Monday, November 26, 2007

Open Forum: The Pastor's Schedule

All entries are open for comments, but Open Forum posts especially ask for discussion and feedback...

This has been a point of interest for me lately after several conversations with colleagues in ministry. It seems to me that we're all on different wavelengths about time off, which days to take off, how long each day goes, and so on. But moreso, I keep getting the impression that at least some other pastors generally regard my schedule in particular as some sort of anomaly ("You have two days off?" "How is it that every week you write about a new book?"). We're all different, so that shouldn't be too big a surprise. And that's to say nothing of church members who may wonder what their pastor does all week, even less so some of Coffeewife's non-churchgoing friends who were in all earnestness surprised when they learned that I do work more than an hour a week. I know that that's the old joke, but they weren't joking (they weren't being mean, either).

Either way, this is my typical weekly schedule. I made this an "open forum" post so that I could hear especially from other pastors about their week, just to see how each of us budget our time.

Monday is a day off. It's my favorite day of the week because it's that in-between time: I've finished Sunday duties and have yet to start the next week's worth of work. So I do some chores, read, watch know, "day off stuff."

Tuesday through Thursday I have office hours from 9:00 a.m. to noon. There are exceptions to this, as some Association activities that I'm a part of are scheduled on weekday mornings, so I may wander in late. Otherwise, I use this time for a lot of my studying and writing: bulletin, sermon, Bible study, youth activity, newsletter, etc. It's also the time to schedule visits, do all the phone call/e-mail stuff, and prepare for meetings.

I tend not to get too many visitors. If people stop in for other reasons such as handing off an announcement for the bulletin or newsletter, they'll wander in and chat. And people do occasionally stop in for more serious things. But most weeks, there isn't a lot going on. I used to make coffee just in case, but when I was the only one drinking almost the entire pot every day, I stopped that. Even I have my limit. (Side note: this is how I learned to drink it black.)

Weekday afternoons are visitation times. I take communion to shut-ins, I visit people in the hospital, I stop in just to catch up, I meet people for coffee. These days during a typical week, I may see anywhere between 2-4 people/households. This depends on what else is going on that week and how much I think I can handle.

After visits are done for the day, I'll wander back over to the church office for a while to do more studying/writing. But generally I won't stay past 4 or 5:00.

Weekday evenings follow a typical routine, though not always.

First, 5-7 p.m. is generally free time. So I'll exercise, read, lay around on the couch, whatever.

Tuesdays tend to be committee nights, and most committees don't last longer than an hour. So 8:00, I'm done for the day and watch Bones and House.

Wednesdays tend not to have anything scheduled unless it's Lent. So I'm usually done for the day by 5:00 and I'm not going to complain.

Thursdays tend to be Bible study. Again, I'm done for the day by 8:00.

Fridays are my other day off. Here is where some other pastors react in surprise and awe, to which I respond that my parishioners have two days off, so why shouldn't I? However, Fridays can sometimes be more muddled: there's the odd Friday church activity or surgery or funeral or something, so I may end up putting in some time. The same thing happens to Mondays, but seemingly not as often.

Saturdays are a workday, to Coffeewife's eternal dismay. I made this change back when I noticed that I tend to work a lot of Saturdays anyway: youth stuff, swiss steak dinners, weddings, wider church stuff, other special activities. Plus, it's a day when, if I need to, I can catch people who work during the week. And of course I make any sort of final preparations for Sunday worship. This probably won't last forever...I do have a baby on the way, after all. And in the fall I sometimes miss Michigan's game time. There will be, I think, some intangible aspect of my ministry that will be lost when I switch off of Saturdays, but that's a topic for another day.

Sundays are worship and sometimes youth things. The culture of this particular church tends to dictate that otherwise it's a family day and scheduling much else is a waste of time. I will head to the hospital in the afternoon if something comes up during the prayer time, and I'll look ahead to next Sunday. I may also use Sunday afternoons to plan the next month's preaching schedule (just the selected text and maybe a theme).

And that's pretty much it. I'll admit that it's not always the busiest job (and actually, the next month or so is probably the least busy time of my whole year despite what people may think...people are too busy with other things to want to do a lot of church stuff). I try to be intentional about self-care and time off and things of that sort, hence the two days off and my being able to pretty well read a book a week (not to mention the time that I have to sit here and blog).

So what about you? Is this that weird of a setup in your eyes? How do you make time for yourself, fellow pastor-types?


Jules said...

I began a comment, but it was too long, so I posted about it here.

KnittinPreacher said...

My days off are Friday and Saturday. I hold Friday as my own and do "day off" stuff, and as little work as possible. Saturday is usually the sermon, but that is on my time in my PJs on my couch. if I have a night meeting, I take time in the afternoon, or save the time and take comp days. I was very clear since day 1 that I have 2 days off a week and if the church takes one I get it back somewhere (not quite in that language, but you get the idea). So far it is working.

Beth Quick said...

I took cheesehead's route and made a post out of this too. ( Here ) But here's the end of it with the 'conclusions' I drew from my post:

- I notice how rarely my schedule brings me into contact with people outside the church world, or outside United Methodism even. John at Locusts and Honey recently posted something along this line.

