Understanding the day-to-day weekly workload of solo pastors in small congregations is a difficult task. Many lead pastors don’t have a pastoral staff, so most likely we’re operating as a one-woman (or man) show. Speaking as a pastor, I know it’s difficult for people who aren’t us to understand what it is we actually do. Maintaining scheduled office time is challenging, to say the least, (some of us don’t even bother to maintain a regular office schedule,) we are constantly on the go, and our work always goes home with us. In fact, speaking for myself, you’ll often find me reading and researching out on my front porch---not exactly what society perceives as typical “office hours.” So how in the world can the sheep keep tabs on the shepherd? Obviously, it’s easy to see what pastors are up to on Sundays---but the rest of the time is not as easily discernible.
You know that old joke that pastors only work one day a week? It’s an unfortunate one because it’s definitely the opposite of the truth. So little of the work pastors do can be visibly scene by our congregations. Our weekly workload really is like an enormous iceberg submerged deep below sea level, with the stuff we do on Sundays being the tiny tip that peeks out just above the water’s surface. That tip is---what---maybe about 15-20% of the entire iceberg itself? Sunday worship amounts to so little of the total time and energy pastors actually put in, yet most of our church members only show up for Sunday service. So if most of a congregation only sees their pastor consistently working one day a week, then naturally there are going to be some collective misconceptions about the capacity of their pastor's calendar (especially if he or she is single and doesn’t have a family waiting at home).
One of the skills seminaries teach future pastors is the value of self-care and personal boundaries. It’s okay to say “no.” It’s okay to not be present at every single church and/or community event. After a 40-hour-week, which will be supplemented by many more hours of sermon prep and editing on weekends, the fact that I may make an executive decision not to attend a church event does not mean I’m not interested or don’t care. It simply means I want a few hours of “me time,” (in between editing and writing my sermon, of course). Indeed, without learning how to say “no” to certain church-related events, what little time I have for myself and my own relationships will quickly disappear. Because what many parishioners don’t understand is that any church-related time for their pastor is still work, even if it happens to fall on a weekend.
So what are some of the things we pastors do with our time throughout the week? Obviously I can’t speak for all pastors, so I will give you a glimpse of what it is that I do on a typical weekday:
-Make calls/home visits
-Prepare and revise bulletin for Sunday service
-Edit and prep my sermon audio for the church website
-Update the church website
-Sermon research (which involves many, many hours of reading)
-Reading and research for classes
-Reading and research for self-study
-Prepare curricula and group activities for classes
-Visit with parishioners in my office (which is continuous throughout the day)
-Attend various kinds of meetings (congregational level and Presbytery level)
-Meet with local clergy
-Mediate disputes between parishioners (both young and old!)
-Attend choir rehearsals
-Attend Bible studies
-Write and update this blog!
This list, of courses, is not exhaustive and does not include special church events, funerals, weddings, special services, holidays, etc. But the desperate plea I make to you all this day is to please not define your pastor solely by what he or she does on Sundays.
Trust me: Sunday is only the tip of the iceberg!!