The Pastor’s Work Week

The Pastor’s Work Week

It was an honest question. In fact, I could tell by the somewhat pained look on my friend’s face that he thought it was something he should’ve known the answer to. But he didn’t.

“What is the office of a pastor supposed to look like?” he asked.

I looked at him, unsure of what he was driving at. “You mean, like a job description?” I replied.

“Not really a job description, more like what you do with the job description.”

“Like how to perform your duties?”

“Kind of. I guess what I’m asking is, what is a pastor supposed to be doing all day? Like, what are the duties and tasks that other pastors do during the day and how do they arrange them in a way that makes sense and is fruitful? I mean, I know I have to prepare sermons and connect with people, but I don’t know how it’s all supposed to look day in and day out. I don’t remember anyone ever explaining to me how a pastor should organize his day when I was in seminary.”

It was true. As I thought back to my own road in preparing for ministry, I don’t recall anyone laying it out to me, either.

Can we just be honest? The pastors’ work week is not normal. I know, we all suffer from the not-very-funny-and-mildly-insulting “pastor only works one hour a week” jabs, but like it or not, this is not a gig that’s greeted with time sheets and clock punchers at the end of every day.

So, I thought it might be helpful to lay out what the average week of an average pastor looks like and by average pastor I mean none other than yours truly. Who am I, you ask? I’m currently the lead pastor of two congregations, so I preach every Sunday morning and Sunday night, and then attempt to do all the things pastors do on the days in between Sundays.

Now look, the reason for posting an overview of my work week is to encourage you in these ways:

  1. You’re not crazy, and neither is your work week unless it lacks healthy margins.
  2. Don’t feel guilty about including times of R&R simply because you’re the one that gets to pick them.
  3. Every pastor faces unforeseen crisis that come out of nowhere, and some more than others.
  4. The mental weight of the pastorate never takes a day off, which is why it’s vital that you take time to get away from it all. Weekly!

What you won’t find below is a minute-by-minute overview of my days, but simply a loose template for how I order them in an attempt to create healthy rhythms to decrease anxiety and overload. I get it, we’re all in different life stages. Some of you have families resembling armies of small countries, and will need to be far more creative to ensure you are serving your church well without neglecting your family and your health. As I’ve grown in my own pastoral abilities, I’ve realized that the job has grown as well, and my need for good margins has never been more crucial. In fact, it’s actually increased. Given that reality, a healthy routine should be established to provide familiarity and steadiness when life is anything but.

 

Mornings

My mornings always start with prayer and reading. Whatever and whenever my first agenda item is for the day, I wake up in time to give myself at least an hour to pray, meditate, read…and drink coffee. Yeah, some days that’s super early, and not to get all Martin Luther on you, but how else do we expect to be equipped and encouraged to do the hard work God’s given us? Calisthenics? Don’t fudge on this one, gents. Like ever.

 

Monday & Tuesday

Dude, I’m tired on Monday. I don’t set my alarm which means I usually “sleep in” until about 7am which, for a morning person like me with no kiddos in the house, feels like half my day has already vanished. Mondays are restorative days for me. I don’t take them “off” for a couple of reasons. First off, I’m not at my “best” on Mondays. Sunday is a long day, so to take Mondays off and try to spend the day doing fun things with the wife (or family in your case) would not be a great option because they’re not getting the best of me. Secondly, since I’m not much of a sit-at-my-desk-and-do-admin type of guy, the Monday version of me – tired – allows me to do some of that more mundane and mindless work that I don’t enjoy doing when I’m feeling refreshed and ready to rock and roll.

So Mondays are spent reading, writing, meditating, answering emails, planning liturgy for Sunday, light sermon prep, spending some time by myself and generally creating space to reflect and be silent. I schedule no meetings, finish what I’m doing early, have dinner with my lady, and relax until bedtime. The only twist in my Monday routine is when we have our elders meetings, which are twice a month, on Monday nights.

Tuesday is not too much different, except I’m feeling much more energized because of the previous day. For me, Tuesday is spent buckling down on sermon prep, writing down observations I made from the day before and start to get some structure and order in place. This will be the day I work through some commentaries if I’ve made it that far.

