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What do clergy do all week?


By Becky R. McMillan

Church members are often unaware of what their pastors do all week and how much time they spend doing it - often only seeing them for one hour a week. This misperception of how clergy use their time can have negative consequences. Pastors express concern that their members seem mystified over how they spend their time. Some tell of complaints from members whenever they do not see the pastors' car at the church. Pastors have expressed concern that this lack of understanding contributes to church members resisting the idea that the pastor should have a set day off or time away from ministry for renewal.

Clergy obviously work more than one hour a week, but what they do or should be doing during their week is often a mystery - and not just to church members. When we interviewed local church pastors for our national survey, a frequent request they made was, "Let me know how other pastors spend their time." Our survey of local church pastors, which includes only senior or solo pastors and no associate pastors, provides a unique opportunity to examine the way local church pastors spend their time.

1. THE TYPICAL WEEK: PLANNING WORSHIP, PASTORAL CARE, ADMINISTRATION, TEACHING

One half of all pastors in the survey reported working between 35 and 60 hours per week. One quarter reported working more than 60 and one quarter reported working less than 35. The middle fifty percent of full-time (those working for the church 40 hours or more per week) Protestant pastors reported working between 42 and 63 hours per week. Table 1 shows the median hours per week pastors report working for their church and the median percentage of that time per week that pastors spend in the core tasks of ministry.

The remainder of the work week not accounted for by these core tasks of ministry is taken up by other tasks specified by the pastors, such as: fund raising, writing articles, correspondence, volunteer chaplaincy, and helping to oversee other ministries as board members or advisers.

Pastors appear to spend about an hour a day in prayer and meditation and about 1/2 hour a day reading for purposes other than preparing their sermons. These hours were not counted as part of the "work week" for the pastor; though they contribute in vital ways to the health of the ministry of the congregation.

These figures are from a random sample of local church pastors from across the country and include both full- and part-time Catholic and Protestant clergy who are senior or solo pastors of a local church or churches.

TABLE 1


Median




 


Total Hours Spent per Week



46



Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship



33



Percent of week providing pastoral care



19



Percent of week administering congregation's work and attending meetings



15



Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry



13



Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs



6



Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation



7





Hours Spent Reading, Other




than for Sermons



4





 


2. CATHOLIC PRIESTS: LONGER WORK WEEK, MORE ADMINISTRATION


In Table 2 we see that Catholic priests and Protestant pastors allocate most of their time similarly, although priests report having to spend nearly double the percentage of their time in administration. This is due no doubt in part to the larger parishes they serve overall, but may also be a result of less reliance on lay leaders for administrative roles in the church. There is some evidence that Catholic priests spend more time in prayer and meditation, although statistical tests of differences in time spent in these two areas are not significant.



TABLE 2




 












Catholic




 


Protestant


 

Median

Median


Total Hours Spent per Week



52.72



46



Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship



31



33



Percent of week providing pastoral care



17



19



Percent of week administering congregation's work and attending meetings



31



14



Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry



9



13



Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs



5



6



Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation



10



7





Hours Spent Reading, Other




than for Sermons



4



4




 

 


3. PART-TIME VS. FULL-TIME PASTORS

Catholic priests report working more hours for the church during each week -
a median of 53 hours versus 46 - and the difference in total hours worked per week is statistically significant. This difference is not explained by a higher proportion of part-time pastors serving Protestant churches, even though 27% of Protestant pastors work part-time, while only 18% of Catholic priests work part-time. Table 3 compares the number of hours and time use for part-time and full-time pastors.

The median work week for full time Catholic priests remains 8 hours longer than that of full-time Protestant pastors, and the difference remains statistically significant.

Part-time pastors, whether Catholic or Protestant, work about half as many hours per week as their full-time colleagues and, as expected, allocate a higher percentage of their time to preparing sermons and worship.

