Most Senior Pastors Work at Least 50-Hour Weeks

Full-time senior pastors tend to work 55 hours or more in a typical week, according to a new survey.

While the median number of work hours for Protestant pastors is 55 hours. 42 percent work 60 or more hours, LifeWay Research found.

When including bivocational pastors, part-time senior pastors and volunteer pastors, 35 percent work at least 60 hours a week and 30 percent work 50 to 59 hours.

Not surprisingly, much of the time is spent in sermon preparation. Half of those surveyed spend five to 14 hours a week preparing their sermons. Meanwhile, nine percent spend 25 hours or more and 7 percent spend less than five hours on their sermons before preaching.

In comparing evangelical pastors with mainline pastors, 30 percent of evangelical pastors were found to spend 20 or more hours a week in sermon preparation compared to 20 percent of mainline pastors.

If not preparing for their weekend preaching, pastors are typically in meetings, handling e-mail or electronic correspondence, counseling others, or in hospital, home or witnessing visits.

More than 70 percent of pastors spend up to five hours a week in meetings. Only 15 percent are in meetings 10 hours or more a week.

Meanwhile, half of the senior pastors spend two to six hours on e-mail and other electronic correspondence.

And nearly a quarter of the pastors put in six hours or more a week in counseling ministry. The same percentage (24 percent) spends an hour or less counseling others.

Nearly half (48 percent) spend two to five hours a week in visitation.

Despite long work hours, senior pastors make time with their family a priority. Thirty percent say they spend 20 to 29 hours a week with their families and 16 percent report spending 40 or more hours with them.

More than half (52 percent) spend one to six hours in prayer each week and the same percentage spend two to five hours in personal devotions unrelated to sermon preparation. Fourteen percent spend an hour or less in personal devotions.

Meanwhile, 24 percent say they watch television for 10 to 14 hours each week.

Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, says sermon preparation and prayer are biblical priorities and many pastors have that right, as indicated by survey results. But McConnell suggests that more of the pastors' ministry tasks need to be shared.

"Jesus Christ designed the work of the church to be done by believers together in unity," he commented.

The LifeWay survey was conducted via telephone on 1,002 randomly selected Protestant pastors Oct. 13-29, 2008.