How Much of Your Work Day Do You Spend Staring Into Space?


At last week’s Fall Polity Conference for my denomination (translation:  polity = ecclesiastic form of government & it’s more fun than it sounds), one speaker suggested that 21st Century Pastors need to spend:

  • 75% of our time strategizing for the future and
  • 25% of the time ministering pastorally to those grieving the past.


The truth is that the grieving tend to expect more attention.  And I’m not talking about people who are grieving the loss of loved ones.  I’m talking about the ones who grieve a way of being the Church that worked for them but doesn’t work for most people anymore.

All the grieving is killing effective ministry.

I’m not saying that those who long for the past glory days of the Mainline (or any) Church should be cast aside.  I’m saying that – if they can see that cultural shifts require Church shifts –  they will agree that looking forward is crucial.

How pastors really spend their time is both a mystery (to most parishioners) and a challenge (to juggling pastors.)  No single week is the same and that’s part of the fun, but here’s what some pros have said:

Life Way in 2014:

  • Effective pastors (those ” in the top five percent in conversion growth in American churches”) spend 22 hours/week in sermon preparation compared to less effective pastors who spend about 4 hours on sermon prep.
  • Effective pastors spend 10 hours doing pastoral care (hospital visits, baptism/wedding/funeral preparation, and pastoral counseling) compared to other pastors who spend 33 hours doing pastoral care.
  • Effective pastors spend five hours/week “sharing the gospel” compared to 0 hours for slacker less effective pastors.

Duke Pulpit and Pew in 2002:

(from a national survey of local church solo pastors or heads of staff, both Roman Catholic and Protestant)

  • 33% of work week preparing for sermon and worship leadership
  • 19% of work week doing pastoral care
  • 15% doing administration
  • 13% teaching and training people
  • 6% doing denominational or community work

I presume the other 14 % of the time is spent praying/staring into space.

Friends – every context is very different and so there is no clean and tidy prescription for setting up the pastor’s schedule, In some churches, the pastor vacuums and prints the bulletin.  In some churches, it’s still expected that the pastor will keep regular office hours while other pastors are expected to be out in the community most days.

I’m not interested in a recipe here.  But I do believe that 21st Century ministry requires a different set of responsibilities.  Maybe something like this:

  • 75% strategizing for the future.  This means connecting with local leaders (school principals, police officers, the mayor, the director of the women’s shelter, other faith leaders, community organizers) to know what’s going on in your community, exegeting your neighborhoods so you know who’s there, discerning ministry needs with your congregational leaders and training them to address those needs, discussing and re-tooling what’s working and what’s not working (in terms of hospitality practices, organizational structure, fund-raising, education, worship) all for the sake of connecting people to God and each other.  Work in teams that have been equipped.  Study Scripture – especially the book of Acts – to glean God’s wisdom.  Pray. Considering staffing needs for now, not for 20 years ago.
  • 25% ministering to those who grieve the past.  Spend time with the oldest and most long-standing members hearing their stories.  What did they love about their church and why?  When did they feel closest to God and why?  What memories are sparked by their favorite hymns?  What is their favorite Bible story and why? Take these saints seriously.  And ask them what they would be willing to do to help their church thrive in the future.

Save time to stare into space and just sit.  Ask God to speak.  Take a nap.  I’m telling you, this is a great time to be serving the Church but we need to let go of pastoring like this guy.

2 responses to “How Much of Your Work Day Do You Spend Staring Into Space?

  1. Pingback: Friday Festival: Singing, Praying, Pondering | RevGalBlogPals

  2. Worth the read.

    Sent from my iPhone



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.