Monday, November 7, 2011

What do you do all week?

The guys at the local bar/coffee shop/restaurant/town meeting place like to rib me since I only work one day a week. I retort that yes, I only work one day a week, but I only get two days off all year long.

This business of only working one day a week is, in my experience with myself and my friends in the ministry, where the parish antagonists are likely first to strike against the pastor: he's lazy, what does he do all week, why are we paying him so much for so little work, etc.

Thus it is good general advice to young pastors, a pastor in a new a place, or a pastor who can see some conflict on the horizon to keep a daily log of just what he does all week. Lawyers have to do this all the time: they have to show what they are doing every 15 minutes (every 10 minutes if your hourly is high enough) in a "billable hours" journal. It is really handy to be able to plop this down in front of the board of elders, the district president, or the antagonist in the parish - it cuts them off at the pass.

And there is an added benefit to keeping this journal for at least a month or so every year: it gives you a chance to review how effectively you are using your time. I've rearranged my schedule more than once based on what I saw in my habits. As every pastor knows, a "normal week" is hard to come by - but by keeping this journal you can devise a "normal week" as a goal to aim at, keeping in mind the sort of contingencies you've got to expect in your parish. FWIW, here's my "normal week."

Sunday: Set up at church: 6am; Bible Class 7:30; Divine Services 8, 9:30; Bible Class 10:45. Usually home by 12 or 12:30 and usually have the rest of the day free.

Office/Study/Visit Days (Mon-Thurs)
Daily Mon-Thurs: Prayer, Scripture reading, and study: about 1.5-2 hours where it fits. Usually morning, but also at noon or in the afternoon.

Monday: Morning: in the office - prep services, newsletters, communication with parishioners, parish planning, writing (for this blog, papers for presentations, etc - not sermons), etc. About a third of the year there is a women's Bible study from 9:30-10:30. During the school year, opening chapel at 8:30. Afternoon: visits, errands, more of the morning stuff. I often spend either the morning or the afternoon visiting the sick or putting out fires that I learned about on Sunday. Evening: maybe once a month on average I have a meeting on Monday night.

Tuesday: Men's Bible study early. Then opening at school at 8:30 during the school year. The rest of Tuesday looks a lot like Monday. It is often a good day to visit the far away shut ins. Once a month this is Winkel Day and school board meeting in the evenings. Tuesday evening is the night I also set aside for meetings with parishioners, visits of delinquents, writing notes, etc.

Wednesday: Every other month during the school year, chapel at 8:30. Lunch with my wife (I often don't eat lunch or eat it at weird times, always on the run and alone as I like to think while I eat. On Wednesday I bring in something special from the bar/restaurant/coffee shop and we have lunch together.) Prep for Wednesday night stuff. Evening: 5 - set up for DS; 5:30-6:15, set aside to hear confession; 6:30 DS; 7:00 - catechesis for government school kids and whatever adults are "in the system."

Thursday: Morning coffee at the bar to catch up on all the local "news" (that is, gossip and BS) with all the old men. This is the main place I learn who is angry with me, who is sick, etc. 8:00-10, opening and catechesis at the school. 10:00 - sermon writing. Afternoon: the long list of what hasn't been done yet this week, all the leftovers.

Friday: Scheduled day off. Especially during the school year I might be stretched into doing a shut in call this day, but I am pretty good about taking it completely off.

Saturday: More than half the time I also have Saturday basically off as long as Thursday went well and there is no sermon hanging over my head.

One thing you will notice about my schedule is the paucity of evening meetings. I am just blessed in this regard: my people hate meetings as much as I do.

This week is off to a normal start. It's Monday at 9:45 and here I am writing, with my study done for the day. Though not my prayers and Scripture reading! This is a perennial problem with me. I find it very easy to put that off until later in the day even though I am always happier when I do it first. I should repent. I have three people to check up on, but they can all either be dealt with via email or wait until the afternoon. Now it's time to get the Advent services figured out and maybe a shut in call this afternoon. Deer season is also coming up, so if I have extra time today I might get sermons done ahead of time. I should have tonight off to hang out with the family.

I honestly don't understand you guys who take Monday off instead of Friday. Do you ever really get it off, free and clear?



  1. Thankfully, I've only had one member ever confront me for an accounting of my time...publicly at a voters meeting. The rest of the voters shot it down and expressed their trust. That was years ago, but I like your suggestion to make a log to periodically evaluate one's stewardship of their time. I think I'll take your advice.

