If you want to hear some strong opinions from elders, don’t ask about instrumental music or speaking in tongues; ask about the preacher’s weekday day off.
It’s becoming customary for ministers to expect a day off during the Monday through Friday work week. The premise is that Sunday is essentially a workday for many of them. They have to be at the building early, meet and greet, preach a sermon, perhaps teach a class, and come back on Sunday night for a second sermon.
Teen ministers don’t have to preach either time, of course, but they have to be “on” during, before, and after the services, teach a class, and often have teen events after Sunday night church.
In addition, the ministers often have nightime events, weddings, funerals, and emergencies in the evenings and weekends. Some receive a constant flow of phone calls at night.
I’m inclined to concede that ministers often need more time off than Saturdays and Sunday afternoon. But there’s a counter argument.
Some ministers spend Sunday afternoons working the phone, calling visitors, visiting in the hospitals, and make Sunday into a full workday. Some take naps, watch football, and minister at churches that have no Sunday night service at all.
Some have to lead a small group instead of preach, but in that case, they aren’t doing anything that dozens of other members aren’t also doing — and not being paid for.
To me, the fair comparison is to a member making the same wages as the preacher in a professional sort of job. If the preacher’s making $60,000, who in your church has a white collar job that pays the same? A junior CPA maybe? A middle manager in business? An engineer?
Now ask how many hours that person has to put in, including attending political fund raisers, “volunteering” at the Chamber to generate business, traveling on audits or jobs or trials, etc.? Now add in the time a moderately active church member commits to preparing a children’s class or adult class or small group and such like. And that’s what I figure a minister at that pay level ought to commit to the church to be fair.
(I’ve never suggested that a minister should match my own work ethic — just that of a typically active volunteer in their ministry who holds down a job making their kind of money.)
I’m not sure any minister agrees with me. I’m not asking them to match the work ethic of the most devoted, most church-obsessed members. Or the most type-A professional. Or an empty nester. Just work as hard as someone of similar age, similar job, similar family responsibilities for similar pay.
But whenever I speak in these terms, I get in all sorts of trouble. And so one day I called a friend who is the executive pastor at a large Baptist Church. I explained the conundrum and asked how to handle it. You see, he hires, supervises, and when need be, fires the age-group and worship pastors in his church.
He smiled, nodded knowingly (he’s very good at this), and said, “In each line of work, there are different expectations. If in your denomination the pastors, I mean, “ministers” expect to get a day off (and they do in my church as well), you can’t refuse. Rather, just take it into account in setting their compensation.
And so that would mean I look at fair pay taking into account the hours the minister is willing to work — “fair” being defined in part by how similarly situated ministers in other churches are paid and in part by the financial wherewithal of my congregation — but taking into account the day off somehow or other.
Now, the “somehow or other” is tough because of the accountability issue we considered in the last post of this series. If the minister won’t keep up with his time, how do I know whether to pay him like a 40+ hour professional or a 36-hour-and-no-more employee?
Blue or white collar, most Americans work more than 40 hours a week at their jobs. According to Business Week,
More than 31% of college-educated male workers are regularly logging 50 or more hours a week at work, up from 22% in 1980.
A 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey shows that working parents on average work more than a 40-hour week, and includes public and private employees.
So, I’m just saying that the average church-going adult works over 40 hours per week, often endures a long commute, attends church, Bible class, small group, Wednesday night, and prepares a lesson for a class or otherwise volunteers. That’s a lot of hours. Let’s see —
* 44 hours work (8.8 hours x 5 days)
* 2 hours Sunday morning worship and class
* 1 hour Wednesday night
* 2 hours small group
* 3 hours preparing to teach the 3-year olds
That’s 52 hours, assuming no more commute than the minister.
According to LifeWay Research, most pastors work far more than 40 hours per week.
Protestant pastors in America are working long hours, sometimes at the expense of relationships with church members, prospects, family and even the Lord.
A telephone survey of more than 1,000 senior pastors indicated a full 65 percent of them work 50 or more hours a week – with 8 percent saying they work 70 or more hours. …
When factoring out those who are not full time, the median number of hours full-time senior pastors work for their churches each week is 55 hours, with 42 percent working 60 or more hours.
I find those numbers entirely credible. I do. I just don’t see how you can take Mondays and Saturdays off, work 55 hours a week spread over 5 days (one of which is a Sunday), and not burn out. The occasional 11-hour day is the nature of life. Regular 11-hour days would be brutal. I figure that means many ministers are either not taking a weekday off or else are working on their weekdays off. In fact, I know some who do just that.
And I concede that there is a real difference between attending church and leading worship or preaching at church. It’s easier to just attend. But, of course, many who “just attend” are wrestling children in the pews, teaching hour-long classes, coping with screaming babies, putting on puppet shows, running the PowerPoint, or otherwise doing very hard work during church. The preacher isn’t the only one working or stressed during the service.
And so, dear readers, what do you think? How many hours is a fair congregational expectation, assuming the minister is being paid about the same as the similarly employed members of the church. (If you’re underpaying him, no fair asking him to work as hard as you do. He didn’t take a vow of poverty.)
And at what point are ministers at risk of burn out? It’s entirely legitimate for ministers to want to spend time with wife and children and have hobbies and, you know, a life outside work. Even if you love your job and pursue it with Spirit-infused passion, you still need some time away. And sometimes the elders need to urge a minister to delegate or just do less. What’s right and fair?
There are many causes of burn out, but for now, I’m thinking purely of the working-too-many-hours kind.
Of course, another way of looking at all this is to ask whether we’re asking too much of our members. Are we?
Another way of looking at this — and I know some elders and ministers who work this way — is the elders and ministers expect the minister to work a 40-hour week, or somewhat more, but not a lot. BUT they also expect the minister to volunteer just like a member — but his volunteer work is as a member, not a minister, so he’s not as “on” or responsible as, you know, “the preacher.”
The idea is that the minister should be as involved in church work as the rest of us mensches, that is, after he’s done his “regular” job, he then volunteers in some area outside his official ministerial capacity — allowing him to serve just as the members do and allowing him to get out of the ministerial silo.
And there is a certain appeal to seeing the preacher of a 300-member church volunteering for the grass cutting team, not because it’s his job, but because it’s not his job.
So it’s an idea — but an idea that’s not possible unless the minister’s work load in his “official” capacity allows it, which is often not the case.
Yes, of course, you could just pay the minister for “results,” but do you really want to pay him based baptisms? or membership growth? or contributions? And if not, then how do you measure the spiritual growth and maturity of the church? And how much of it do you credit to the preacher? Sometimes it’s from the Bible class teachers. Or the elders. Or the Holy Spirit. How do you measure the preacher’s contribution if you don’t know how he spends his time?
Now, I believe in paying ministers and in paying them fairly. They do very important work in the Kingdom and should be compensated for their time, energy, and sacrifice. It’s immoral to try to squeeze them for the last nickel.
I personally try to err on the side of generosity — to the extent the church has the resources. I just want to be fair to the church and Jesus as well. And it’s a very difficult thing to do in today’s world.