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?