If you are an average pastor, you probably work at church by yourself most of the time. Do you keep office hours? I do. Most average churches have one full time pastor or less (bi-vocational pastor). It is rare that a church of 100 people will have more than one full time staff member. I have been a solo pastor for 5 years, but I have been blessed to have at least a part time secretary in the office. I also have a few others who are around the church a couple times a week for a few hours. That said, most of my time in the office is by myself. I come and go as I please without anyone really knowing the difference. I decided to keep office hours every week. I work Monday – Thursday, 9am – 4pm. Like clockwork, I am here every day. I arrive on time and leave on time. Rarely does someone come by that I haven’t already made an appointment with. The church phone doesn’t ring often except when it is people selling something. Sometimes I wonder why I bother rushing out the door to come to an empty office. I could just take my time and come in whenever I want. Or I could just work from home in my pajamas. Many pastors do work from home. But for me, I have found that keeping office hours is good for me, good for others and its good for my family.
It is good for me:
- I have a job to do: When I worked on a staff, they expected me to be there because I had a job to do. That is no less true just because I am the only FT pastor. I have lots to do. And I never truly realize how much I have to do until I get here and get to work. Keeping office hours keeps me on track.
- I feel good about myself: In our profession, its isn’t always clear what we are accomplishing all the time. No one has any idea what we do all day. But I know what I did today. I showed up and worked hard, just like everyone else that attends this church. And that makes me feel like I have accomplished alot. I know that I earned what the church pays me to serve here.
It is good for others:
- I do work: It always seems to surprise people that I am “in the office.” They know my job is not 9-5. Pastoring never is. So they don’t always expect me to be there. There are plenty of pastors who have abused that reality. But knowing I am there helps demonstrate that I am doing what they brought me here to do. There is accountability and security on both sides.
- I am available: It is comforting to my congregation that the understand when they can expect me to be available. Office hours give people a reasonable time frame that they know I am available to them without feeling like they are imposing on me. It is a gift to myself and to my congregation.
It is good for my Family:
- Home is Home, Work is Work: Office hours send a message to my family that I have work time and home time. Early in my pastoring, if things got busy during the week, I worked on my sermon on Saturday night. I was not fully present with my family because I was working. And it caused problems. I resolved to do my work at work and have my home be my home. Except on the rare occasions of phone calls and other times I may need to take care of things, my home is reserved for my family. (Read my post “Today I am Not A Pastor” about how I handle my day off.)
- My kids know I go to “work” every day. My kids know that their dad goes to work. We talk and pray before I leave for work. It is a very comforting routine. But, they know when my day off is. They know on my day off I am with them. On work days, I am at work. It is consistent, week after week. I am showing my sons that responsibility and hard work is part of adult life. It is a value I hope that they will emulate when they are adults.
There are days I would rather just stay later at home, drink another cup of coffee and play on the floor with my kids. But keeping office hours is vital to my success as a pastor. It is the frame work of my life. It keeps me in rhythm and protects my work and family. Of course, when my time is taken from my family, I do give myself extra time at home as comp time. I keep that in balance. But it is Monday. It is 9:00am and I am at my desk ready to take on the challenges of a new week.