After I blogged about my husband going full-time as pastor and dissolving his fire alarm business, I received the following comment:
I have watched many of your husband's sermons and especially liked the one on hard work and how men were made work every day. I've always admired pastors who have work outside of their ministry. I am surprised that Pastor Anderson has given up his business! What does he do to keep busy now? I guess I've never really understood what pastors do outside of writing and delivering sermons.
I venture to guess that this reader is not the only person who has ever wondered what pastors do with all that free time they must have when they are not preaching, so I thought I would write a post to answer that question.
First, let's look at the "writing and delivering sermons" part. It doesn't sound like much, does it? But who here really has experience what it's like getting up three times a week, for 1 hour or more, delivering a speech? (The one hour is just the preaching part. The services are longer than that.) The pastor is not just up there doing a filibuster, reading off a pre-made script just to kill time. In order for him to monologue, with content, truth, authority, and knowledge, much study and preparations must go just into the "writing sermons" part. In fact, just to give you an idea, our church has many "preaching classes" for young men desiring to go into the ministry. If they wish to preach a sermon in the class, it must be about 10 minutes long. It takes these young men literally HOURS to put together a coherent, well-thought out, biblically sound sermon of 10 minutes length. If you don't believe me on this part, try doing it yourself some time, and then preach it to others and time yourself. How much more doing it for 3 hours, every week, always teaching and not sounding like a broken record? Politicians employ people whose whole job is to do nothing but write speeches, and what they come up with is not even nearly as intelligent as my husband's worst sermon.
As for "delivering sermons," again, the reality is a little bit more laborious than that might sound. The Pastor does not just blow into church moments before the service starts, and leaves as soon as it is over. My husband gets there early to straighten and clean the building (which it always needs right before a service, no matter how often it has been done during the week), greet members and visitors, etc. In addition, my husband teaches a Spanish class on Sunday mornings, for which he writes the curriculum himself (again, more work).
After the service, our family stays for at least an hour every single time, answering questions, fellowshipping, and just generally caring for the "flock." There often are visitors who came from far away, just to meet the pastor in person, so we spend some time with them, or may even take them out for lunch. Sundays are the hardest day of the week for the Pastor and his family, hands down. It is a 12-hour work day no matter how you slice it.
This does not stop once Monday rolls around. With over 100 members in our church, at least one of them is calling us every single day with an issue or problem they are facing, which we then address/assist as needed. Just because we do not publicly relate all the personal details of people's lives, does not mean these things aren't happening. In many ways, it's like being a parent - somebody is always needing your attention. Someone with no children would never understand how much of your time that could possibly take up.
Then of course there is soul-winning. My husband spends many hours each week going door-to-door. In addition, much time is spent printing, cutting, and folding invitations, as well as planning which areas to knock doors in next, keep records, follow up, etc.
Many, many more hours are spent on study and learning. This could be reading and memorizing the Bible, which is crucial for those who want to write sermons that use more than one little snippet of a verse plus a lot of fluff. This could also be practicing the piano or another musical instrument, another critical skill to have when called upon to fill in as the pianist in a pinch. If playing the piano were so easy, everyone would be doing it. It takes much patience and practice to become good enough at it to play in church for a congregation.
Then, there is the administrative aspect of running a church. We deal with everything from doing the banking, to dealing with the stacks of mail every day, to record-keeping required by law, to phone and email inquiries, making the bulletin each week, etc. My husband receives literally hundreds of emails every single day, far more than he could ever hope to respond to. We purchase all the supplies necessary for church, which is basically everything you see from hymnals to toilet paper. Just keeping everything in stock can take a couple of hours per week of shopping. I know, because I used to be the one doing it.
The constant cleaning of the building alone takes hours each week. This is not taking into account that we have some special activity going on at our church on a weekly basis. This could be a wedding, baby shower, chili cook-off, church picnic, homeschool field trip... you name it, we have something going on every week. Events such as that pretty much take up our entire family's whole day that day, but sometimes as much as three full days (such as setting up and preparing for a wedding, and then cleaning up the aftermath).
Of course, our church also has a major internet presence, which is likely how the person who originally posted the question came to find out about us. Well, building such an internet presence takes a lot of time. Not only do the various websites need constant attention, but many hours each week are spent converting files and uploading the sermons, outtakes, etc. Again, there are people whose whole job consists of nothing but doing that.
As if all this is not enough, my husband is at this time also working about 8 hours per day on another documentary exposing false Bible versions. Last year, he spent months working on "After the Tribulation," which has been viewed by millions and really shaken the once-popular, but false pre-trib position. When he was finished with that, he worked on the 22-hour Revelation series.
I could go on and on, but I am getting tired just writing all this. My husband works about 60 hours per week on average, down from 80 to 90 while he also ran his business. He used to do much of his sermon preparation, study, and other similar aspects of pastoring from the road while driving for business, but I am very thankful that he has reduced his stress level to something more sustainable. At the moment, he is not being paid by church as he continues to collect payments from his fire alarm clients, but will start taking a full-time salary from church once he formally dissolves his business.
From the question, it almost sounds as if pastoring alone is not a full-time job, and certainly not one worthy of a salary. Even when my husband had his business, he always resented people having an attitude toward their own pastor that he was "just" a pastor, and did not also have a "real" job. The Bible is very clear on the fact that being a pastor IS a job in and of itself. The only apostles/evangelists the Bible records as not receiving a salary from their sending church (though it makes it clear that they had every right to, if they chose to) were single men. Not married fathers of many pastoring a great church in their spare time when they were not tied up providing for their families.
Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. (1Co 9:14)
Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. (1Ti 5:17-18)
The word "honour" in the above verse is referring to financial compensation, or as it used to be called, an honorarium. It then likens preaching to an ox treading out the corn, which no doubt is a very physically taxing job. Preaching, or any public speaking for that matter, is incredibly exhausting, both mentally and physically. On Sunday nights, my husband gets home from church and pretty much collapses into bed without delay.
Pastoring is like parenting - much harder and more time consuming than anyone who has never done it could ever imagine. It involves the whole family, on a level that I will not even go into here, because I am thankful for my husband's ministry and the opportunity to serve God. As with parenting, the rewards are also much greater than we can imagine.
Saying, "what does it really entail besides writing and delivering sermons" is like asking a mom what parenting involves besides feeding and clothing the kids.
If you have a good church and a godly pastor that you love, thank God for them, and look for ways to build up, help, and support your pastor and his family. No, they are not perfect, but they love you, and they love serving the Lord. They do a job that is much harder than it may look, which may explain why good churches and sound preaching are getting harder and harder to come by.
I hope this answers the question as it was asked, as well as questions of those who haven't asked, but wondered.