Office Hours And The Average Pastor

office-hoursIf 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.

Do you keep office hours?  How does it help you?  I’d love to hear from you.


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