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What Clergy Do All Week

What Clergy Do All Week Pastor Clergy Minister Christian Collar Lilly Foundation Funding Grants Insights into Religion News

Many church members might think the life of the pastor is spent preparing for that one-hour Sunday worship. A survey of Roman Catholic and Protestant pastors shows they do a lot more.

Becky R. McMillan noted, in her report titled “What do clergy do all week?,” that preparing for preaching and worship is, indeed, the most time-consuming task clergy perform. But clergy also find the time to provide pastoral care, attend meetings, train people for ministry and assist in denominational and community-wide events. A majority of full-time Protestant pastors reported working between 42 and 63 hours a week. During that week, the two biggest tasks were preparing for Sunday morning services (one-third of their time) and providing pastoral care (nearly one-fourth of their time).

Catholic priests, the survey found, work more hours -- a median of 53 hours vs. 46 hours for Protestant clergy. Those extra hours were devoted to administrative tasks. The survey shows that priests spend 31 percent of their workweek overseeing the church, compared with 14 percent among Protestant pastors. McMillan suggests this is because Catholic parishes tend to be larger than Protestant congregations, and priests may rely less on lay leaders to manage administrative affairs. Like Protestant pastors, Catholic priests also spend nearly a third of their time -- 31 percent -- preparing for worship.

African-American pastors worked the longest hours of all, and spent more time teaching and attending to denominational or community affairs. The median workweek for black pastors was 72.3 hours, regardless of denomination.

Male and female pastors work about the same number of hours each week, the survey found. However, women pastors tend to spend more time in pastoral care and in administration and less time preparing for preaching. Female pastors spend 24 percent of their time providing pastoral care; male pastors spend 19 percent. Female pastors spend 23 percent of their time attending to administration; male pastors only 15. That leaves female pastors with about a quarter of their time getting ready for Sunday worship, while men devote one-third.

Having hired help, the survey found, does not free the pastor to work fewer hours. In churches with more than one minister, the senior pastor spent a few more hours on administrative duties, while keeping roughly the same amount of time for the other core tasks of ministry. Senior pastors, the survey showed, worked a median of 54 hours compared to 49 hours for pastors with no ordained clergy working alongside them. The survey does not attempt to explain why senior pastors work more hours.

Finally, a comparison of mainline and conservative Protestant pastors showed that conservative clergy spend more time on preaching and worship and less time on administration. While mainline pastors spend 20 percent of their time attending meetings and running the church, conservative pastors spent only 12 percent of their time on those tasks. Conservative pastors also spent more hours in prayer and meditation, about 10 percent of their time compared to 6 percent among mainline Protestants.

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