The question came up on the PB whether pastors are overworked. Most people work hard but not everyone works in the same way the pastor does. Some compared the pastor’s work to physical labor. That’s a poor comparison. The labor of the pastor is not so much physical but psychic, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Nevertheless, two of my strongest memories of (pre-email and pre-cell phone and “wired”) full-time pastoral ministry are driving and the phone. I was constantly in the car driving to see someone or pick up something. It was a year after left full-time ministry before I stopped jumping when the phone rang and that was before cell phones were ubiquitous. The number of calls is probably conservative. In truth, some weeks were much more busy and some were much slower. Some weeks I had a good lot of time to study and even to write but in those times I felt guilty because I wasn’t busier. In the very busy weeks I felt guilty because I didn’t pray or study enough. In the ordinary providence of God, contingency and emergency determined the pastor’s week.
Here’s a quick and somewhat idealized composite of life as the full-time pastor of a typical (50-100 member) NAPARC congregation.
Mon—Prayer and rest from Sunday. 5 phone calls regarding church (crisis brewing with an elder), 4 txt messages. One hospital call. Stayed away from email.
Tues—Prayer and start translating Greek for AM sermon and Hebrew for PM sermon. Read chapters before and after passages in ESV. Worked on bible software for an hour figuring out word usage. Answer 12 phone calls, 3 text messages, and 20 emails. One pastoral visit. Session meeting in the evening. One of the elders is really unhappy. Late: Fixed church webpage (our webmaster transferred to another city).
Wed—Prayer and finish translating passages and begin sermon outlines. Answer 10 phone calls. One house visit. One hospital visit. Squeeze in 30 minute run to the local seminary library. Answer 10 emails and 7 text messages. Lunch with a visitor to church. Prep for address to the Rotary Club next week. Work on bulletin. Convene church anniversary committee. Computer is acting up.
Thurs—Prayer and prep for evening Bible Study. Write church news letter. Go to Office Depot. Call repairman for that broken light switch in the narthex. Do tax forms for 501 c 3 status. Ask the grounds committee to get the lawn mowed before Sunday. Answer 6 phone calls and 3 text messages. Long lunch with a disgruntled elder. Committee work for Presbytery on the latest theological problem in the conservative Presbyterian churches. Squeeze in a little sermon prep. Drive by local mega-church and ask God why, in his mysterious and perfect providence, he sends people there.
Fri—Prayer. Finish sermon outline. Read 6 commentaries (3 for each passage) to make sure I didn’t miss anything obvious. Started reading the latest evangelical fad book so I could answer Mrs Jones’ question at Bible Study. Picked songs for worship. Sent the bulletin to the pianist. Took computer to repair shop. Only 5 emails (using old, slow PC) and 5 text messages today. 4 phone calls. No emergencies. One nursing home visit. One late night phone call.
Sat—Prayer. Not happy with sermon outline. Re-worked it. Catechism class. Lunch at home. Took a call from Mrs Henry. She’s upset with Mrs McElphatrick. Mowed the grass at church (the grounds committee didn’t show up). A homeless fellow showed up and the afternoon was spent connecting him with the shelter. 12 phone calls and 10 emails. One of our aging baby boomers wants a more contemporary service.
Sun—Prayer. Set up for catechism and church (communion). Adult Class. Bulletin was late for AM service. 5 guests for lunch (good day for visitors!). Reviewed notes for PM sermon. PM service—the pianist didn’t show. Calvin would have been proud of us. Emergency session meeting; the elder is really unhappy. Don’t know how many phone calls and text messages setting up the emergency session meeting.
[This post first appeared in 2008 on the HB]