“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” (Ephesians 4:11)
The U.S. Congregational Life Survey is a massive, ongoing effort to research the attitudes, opinions and perceptions of worshipers (500,000 of them!) and clergy (several thousand of them!) from 5,000 congregations (mostly Protestant but also Roman Catholic). The first wave of surveys were conducted in 2001 and since then, additional surveys occurred in 2008 and 2009. Any congregation or parish take complete the survey online.
The purposes of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey are:
- to provide congregations with resources that will help them better understand themselves, identify their strengths, and stimulate their efforts to create a positive future for themselves.
- to develop resources that help congregations assess their ministries and relate more effectively with their communities
- to provide a national and international congregational data base that will enable congregations to look at their ministries in relationship to denominational, national, and international benchmarks
- to provide denominational leaders, congregational consultants, and congregational planners with information and resources to assist congregations
- to assess change over time
Today all congregations are invited to take the U.S. Congregational Life Survey to learn more about their worshipers and to identify congregational strengths.
Orthodox clergy interested in viewing how other clergy apportion their working time may find this post useful. This particular article on the findings of the U.S. Congregational Survey relates to the non-Sunday morning work of clergy. The difference between Orthodox clergy and other confessions of the Christian faith will be immediately apparent. Since the Orthodox Church is liturgical and sacramental par excellence, a greater percentage of a priest’s time will be dedicated to worship. Indeed, at some seasons of the year, liturgical service is almost all a priest can manage, perhaps squeezing in a few hospital calls and crucial meetings around altar responsibilities.
One very large and new component is not identified. It concerns the digital world – websites, newsletters, social media, software and systems, which will unfortunately follow the priest wherever he goes and whatever he is doing – including family time. The experience of the editor of this website, working with hundreds of Orthodox clergy, is that this brave new digital world both saves time and increases time in different ways, but overall, it significantly increases the amount of time a priest works each week due to necessary call backs, texts and emails. So for most priests it is a constant interruption, allowing precious little time for reading, study, reflection, meditation, personal prayer and family time, which was already at a premium.
What do clergy do all week?
By Becky R. McMillan
Church members are often unaware of what their pastors do all week and how much time they spend doing it – often only seeing them for one hour a week. This misconception of how clergy use their time can have negative consequences. Pastors express concern that their members seem mystified over how they spend their time. Some tell of complaints from members whenever they do not see the pastors’ car at the church. Pastors have expressed concern that this lack of understanding contributes to church members resisting the idea that the pastor should have a set day off or time away from ministry for renewal.
Clergy obviously work more than one hour a week, but what they do or should be doing during their week is often a mystery – and not just to church members. When we interviewed local church pastors for our national survey, a frequent request they made was, “Let me know how other pastors spend their time.” Our survey of local church pastors, which includes only senior or solo pastors and no associate pastors, provides a unique opportunity to examine the way local church pastors spend their time.
1. The Typical Week: planning worship, pastoral care, administration, teaching.
One half of all pastors in the survey reported working between 35 and 60 hours per week. One quarter reported working more than 60 and one quarter reported working less than 35. The middle fifty percent of full-time (those working for the church 40 hours or more per week) Protestant pastors reported working between 42 and 63 hours per week. Table 1 shows the median hours per week pastors report working for their church and the median percentage of that time per week that pastors spend in the core tasks of ministry.
The remainder of the work week not accounted for by these core tasks of ministry is taken up by other tasks specified by the pastors, such as: fundraising, writing articles, correspondence, volunteer chaplaincy, and helping to oversee other ministries as board members or advisers.
Pastors appear to spend about an hour a day in prayer and meditation and about 1/2 hour a day reading for purposes other than preparing their sermons. These hours were not counted as part of the “work week” for the pastor; though they contribute in vital ways to the health of the ministry of the congregation.
These figures are from a random sample of local church pastors from across the country and include both full- and part-time Catholic and Protestant clergy who are senior or solo pastors of a local church or churches.
|Total Hours Spent per Week||46|
|Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship||33|
|Percent of week providing pastoral care||19|
|Percent of week administering congregation’s work and attending meetings||15|
|Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry||13|
|Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs||6|
|Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation||7|
|Hours Spent Reading, other than for Sermons||4|
2. Catholic Priests: longer work week, more administration
In Table 2 we see that Catholic priests and Protestant pastors allocate most of their time similarly, although priests report having to spend nearly double the percentage of their time in administration. This is due no doubt in part to the larger parishes they serve overall, but may also be a result of less reliance on lay leaders for administrative roles in the church. There is some evidence that Catholic priests spend more time in prayer and meditation, although statistical tests of differences in time spent in these two areas are not significant.
|Total Hours Spent per Week||52.72||46|
|Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship||31||33|
|Percent of week providing pastoral care||17||19|
|Percent of week administering congregation’s work and attending meetings||31||14|
|Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry||9||13|
|Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs||5||6|
|Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation||10||7|
|Hours Spent Reading, other than for Sermons||4||4|
3. Part-time vs Full-Time Pastors
Catholic priests report working more hours for the church during each week – a median of 53 hours versus 46 – and the difference in total hours worked per week is statistically significant. This difference is not explained by a higher proportion of part-time pastors serving Protestant churches, even though 27% of Protestant pastors work part-time, while only 18% of Catholic priests work part-time. Table 3 compares the number of hours and time use for part-time and full-time pastors.
The median work week for full time Catholic priests remains 8 hours longer than that of full-time Protestant pastors, and the difference remains statistically significant.
Part-time pastors, whether Catholic or Protestant, work about half as many hours per week as their full-time colleagues and, as expected, allocate a higher percentage of their time to preparing sermons and worship.
|Total Hours Spent per Week||28.08||58||24.02||50|
|Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship||41||30||41||32|
|Percent of week providing pastoral care||15||17||16||20|
|Percent of week administering congregation’s work and attending meetings||29||33||11||16|
|Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry||12||8||11||14|
|Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs||7||5||8||6|
|Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation||7||10||6||8|
|Hours Spent Reading, other than for Sermons||9||4||2||5|
4. Solo vs Senior Pastors: even with staff, still plenty of work to do
We expected that having other ordained clergy on staff would impact the way pastors allocated their time.
However, we find that there is little impact on what proportion of time is spent on the core tasks of ministry. Table 6 compares hours worked and time allocations between pastors with no ordained staff members (solo pastors) to pastors with ordained staff members. The median proportions of time spent on each task are quite similar, although the hours worked are statistically significantly higher for Senior pastors.
|Total Hours Spent per Week||49||54|
|Percent of week preparing for preaching and worship||32||33|
|Percent of week providing pastoral care||20||20|
|Percent of week administering congregation’s work and attending meetings||15||17|
|Percent of week teaching and training people for ministry||14||14|
|Percent of week involved in denominational and community affairs||7||6|
|Hours Spent in Prayer & Meditation||8||8|
|Hours Spent Reading, other than for Sermons||5||5|