Pastors work a lot. According to some studies, pastors work anywhere from 50 to 60 hours a week on average. I’ve seen these statistics thrown about in a couple of ways: 1) to combat the myth that pastors only work on Sundays, and 2) to either throw a pity party for the poor, overworked pastor or to elevate him as being more hard-working than the average Joe.
The nature of pastoral ministry can easily lead to burnout. There are constant stresses, no set hours (meaning anyone can call anytime), and a constant concern for others. But before we go throwing ourselves pity parties or praising ourselves for our endurance, we ought to consider whether or not hard work, stress, and constant busyness are our burdens alone.
I’ve known many people who work full-time, secular jobs and who serve wholeheartedly in the church. After logging 40 to 50 hours at the office, these people study the Bible and pray on their own time. They prepare for Sunday school classes and read Christian books on their own time. They show up to church early for music rehearsals and special events, staying through the service, sometimes leaving late, all on their own time. They meet with new believers over coffee and invite church visitors into their home for dinner, all on their own time. They visit sick friends from church in the hospital on their own time. They prepare meals and volunteer to babysit when a young family has another child, all on their own time. They attend business meetings, committee meetings, and deacons meetings all on their own time.
Much of what a pastor does in the course of his duties church members do on their own time. This can easily amount, when paired with the hours they’re putting it at work, to more than 50 or 60 hours a week. Before we as pastors feel sorry for ourselves or feel good about ourselves or how much we do, we should not forget that many church members are working just as hard, perhaps more, and they do it on their own time.
Having spent a considerable amount of time as a lay minister with my own full-time job, I have a greater appreciation for lay people in my church and less tolerance for pastors who complain about being busy or who exalt themselves for it.
Have you thanked your volunteers lately?