So Tuesday is a writing day, putting the engine in first gear for Sunday, planning ahead, not scheduling any meetings, and finishing the day with another quiet night at home. If I have other writing to do, this is the day I like to do that, too. By the end of Tuesday, the hope is to have some good direction for Sunday, and have my head and heart prepared for Wednesday, which is the day I hit the ground running. I know, some of you with young kids don’t know what I just described, but hang in there.

 

Wednesday & Thursday

These are my big “people” days. I connect with my congregation, meet with my deacons and elders, drive to various appointments, reconnect with my surroundings, and drink a lot of coffee. Because I gave myself the space on Mondays and Tuesdays to get my bearings, I’m eager and energized to spend time with my people.

These days typically start early for me, with coffee, breakfast and more coffee meetings through lunch. If I have some space before lunch, I’ll jot down further notes for my sermon. A lunch appointment is followed by afternoon meetings scattered throughout the rest of the day. Because our two congregations are located about 25 minutes apart, I’ll most likely be on the road using the drive time to either pray, make phone calls, jot down sermon notes, or listen to music. Since Wednesday night is when my community group gathers, the day culminates with us hanging with our CG family.

Thursday is much of the same, but we reserve Thursday nights for times to get dinner with other couples, both old and new. In the middle of my two “people days” you’ll find me writing a lot of things down, doing a podcast, gathering my thoughts on the following week’s sermon, sending off innumerable texts, answering emails and keeping a general flow of multi-tasking in it’s right place. If it sounds chaotic, it’s actually not, since the focus is primarily on prayer, preaching and people. In the midst of it all, there are pauses, there are moments of downtime, and there is time to breathe out and reflect. The goal is to keep a modest, not manic calendar, that allows me to serve God and love people with the space I need to do it well.

 

Friday

I start to shift gears a bit on Friday. As I anticipate the weekend, I try to mix up my schedule a bit to break up the routine. This might be a day that I travel out of town to connect with some pastors, attend a pastors gathering, do some work for my denomination, or get down some good observations for next week’s sermon, and get appointments on the calendar for next week, etc. I spend my time in between wrapping the current week’s sermon and tying up odds and ends for the weekend. My wife and I will usually go out with a couple for dinner that night and something fun if possible. By the time Friday night comes around, we’ve had a lot of “people time”. My mind and body is ready to relax and start descending into Sunday morning.

 

Saturday

My day off! I like keeping the same schedule as most of our congregation, so taking Saturday’s off helps me do that. This is a time for me and the wife to get out of Dodge and do the things we like to do, like hiking, shopping, eating and spending time together. We are relatively recent empty nesters, so we have the freedom to pick up and take off with no distractions. Don’t hate. But Saturdays are our days. We have a no meetings, no appointments, “everything can wait until next week” rule on Saturday, barring an emergency or crisis. We treasure this day, so it’s something we highly protect. Saturday gives us the chance to change the subject from ministry to all the other things we have in our life that we don’t want to neglect. When money is tight, we’ll do things like go on hikes, read, get coffee, take naps and I know right now you’re thinking that this is the exciting life you’ve always dreamed of. It kind of is—for us.

 

Sunday

The big day. Sundays start at 4am for me. I wake up and spend a few hours getting my sermon organized and ready to preach. This is an important part of my prep time that I’m certainly not recommending to everybody, but seems to work for me. My mind is sharp on Sunday mornings because of the urgency and energy that comes from knowing I have to deliver a sermon. If the week’s gone right, I’ve spent enough work on the passage that my notes form into a good preaching outline and manuscript. Yes, I have both.

After morning service, we’re usually home by 1pm where I unwind with a nap and a walk with the Mrs., before hopping in the car at 3pm to drive to our night service with our other congregation. After the service and teardown, we’ll often grab a quick bite with friends, or have a meeting with our community group leaders. By the time we get home that night, it’s been a 16-18 hour day and my wife and I usually collapse into bed.

 

What About You?

Sometimes it can feel discouraging reading what other pastors do. It always feels like everyone else has a handle on how to do things “right”. Here’s something you should know: I don’t. I try my best to create weeks that cater to how God has built me, while being faithful to what God has called me to be, which is His servant. Everything I laid out above is constantly being refined and edited by God’s grace, which is the only chance any of us have to create a work week for our good and His glory.

 

Ronnie Martin is lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland & Wooster, Ohio and author of The Bridezilla of Christ (w/ Ted Kluck) and Stop Your Complaining: From Grumbling to Gratitude. You can follow him on twitter at @ronniejmartin.