Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Lord, have mercy!

Some years ago I recall reading a parish pastor describe what his church's minimum expectations of him and his duties was each week:
  • Prayer at the church: 14 hours
  • Sermon preparation: 18 hours
  • Outreach and evangelism: 10 hours
  • Counseling: 10 hours
  • Hospital and home visits: 15 hours
  • Administrative functions: 18 hours
  • Community involvement: 5 hours
  • Denominational involvement: 5 hours
  • Church meetings: 5 hours
  • Worship services/preaching: 4 hours
  • Other: 10 hours
Total: 114 hours/week

In the article the pastor laments that meeting just these minimums would require him to work between 16 - 19 hours per day (depending upon whether or not he took a day off).  But these expectations do not include emergencies and urgencies which cannot be predicted (except to know they will happen) or managed.  One of the reasons why I began writing sermons so far in advance is because experience soon taught me that I could not predict or manage what would happen during the week, or, typically, at the end of the week when it seems many pastors write their sermons.  That said, it does point out the discrepancy between what is expected and what can possibly be accomplished by any pastor. Now I am sure that a survey of my own parish might reveal different expectations but I am not so sure it would add up to less hours per week.  But on top of this is, of course, the expectation that the pastor will be a good family man, who will model not only quality time but actual time with family.  In other words, add in another 40 hours or so.

What is interesting is what people might be willing to forego and what they would not.  I fear that people might forgive a pastor for not praying but they expect administrative duties to be met on time or would suggest that less time be spent on the sermon (and, it would seem, preaching it) and more time spent on other things not so directly addressed by call and ordination (at least in the Lutheran tradition).  What might also be interesting is how this list has been revised by those who add social ministry presence, podcasting, vision casting, and leadership training as essentials to any modern pastor's list of duties.  What I found surprising is the lack of any direct time allotment for teaching -- teaching the young (catechism), teaching Bible study, and teaching the faith to those who are new to the faith.  If I added this to the list, it would amount to a healthy number (including prep work for this teaching).  Not to mention the other duties as assigned that seems to be the caveat at the end of every job description.

No pastor can live up to such expectations and no pastor's family can survive such expectations either.  At the same time, what I also find concerning is that there are no solid corresponding time expectations of those who sit in the pews or of the lay leaders of a congregation.  Pastors are certainly responsible for what is given pastors to do but so are the laity responsible for what is theirs to do.  Other than this I have no great wisdom expect Kyrie eleison.


Sean said...

The Church was meant to be led by pastors, not run by pastors. We need to teach the men of our congregations that it takes them leading their families and leading the Church to make the Church a vibrant community of faith. The Lutheran Church would do well to place more emphasis on the roles of elders and deacons and other parish ministry leaders to assist the pastor in carrying out the ministry of the Church.

Chris said...

Let me get this straight. He was expected to only lead 4 hours of worship, but commit 18 hours to sermon prep. and 5 hours to meetings. Talk about getting your priorities mixed up.