I have heard people say, “The pastor has it so easy, he doesn’t have to go to work. What does he do all day? All he has to do is write a few sermons a week.” So, the following few questions are aimed at setting the record straight.
Q. What does a day in the life of a pastor, or a pastor’s wife, look like?
Pastor Kevin Obermeyer, Lonestar Cowboy Church, Montgomery, Texas: As a pastor, it’s usually filled with people asking all kinds of questions about personal needs, some with appointments but often just walk-ins or catching you at the store or just as you’re walking out the door. A few Bible questions come up from people who want to debate, and a couple of regulars are always trying to overcome some vice that you just talked to them about a short time before. People become very codependent on you, so you must learn to draw boundaries.
All this occurs in several locations, such as hospitals, homes and at church, so there’s travel time. Now that we have cell phones, time can be spread among even more people calling between destinations. You don’t really want to give out your cell phone, but people expect and demand that you be reachable at all times.
Frequently, the full range of emotions is ripped back and forth from one visit to the next, grieving with one person as their child dies in their arms, then going off to see the next person and rejoice with them over their wonderful news of a new pregnancy.
Plus, I’ve been a bi-vocational pastor at small churches mostly, so I’ve had to go to my secular job. And once people at your secular job find out you’re a pastor, you become a pastor in the workplace, too, which doubles your ministry load.
In between all of this, you piece together the next sermon or decision regarding an upcoming church event or procedure before your thoughts are interrupted again. You try to block out scheduled staff meetings because you need that for church operation. And you try to spend as much time as you can with your family, until that next 2 a.m. phone call takes you away again. Then you get up early the next morning, or just stay up through the night because it’s late and start the next day all over again.
But somehow in the midst of it all, you feel blessed because you know you are in the right place, the place God called you to, doing the job prepared for you for that time, and you are being used by Him for His glory to do His will and serve others. You do have to find a few minutes here and there for self-care as well, so you don’t just collapse. Other than all that, yeah, pastors have it easy.
Janet Foley, on behalf of, Pastor Kevin Foley, The Potter’s House, McMinnville, Oregon: My husband leaves the house to go to his office at 5:30 a.m. From 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., he attends prayer meeting. Sometimes he invites men out for coffee the next hour. Then he returns to the office to do all the filing, mailing and church finances. He does a lot of reading, Biblical studies and current events, historical information, etc. as input for his sermons, (four per week plus Sunday School).
He schedules upcoming events and plans the advertising. He oversees the upkeep of two huge buildings and a downtown parking lot, dealing with city officials, police, street people, security, vandalism, etc. He oversees the upkeep of the church van and strategizes for impact teams to the greater Northwest states. He counsels throughout the day by phone and in person. He is available 24-7 to any requests or phone calls! He meets with local area pastors from five to six churches on Wednesdays and has sermon sessions as they brainstorm and put together that night’s sermon (helping them learn strategies for sermon construction etc.) He also writes a sermon for most Saturday mornings for a class called Serious Men, where men are taught deeper character challenges.
He goes early to church, to pray. Afterward, he stays long to talk with people and pray for needs. If there’s time, he invites people out for a meal, or to our home. He visits the hospital frequently, and people who call for prayer in their homes when sick.
On top of all that, he is the area leader for Northern CA, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. He hosts an area-wide conference for a week in the spring, a pioneer pastor’s rally in the fall, and a marriage retreat in February. He is called on to preach marriage retreats, conferences, and revivals throughout our nation and overseas as well.
On average, he spends 12 hours per day at the office. I try not to discuss church when he is home, obviously.
Q. Pastor, on average how much time does it take you to put together a sermon, including research, study, etc.?
Pastor Chad, New Hope Church, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: From the moment my last sermon is over, I am thinking about the next one. I meditate on the passage of Scripture while I go about activities with ministry and family. A sermon is much more than a speech, it involves a spiritual battle. The only answer I can give is that I am preparing all the time.
Pastor Pablo Catala, Victory Chapel Christian Church of Bridgeport, Connecticut: About four to six hours
Pastor Kevin Foley: On average, eight to ten hours
Anonymous: If I were able to sit without disruption and go from start to finish, it would take me about five hours to write one sermon. I preach three sermons per week.
Anonymous Pastor, Kathmandu, Nepal: On average, about five hours.
Q. How much time do you spend in personal Bible study, prayer and reading a day?
Pastor Chad: For me, sermon prep and personal devotions go hand in hand. The approach God humbled me with from the beginning was that I’m always preaching to myself. Thus, I am always spending time on my personal spiritual walk and reflecting on what God is teaching me.
Q. What are some duties you perform for the church on a regular basis that your church may not be aware of?
Pastor Kevin Obermeyer: Mowing the grass, fixing toilet leaks, solving computer network issues, paying bills and struggling over some, and changing light bulbs. Checking sound and other equipment and shopping for church supplies. Setting the thermostats at a temperature for least general complaint.
I’m first to arrive and last to leave no matter how early or how late or how many times— and many pro-bono acts of service. Most of these things are small church issues and are often shared with other staff and volunteers, but ultimately the buck stops here if there’s no one else, for anything.
Janet Foley: I spend about six to eight hours a day on church business. I note what is needed on the building and act as a liaison to help organize maintenance, working with painters and community leaders for historical commission planning. I love to reach people and help connect relationships. Things like recent weddings, bridal and baby showers for church members, meet-and-greets after church. book clubs and youth rallies, parade floats, public relations and advertising (graphic arts)—writing tracts, making flyers etc.
I play piano for every church service, help the leader with song selection and provide music, ideas, etc. I try to get with people for coffee or lunches, remember birthdays.
But my most important ministry is making our home a refuge for my husband. He loves a simple home-cooked meal and a smile from me when he comes home. Clean clothes and an ironed shirt. A happy wife! (Sometimes that is the hardest thing of all.)
Sophie Foley, The Potter’s House, Malden, Massachusetts: Clean and organize the nursery and Sunday school rooms several times a week. Practice for worship during the week, call those who haven’t shown up, follow up on new converts, take phone calls any day, any time. Open our house and church any time for counseling.
Anonymous Pastor: An analogy: My grandfather owned a farm, his responsibility for the farm was 24/7, 365 days a year—fixing the electric fences, repairing the tractor, milking cows, planting corn, harvesting crops, feeding the animals. I say again: 24/7, 365 responsibility. That is what ministry is like.
Mentally I feel a responsibility that never leaves me, the needs are always on my mind. For me, being a pastor means I don’t punch a clock at 5 p.m. and go home. Weekends aren’t a break from my job either, as you can imagine.
What are some things your church could do to lighten your load or refresh you and your family so you can better serve God and them?
Pastor Kevin Obermeyer: Probably the simplest would be just to volunteer to help with something, even just once, or once a month—or once a year. Getting volunteers is one of the hardest things, so the same few people end up doing everything all the time.
Pastor Pablo Catala: Be faithful and stay that way.
Q:.What keeps you going?
Pastor Tim Schmoyer, Whitehall Bible Fellowship, Whitehall, Pennsylvania: Witnessing how God changes lives.