    Frankly, most of my day-off Mondays are "free and clear," but it always seems when someone is having a major surgery, it's on a Monday. Since my daughter started elementary school (she's in 1st grade), I've been taking Saturdays off, too, so I'm home all day with the whole family. This was at the prompting of the elders, who said, "You know, Pastor, you only get one day off. Most everyone else gets two. Why don't you take two days?" So I've been trying to do that, although I do find it difficult to get everything done with a 5 day "work week." We also have once a month elders meetings on Saturdays along with the occasional LWML event (I'm zone counselor...but not for long). I do find that I've been putting in more sermon prep at home after the family is in bed.

  2. I take Mondays off and I always get them off. The reason is that we have a Saturday evening service in addition to our Sunday morning service. That is, I work on Saturdays. I am at church by 3:00 to have everything ready by 4:00 when our coffee hour starts. Because of this I am very adamant about my day off. It is for me and for my family.

    In addition, I scheduled myself to have evening study hours on Tuesday. So I also have Tuesday morning off. This gives me from after service on Sunday until Tuesday morning free. That is my weekend. We can travel to see my parents a mere 90 minutes away and stay two nights with them, getting back in plenty of time on Tuesday.

  3. The world will end on a Monday; I am sure of that. Every disaster that accumulated over the end of the previous week spills over on Mondays.

    I have three evenings tied up weekly (Monday Bible study closed with Compline, Wednesday catechism closed with Evening Prayer, and one additional evening for appointments for those unavailable during the day). On those days I am at work from 6 am to 8:30 pm generally without a break. I have made it a habit to schedule full days and not to run back and forth but to compress things into a few days so that I have extra time for the unforeseen and the emergency. I take all of Friday off (except for the occasional wedding rehearsal) and I take Saturday off from Noon on). Sundays I am at the Church from 5 am to 5 pm nearly every week. We have meetings after the services on Sundays, we have occasional concerts, and we have enough special events to make it almost a rule that Sunday is a 12 hour day. I spend the first several hours doing my blog, studying, praying, reading, generally without interruption. I have preschool chapels a couple of times a month (shared with the asst pastor) and I spend hours a day on the phone (the preferred means of speaking with the Pastor here). I have tried posted hours for private confession and instead find that most of the people who want to come and talk to me really want to come for private confession so I generally schedule those as appointments. We have a staff of 25 people (including preschool) so this becomes a church within a church and requires significant time administering the needs, issues, emergencies, etc. of the staff. I work harder than I ever have (not complaining and am well paid) but it makes me long for a small congregation in which I could spend more time with my people -- aside from pastoral care emergency or conflict. Maybe in the next parish... if one comes.

  4. I take Mondays, because it is so much easier to relax on a Monday than on a Friday, with a sermon coming up. I rarely, if ever, have "church" things to do on Mondays, except a Winkel once a month.

    Pr. Timothy Winterstein

  5. Since I was on vicarage I have always taken Saturday off because my wife was going to school and taking Monday off would leave me home alone with nothing to do. Since we have kids in school now to take any other day off would not make sense. In this parish over ten years it has worked quite well. Of course there are Saturdays when things pop up but that happens in the Ministry on any day. I am usually home on Sunday between 12:00-2:00 depending on whether I have a Service at my second point. I also rarely go into the office on Monday but I have set aside Mondays for a time of study and find it doesn't work if I go into the church so I read and study at home. I have found this time of study each week essential. On Mondays I also begin preliminary work on the sermon and then have it in my head all week. Tuesday evenings are when I have meetings or visits, Wednesdays we have our "Sunday school" after school and Wednesday night I have bible study as well as on Thursday morning. Friday I reserve mostly for sermon writing and practice.

    Of course throughout the week there are the shut ins, member visits, senior homes services, etc., etc. But I find my schedule works well. I don't have too many meetings as the council and elders decided to meet bi-monthly a number of years ago and it has been a blessing.

  6. He is either blessed, or a very new pastor, who has never experienced the attack of the clergy killers. In the ultimate, "you don't do anything" jab, I even had one person confront me with the accusation that I get all my sermons from a book.

    A time log such as this would have been helpful, but in my experience, they would probably hate you even more if you had such a ready defense.

  7. Fr. Diers,

    Very true: there are some folks who simply will not be convinced. But having such a ready defense can certainly help bolster one's supporters.



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