TABLE 3



 


Catholic



Protestant








Part-time



Full-time



Part-time



Full-time








Median



Median



Median



Median



Total Hours Spent per Week



28.08



58



24.02



50



Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship



41



30



41



32



Percent of week providing pastoral care



15



17



16



20



Percent of week administering congregation's work and attending meetings



29



33



11



16



Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry



12



8



11



14



Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs



7



5



8



6



Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation



7



10



6



8





Hours Spent Reading, Other




than for Sermons



9



4



2



5


 

 


4. WOMEN PASTORS: MORE PASTORAL CARE & ADMNISTRATION; LESS WORSHIP

NOTE: All of the subsequent tables include full-time Protestant pastors only.



Male and female pastors work about the same number of hours each week, but they tend to spend those hours differently. Women pastors generally allocate a higher percentage of time toward pastoral care and administering the work of the church, and less time toward preaching and preparing for worship. These differences were statistically significant in all three areas (pastoral care, administration, and preaching).

[1]

Is this evidence of different leadership styles between men and women in general or due to other reasons?



TABLE 4














Full-time Protestant








Men



Women








Median



Median



Total Hours Spent per Week



50



48.62



Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship



33



26



Percent of week providing pastoral care



19



24



Percent of week administering congregation's work and attending meetings



15



23



Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry



14



12



Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs



6



6



Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation



8



7





Hours Spent Reading, Other




than for Sermons



5



5


 

 


5. AFRICAN-AMERICAN PASTORS: LONGER WORK WEEK, MORE TIME TEACHING


Table 5 compares time use of African-American pastors and all other pastors. African-American pastors overall reported much longer work weeks than other pastors and allocated that time slightly differently. A larger proportion of their time goes to teaching and denominational or community affairs. A smaller proportion of their work week is spent on preaching and administration. All of these differences are strongly statistically significant. African-American pastors also reported spending more time in prayer, meditation, and reading than other pastors, and these differences were also statistically significant.

What might be some of the reasons for these differences? What might be some of the implications for ministry?



TABLE 5









 







Full-time Protestant








All others



African-American








Median



Median



Total Hours Spent per Week



49



72.30



Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship



33



27



Percent of week providing pastoral care



19



22



Percent of week administering congregation's work and attending meetings



16



14



Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry



13



15



Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs



6



8



Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation



7



10





Hours Spent Reading, Other




than for Sermons



4



7


 

 


6. SOLO VS. SENIOR PASTORS: EVEN WITH STAFF, STILL PLENTY OF WORK TO DO


We expected that having other ordained clergy on staff would impact the way pastors allocated their time.


However, we find that there is little impact on what proportion of time is spent on the core tasks of ministry. Table 6 compares hours worked and time allocations between pastors with no ordained staff members (solo pastors) to pastors with ordained staff members. The median proportions of time spent on each task are quite similar, although the hours worked are statistically significantly higher for Senior pastors.



TABLE 6


 









Full-time Protestant








Solo



Senior








Median



Median



Total Hours Spent per Week



49



54



Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship



32



33



Percent of week providing pastoral care



20



20



Percent of week administering congregation's work and attending meetings



15



17



Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry



14



14



Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs



7



6



Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation



8



8





Hours Spent Reading, Other




than for Sermons



5



5




 

 


7. CONSERVATIVE PASTORS: MORE TIME IN PREACHING AND PRAYER, LESS TIME IN ADMINISTRATION


Large and statistically significant differences are found in the time use of full-time mainline and conservative Protestant pastors.


Conservative pastors report working (slightly) more hours per week, but more of that time is spent in preaching and worship preparation and less in administration. They also report spending nearly twice the amount of time in prayer than their mainline colleagues. What might be the implications of such differences in time use for ministry?



TABLE 7


 











Full-time Protestant








Mainline



Conservative








Median



Median





Total Hours Spent per Week



49



51



Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship



30



34



Percent of week providing pastoral care



20



19



Percent of week administering congregation's work and attending meetings



20



12



Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry



13



15



Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs



07



05



Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation



6



10





Hours Spent Reading, Other




than for Sermons



4



5


 

 


FOOTNOTES:


[1].
Using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov non-parametric test for differences in the overall distributions of the proportion of time spent in each of these areas by male and female clergy. All three test-statistics were significant at .05 or better. All subsequent references to statistical tests are also tests of differences in overall distributions using Kolmogorov-Smirnov.

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