Just asking, my fellow soldiers of the Lord, just asking.
Thom Ranier did an informal survey of two measures of pastor work habits recently. Here are the results:
How many hours weekly does a pastor work?
2013 Twitter Poll(Full-time Pastors)
Less than 40 hours
70 hours or more
- No full time pastor will ever admit to working less than a 40 hour week. He will figure out a way to rationalize 40+ even if he has to count "quiet, meditative time" in a boat fishing.
- Laypeople may underestimate the time their pastor works but laypeople I know well all speak of how church offices are always empty of clergy staff on Fridays. And then there's golf.
- Most SBC churches are single staff and while many do not need a full time pastor, they have one anyway. In those churches pastors have lots of time for reading, hunting, fishing, and running errands. But I'd bet few would ever admit to "working" less than 40 hours because that is the minimum the church expects.
- Some of Ranier's respondents gave a range, say 40-80 hours, and he took the midpoint. I suspect that a pastor who has a series of crises one week and puts in 80 hours would use that figure, thereby skewing the average.
- Ranier said the midpoint was around 50 hours and that sounds about right.
- Oh, when I would lead mission trips, I would report about a 120 hour work week but, alas, wouldn't be able to take the next two weeks as comp time.
1 to 3 hours — 1%
4 to 6 hours — 9%
7 to 9 hours — 15%
10 to 12 hours — 22%
13 to 15 hours — 24%
16 to 18 hours — 23%
19 to 21 hours — 2%
22 to 24 hours — 0%
25 to 27 hours — 1%
28 to 30 hours — 2%
31 to 33 hours — 1%
- These two surveys cannot coexist. Half of pastors can't work a 50 hour week and spend 26-36 hours of that in sermon preparation and pastor a church. If only 14-24 hours is left for visiting, counseling, office work, meetings, Sunday non-pulpit work, minister's conferences, etc then he's either not pastoring the church or is fudging the numbers.
- I've done many sermons in 1-3 hours, some of those may be repeats. Plodder offers the wild conjecture than many of the brethren dust off an old sermon, spend 30 minutes on it and then let it rip on Sunday.
- I've spent 35 years preparing a number of sermons. How does that skew things?
- Most weeks I had four times of preaching/teaching but would only count Sunday AM and PM as sermons.
- As I have visited other churches and church websites and have listened and read sermons, I'm seeing a lot of familiar sermon outlines as pastors use online resources. While a pastor might use someone else's outline and flesh it out with his original stuff, I suspect that many are taking someone else's prep work and winging it from there. I always cringe a bit when I see the same outlines from several different pastors.
I think pastors are like other folks. When asked a question that is personal, it's tough to get the whole truth.
Is that lying? Sometimes.
The better way to get the true facts is to observe, but then who wants someone looking over their shoulder all week?
These are interesting things to think about and Thom Ranier does a good job with anecdotal and informal if not scientific writing on such.