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My Work Week

I've written a bit about pastors and work-week schedules before, though not in much detail. But I just finished reading Coffeepastor's post about his schedule, and like Cheesehead, who responded with her own post, I thought I'd do the same. (By the way, Cheesehead mentions 'sleeping in' until 7:30 in her post, and I feel I need to have a serious talk with her about the meaning of sleeping in.)

My schedule has changed a bit since moving to a new appointment in New Jersey, although not drastically. And my schedule has never been very particularly structured. But here it is:

1) Days off: This is something I struggle with a lot. I try very hard to take Fridays off, and if Friday doesn't work, I take Wednesday off. The truth is, I almost never take an entire day off. Inevitably, I find myself doing some ministry-related work, reading, emailing, sermon preparation, etc. I think this is in part because as a single pastor, I have a great deal of control over my time. When I decide to work (or not) usually doesn't impact anyone but me. And I don't feel like I'm overworking (at least not most of the time) because I feel like it all balances out in the end. So there that is. I'm trying to be better about keeping a day completely off. But it's a struggle.

2) I don't have set office hours. I tried to keep hours in Oneida, and no one would ever stop in during those hours intentionally, or I would end up missing my scheduled hours all the time anyway, so it seemed pointless. My predecessor here didn't keep office hours, so I was happy to continue in his footsteps on that. I'm a night owl, and I sleep in until about 9am unless something else comes up. I usually do a bit of work at home - responding to emails, etc., and then head into the office around 11am.

3) At the office, I start working on my weekly responsibilities. At the beginning of the week, I work mostly on my sermon, my sermon blog/Sunday School lesson, long term worship planning, etc. Towards the end of the week I'm thinking about bulletins, powerpoint presentations, and children's sermons. I've actually been trying really hard this Advent to get my sermons at least started well in advance. So far, I've got at least part of all my Advent sermons completed.

4) Visiting isn't something I do on a specific day. I try to do this when I have a good window of uninterrupted time, or as needed. Some weeks I don't make any visits at all, and some weeks I make several.

5) Evenings - Like visiting, some weeks I have no meetings at all, and some weeks I have them Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. Thursday nights are for bell choir and choir, both of which I am in.

6) Weekends - I'm the conference youth coordinator for NCNY, and also a General Conference delegate, and these commitments, as well as some special church events, keep my weekends pretty full. Often this is why my Friday day-off plan doesn't work. But these weekend events are also some of things I love doing the most.

I got to the end of writing all that and almost didn't post it after all. I was thinking, who wants to read a detailed description of my work week? But then I started thinking about what my work week means for my ministry and what conclusions I can draw.

- 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?


Anonymous said…
You might not remember me from NEJ Youth, but it is great to run into your blog. Love it...Keep up the great thoughts. My Blog is at

I hope to see you at General Conference.
John said…
As I live five minutes from church, and the town is really tiny anyway, my schedule is all over the place. I mostly work from home and go out on visits or to meetings at all hours. Mornings are usually gym & Bible study, but everything else is a free for all. My exegesis is done by Wednesday at the latest, and I e-mail off my hymn selections and plans to my liturgist. I've been writing my sermons on Friday morning, which I don't like, but it's hard to get started sooner. Thursday is class day, which is a three hour drive each way to seminary in Orlando.

I've started creating daily to-do lists, which help keep me organized. Also, they cause workload to expand. But at least I don't forget important things.

The church is essentially getting me for 35-40 hours a week, even though I'm part-time. I'm the first pastor that lives in town in the parsonage in a very long time, and they like it.
Anonymous said…
I read your post about a your weekly schedule: this IS important and worth reading, especially for a new pastor who is looking to manage expectations (his own and that of his congregation - and home life too).

They teach us at seminary here in Toronto, that setting boundaries is the first thing a new pastor should do - a schedule helps you do that for all involved.

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