People know ministers as busy people, but what our weeks look like is shrouded in some mystery. With so many pulls on our time, attention, and hearts, carefully compartmentalizing tasks is essential to serving you well. Here is what a typical week in ministry looks like.
My work week begins on Tuesday morning since I take my “Sabbath” on Mondays. I’m careful not to schedule anything on the Sabbath because I’m fitting most of a regular two-day weekend into one day. Sometimes I have to spend Monday reading in preparation for the Sunday service if I know the week is going to be a demanding one, but I keep things on a quiet level.
On Tuesday morning, I usually spend between two and four hours catching up on your e-mail from the weekend, as well as making phone calls. By Tuesday afternoon I’m focused on worship service planning. This includes picking hymns and readings, coordination music or special tech elements, and making sure the time for all ages is squared away. The staff often needs my attention on Tuesday to debrief things that came up on Sunday morning or to ask for assistance with their various goals for the week. I have five “reports,” and I love working with staff to make sure they are supported. Once a month the Chicago-area minister’s Tuesday meeting is scheduled, so on those weeks I usually prepare the order of service on Monday.
Wednesday usually sees me meeting with congregants and congregational/community leaders. Pastoral calls come up throughout the week, but if I can, I try to do them Wednesday morning. I often have community meetings as well. I focus on office and administrative work in the afternoons, which includes filing, report writing (generally two or three a month), financial matters, and wrapping up my email backlog.
In a recent study by LifeWay research, ministry-related meetings and electronic correspondence can drive the number of hours a pastor works beyond the median of 55 hours, with 42 percent of pastorals now working 60 or more. 70-80 hour weeks are not uncommon. E-mail and other electronic correspondence eat up between two and six hours a week for half of these pastors surveyed, while 14 percent indicate they spend at least 10 hours a week in electronic correspondence. I would definitely be in the latter group; this is a very communicative congregation, and I’m involved with various activities at the local, regional, and national levels.
Thursday is “staff day.” It begins with an Executive Team meeting at 9am followed by a general staff meeting. In the afternoon, I meet with individual staff and our intern to provide weekly supervision as her “teaching pastor.” Thursday afternoon I’m blessed to be able to play trombone for an hour with our three other church trombonists, and then I try and tie up my week so I can focus on the sermon on Friday.
Friday is my writing day if I’m lucky. According to church consultant Thom Rainer, most pastors spend 10-18 hours a week preparing the Sunday message. The UUA recommends that churches allow ministers to devote 30 percent of their time to the Sunday service, or 15-20 hours. My average, I would say, is 16 hours to research, organize, coordinate, write, and rehearse—so my writing “day” always stretches into Saturday. Friday is also when I write newsletter articles and finish board reports that may be due that evening.
Saturday is time to catch-up on email from Friday, more writing, and time for workshops, weddings, memorial services, local events, and congregational social activities. I almost also conduct a service run-through or rehearsal on Saturday afternoon to make sure everything reads the way it should and to check the tech.
You’ll notice I have left out a few things: evening meetings, emergency visits to the hospital, church crises that need immediate attention, social justice events and outreach, and some of the many things we share in our church life. Welcome to a week in the life of your ministers.
And then it’s Sunday once again!