; others may have three or four. Pastors spend additional time planning worship services, and special worship services (like holidays) take even longer.
Bible study: Three to five hours. Again, this figure depends on how many Bible studies a pastor is leading. Typically, a pastor will spend several hours preparing the study, and then 45 minutes or an hour teaching.
Shut-ins, nursing homes, and hospital visits: Two to eight hours. Again, it depends on how many people the pastor goes to see and how far away they are. Some visits may only take 15 or 20 minutes; others may spend an hour talking to you.
Meetings: One to eight hours. A small church may have only one or two meetings a month; a large church may have three or four a week.
Catechism class: Three to eight hours. Some churches have Catechism once a week. Others with a day school may have three or four class sessions a week.
Counseling/pastoral care: Up to four hours. Pastors have weeks when no one comes in to talk to them, or they may have several people come in during the week.
General office work and correspondence: Four to eight hours. Denominational leaders and other groups send out mailings and e-mails. We make phone calls and write letters and e-mails about upcoming conventions and conferences, doctrinal issues, and so forth. We visit with church members who come into the office to talk to us. We contact members who aren’t attending, to encourage them to come back.
There are other things that can come up during the week. For example, when a member passes away, we may put in six to 10 hours meeting with the family, planning the service, writing a sermon, and conducting the funeral. Weddings, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, membership classes, and other activities are also part of our work. As you can see, it can easily add up to more than 40 hours per week. Yet at the heart of it all is the opportunity to proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ grace and mercy, and that’s why we love our work!
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