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How Many Hours Does a Pastor Work Each Week?

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By Thom S. Rainer , Christian Post Contributor
July 12, 2013|10:50 am

It is one of the most unpredictable jobs one could have. There will be weeks when there won't be much taking place out of the ordinary, and the pastor will work a "mere" 40 to 45 hours. There will be other weeks filled with meetings, emergency hospital calls, a wedding, two funerals, and line of members waiting to see the pastor. That workweek could total 80 hours.

So we surveyed pastors on Twitter and asked them a simple question: How many average hours do you work a week, including sermon preparation? Though we asked for an average, most responded with a range. We thus took the midpoint of the range they submitted. We also asked this question only of fulltime vocational pastors.

Five years ago, LifeWay Research asked a similar question. The primary difference in the question was that their survey included pastors who were not paid fulltime as well. Of course, the LifeWay Research study was a scientific poll, while my Twitter poll was informal.

Here are the results of the two polls:

lifeway chart

Here are some of my observations:

  • The two polls cannot be compared directly. One includes fulltime pastors only. The other includes both fulltime and part-time pastors. Also, the LifeWay Research poll of 2008 is scientifically validated, and is thus much more likely to be accurate.
  • Surprisingly, the median workweek for pastors is the same in both surveys: 50 hours. That means the average workweek is greater than 50 hours for half of the pastors, and less than 50 hours for half of the pastors.
  • Some pastors indicated their workweek hours but excluded sermon preparation time. They were not included in the survey.
  • I strongly suspect that the 16% of pastors who worked less than 40 hours a week in the 2008 survey were part-time pastors. There aren't many fulltime vocational pastors working less than 40 hours.
  • Most pastors have trouble estimating their average workweek because each week is so unpredictable. The nature of a pastor's job is on-call 24/7.
  • One respondent had an interesting take on a pastor's workweek. He said that pastors should be expected to work 40 hours plus the amount of time a committed member gives to the church. He estimates a committed member will give at least 8 hours a week, so the typical workweek should be 48 hours (40+8). That number is very close to the median workweek of all pastors.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

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