- My church schedule also rarely brings me into contact with people who are not white, not middle/upper class, and not fairly well-educated. This is especially true in my current location. I preach about the gospel message of God's love of the poor and oppressed, but I don't actually spend very much time with the very ones I have said the gospel is good news for.

- My weeks are pretty full and busy, but most of the things I work on are week-to-week needs. Writing a sermon, responding to pastoral care needs, taking part in committee meetings. Just doing the regular 'work' of the church takes up so much of my time. I feel strongly that we need to be thinking more long-term, need to be talking about vision, need to be looking past just maintaining things, but I find it hard to find the space to do that without leaving other responsibilities undone. How do you make space to think big? Is there room in the way we do church for discipleship? Real ministry?

Jeff Nelson said...

Some very important points, Beth. One of the last books I read was They Like Jesus But Not the Church, in which the author details holding at least some "office hours" in local coffeeshops in order to better interact with his community, including getting to know other patrons and the staff. I've thought about doing this myself, but have yet to come up with a plan that I'm satisfied with.

But yeah, the model of ministry under which most pastors' schedules operate is a maintainer sort of model. And it can be very difficult to break the mold in order to be transformative.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I came over from Cheesehead's and I answered in a post here.

Timely topic for me...

Anonymous said...

I relate to Rev. Dr. Mom in that I tend to work until I get things done. For about three months, I tried forcing myself to take Mondays off in order to take a true day off, but by the time I started Tuesday morning I felt like I was already a day behind in getting things done. And if I had a mid-week funeral, my Saturday was shot. The first Monday I returned to the study after this "experiment", I immediately felt like a load had been lifted from my shoulders and I was "normal" again.

With my wife teaching Mon thru Fri, I don't mind spending time at the office on Friday if I have to finish something - this generally frees me on Saturday when she is at home.

Plan A: Monday is sermon prep - reading, commentaries, notes, etc., looking ahead a few weeks when possible. Tuesday is bulletin and bible study prep; bible study at 6, committee meetings three Tuesdays a month at 7:15. Wednesday is whatever needs to happen, which seems to be a lot; choir at 7. Thursday is sermon writing. And Friday is used when Plan A gets shot to pieces - a good twice a month.

Like others, I use the freedom in the solo pastor's schedule to take a few hours in the afternoon, schedule personal appointments when needed rather than on Friday, and so forth. I've never counted the number of hours I spend on church-related stuff; suffice it to say they get their money's worth from me.

The biggest issue with me is finding people to delegate some tasks to - such as newsletter layout - because I tend to be a perfectionist about what is produced from the office as a visual representative of the church.

Likewise, I would like to be more visionary and less task oriented. 'Tis my continued growing edge - which would partly be solved with a more visual and computer-proficient secretary, but that's another story.


Anonymous said...

I know that was a long response, but one more thought:

I also have community involvement, Kiwanis, Main Street revitalization organization, playing in a community symphonic band, etc. This is where I get outside the church and involve myself in the broader community.


Scott Couchenour said...

The important thing is to have a sabbath built into the fabric of the normal routine. Without it, passion becomes merely a vocation.

I think days off involve a combination of (1) a determination to have one day off per week as a sort of "page break" between weeks; and (2) adjusting the sails with the changing winds, depending on family needs, personal needs, congregational issues, etc.

KristaBeth said...

This thread is really interesting. I posted over at my place. Thanks!

a feckless boy said...

I have just decided to limit my hours to 40 a week and take 2 days off -almost seems blasphemous...

Living the Biblios said...

I work Monday-Thursday, Friday's off, Saturday's 1/2 day, and Sunday from 5:30am-church doors locked.

I like what a fellow preacher told me: "Pastors work only one day a year. Trouble is, you never know which one it is."

Anonymous said...

Today is August 7, 2008.
I've had 1 1/2 days off so far this YEAR. That includes the 2 weeks "vacation" my Board insisted I take in May, but then I had 41 phone calls the first week. :-/
Didn't bother to count the second week, - needless to say - it was no 'vacation' either.

Pastor Mike said...

I have wondered every since I was appointed to my current location what a typical schedule for a pastor looks like. My ministry here has been so different from the ministry I had with 4 small rural churches. In the first appointment I had something going on almost every day. Here I have something going on on Sunday Morning and that is about all. I yearn for a more active ministry because I'm afraid the lack of anything substantial will dull my ministry skills. Thanks for posting this, your schedule looks similar to what I would have expected mine to look like in other circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I know I am late on this post but I just had my review and one of the issues was my schedule. The biggest challenge is that I don't live in the area. I commute 55 miles one way. My congregation expects me to work 40 clock hours. Add on 11 to 13 hours of a commute and time is tight. the also require that I am off two days a week. Could I do better? You bet. So my plan is to work Sun through Thursday and dedicate days to certain tasks. Mon Tues, prayer, study, sermon prep, sermon wrirting. Wed visitation, Thursday adminstration and miscellaneous. The problem is that there are night meetings and so my days are not always 10 to 4 but noon to 9 or 10 so it gets complicated if I try to post a set schedule. Hey I am UCC I thought there were no rules? frank

Zachary Bartels said...

I take it you don't have kids... I wouldn't trade mine for the world, but your schedule made me a little jealous in its free-form nature..

Jeff Nelson said...

Zachary, I didn't back when I wrote this, but I do now with another on the way. My schedule has changed over the years to reflect that.