How Pastors Spend Their Time


The old joke is that pastors work only one hour a week — Sunday morning at 11 AM.  If I could get a gig like that, I’d take it, but the reality is that pastors, and other church leaders have very busy work schedules.  I was thinking about this the other day, and here’s how my week gets divided up:

  • Worship Services: 6-8 hours at church for worship and Bible study, depending on the season of the year.  We don’t have a Sunday night service; those who do will spend more time just at church for services.
  • Pastoral Care: 8-10 hours per week talking, visiting, counseling church members and others.  This includes hospital visitation, homebound members, nursing homes, in-office appointments, telephone calls, pastoral visits, as well as funerals or weddings.
  • Administration: 8-10 hours per week working on bulletins, newsletters, committee meetings, deacon meetings, preparing for meetings, calendaring events, going over finances, and meeting with church leaders.
  • Prayer and Preparation: 8-10 hours per week in sermon preparation, prayer, Bible study preparation, and general study and research for future sermons and Bible studies.
  • Outreach: 6-8 hours per week working with community groups, contacting prospective members, visiting with community members I encounter casually or intentionally to discuss community projects.

Some weeks I spend more time on some categories than others.  But I try to maintain a balance in ministry and a rhythm to my week.  I like to start my week with Sundays and work through Thursdays.  I take Friday and Saturday off, but the majority of weeks I usually have at least one event on at least one of those days.  That seems to go with the territory.  Of course, the all-too-frequent emergencies that send you off to visit the hospital or nursing home come at any time of the day or night.

I try to spend mornings in my office at church, and afternoons out of the office making visits when needed.  I publish my cell phone number, have an answering machine both at home and at church, and return phone calls as soon after I get the voice mail as I can.

In my personal and professional schedule I strive for a flow that gives me some time each day both to engage with others and have time for quiet reflection.  Most weeks that works out, but when things get really hectic I try to be flexible and responsive.  I remind myself that people come first, and other projects are secondary.

That’s my week. How do you structure yours? Or have you thought about where and how you spend your time?  Do you have time-management tips or practices that have proven useful in your own ministry?  If so, please share them with the rest of us.  Of course, if you only work one hour a week, the rest of us would like to know how to do that, too!

Speaking of time, the National Outreach Convention blog tour will drop by here on Thursday, April 23.  We’ll be talking small church stuff and taking questions. Stop in and see what’s happening!

8 thoughts on “How Pastors Spend Their Time”

  1. I’d say (for me) 12-18 hours study/prayer/sermon prep in most weeks. Study for the sermon as well as other things. Plus teaching in a small church takes up more time when pastors like me will teach on Sunday, and then have Jr. High and Sr. High youth groups and confirmation classes, and possibly Bible studies as well.

  2. I also spend more time in sermon/bible study prep, about 12-15. I don’t spend as much time on outreach, although that is going to change soon.

  3. Being an Associate Pastor concerned with discipleship ministries my schedule looks different but has its own inherent balance. I don’t have to do a sermon every week but I do have more writing and project development to fill in there.

  4. Chuck- You have a great balance here. I stick to a Sunday -Thursday week myself when possible, and not having A Sunday evening service helps, too. I think we share similar schedules.

    I wonder sometimes if I should be LESS balanced. Pastors are gifted to teach and preach, so we should spend most of our time doing such. Administration and some Pastoral care could be delegated to trained volunteers/lay leaders. Easier said than done, though.

  5. im a youth pastor from south africa. im currently working over 60 hours a week. i take saturdays off tho. i do evening work 5-6 nights a week. am i imbalanced? im feeling tired thats for sure

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