This morning I ran across a story that I found quite refreshing. Pastor Dave Widerski of Great Falls Montana opened up a portion of his life to show his local newspaper, the Great Falls Tribune what a typical day is like in the life of a pastor. The reason I found this refreshing is because so many people only see a pastor as the guy that works 1 day a week for a couple of hours a day and does not see the work that is done behind the scenes. Having been in pastoral ministry for quite some time myself, I have taken a few hits from people who are misinformed about the role of a pastor and what it takes to shepherd the flock of God. Recently I had a person try to label me as a money grubber out of ignorance. If a salary of $400.00 per week is money grubbing, please let me know what planet you live on! Pastor’s of normal churches in America are the least compensated degree’d professionals out there. Most have at least a bachelors degree but many have a master’s or a doctorate yet they are supposed to live on peanuts according to some people. Most do so willingly because their focus is not on financial gain but upon having the privilege of sharing the gospel with their communities. So take a little journey with me as I share with you Pastor Dave’s typical work day and then I will share with you some of my insights as well.
How much does a pastor really work?
Defining a “typical day” in a minister’s week is tough, the Rev. Dave Widerski says. He teaches classes, provides counseling, attends meetings and devotes about 25 hours to studying and sermon preparation every week. Rarely does the day fit into 9-5 confines; he and fellow ministers at Valley Community Bible Church consider themselves always on call as congregants deal with crises large and small.
He has a list of prayer requests from among the church’s 300 congregants and asks Bridgeman and Strutz if they know of others in need. The list expands to include a friend facing a knee replacement, a congregant with cancer and Associate Pastor Ron Maurer, who is on vacation. With his head bowed, Bridgeman begins: “We pray for our congregation … thank you for our friends and the great example they are to us.”
The first order of business is an update on a possible partnership with a church in a small town. ”What we’re looking at is partnering with the church as a second campus of Valley,” Widerski says. “We want to be a church that multiplies disciples.” Valley would need to “replant” the small and shrinking church with a pastor and congregants. The men watch a short video with ideas about how to forge such a partnership. The presenter likens a campus relationship to tiny early Christian churches that networked together as one.
The video says 3,500 churches in America close their doors every year “and that’s a big hit number,” Widerski says. “How can we as a larger church help them?” To share resources with a reseeded church would create leadership voids in their own church, he says, and that means opportunities to bring up others. ”You’re multiplying leaders and multiplying disciples,” he says. Widerski knows people who can help them through the process, should they decide to expand after “praying through it.”
The other ministers have their turn next to bring up issues. Bridgeman describes summer camps and meetings he’s planning to gauge interest in Saturday night worship. Strutz says seniors are planning summer activities. He recounted introducing himself to a new couple. ”The best things of all was I had to wait,” he says. “There were so many people visiting with them.”
The meeting closes at noon, and Widerski and Bridgeman share lunch and discuss a ministry opportunity for young adults. Widerski has booked the rest of the afternoon to study texts for the Sunday service. Then Widerski joins elders and deacons of the church for a meeting, his second late night in a row. He’ll finalize the bulletin and finish the slides that accompany his sermon.
Not all pastor’s workdays are the same.
A pastor is on call 24/7 365 days a year. It doesn’t matter if it is his day off, if I member of the congregation has a crisis in their life, a pastor is on call to meet that need. Personally everyone in my congregation knows my phone number. Recently I had someone call me from another Christian organization and was surprised to have me answer the phone personally. Small town and small church pastor’s do not have secretaries and receptionists. We are the only staff member. What is common to all of us is that the amount of time we spend in public ministry at the church is a small part of all that we do. The prayer, study, planning, counseling, involvement in the community, and the oversight of the ministries of the church take much more time than the time spent leading the worship services. Your pastor does a lot more than you might imagine.
My personal day as a pastor.
Like I said before, each pastor plans and prioritizes his work differently. I pastor a small church in a small community. The demands of the ministry that I am part of is not as great as others and honestly, it is not quite a full time job at this point. However the work of ministry in my life is full time. I start my day with about an hour of prayer. I don’t time it but I know that it usually is about that long. I then check my messages in my email and phone and respond accordingly. I take about 10 hours a week to prepare for the Sunday service, with most of that being taken in study of the passage that I am going to preach on. I had a wise Bible college professor tell me once that you should study 1 hour for every 5 minutes you are going to preach. It has been a good rule of thumb. I spend another couple of hours writing an article for the local newspaper every week. Most of those articles also end up on this website. I try to spend at least 1 hour per week involved in the community in some way that is not church related but is relational. This might include showing up at the local bar and grill for lunch and shaking hands with people not associated with the church or this might be attending a meeting of one kind or another. There are also those unpredictable things like being asked to go pray for a sick person or comforting someone who is grieving. It all depends. Like I said, my duties at the church are not as demanding as they are for others, however that does not mean I am sitting at home playing video games and eating bon bons.
I started this ministry a little over a year ago and it has grown to such an extent that it take almost 40 hours a week just to keep thing running right and growning. Never in my wildest imagination did I think a website would be such an effective ministry tool. Yet, like my salary at the church, it does not make me rich in the least. It pays for itself and buys me a dinner out every once in a while. Just like accepting the call to a church in a small community, running a Christian website is not something you do to get rich. You do it because you chose to touch the lives of people over financial gain.
What do you think your pastor does every day?
Were you one of those people that never really thought about the duties and calling of a pastor and just assumed it was a gravy job? Has your pastor been there for you when you were in a crisis in the middle of the night? When is the last time you thanked your pastor for taking on a job that most professionals would not take on? Did you realize how much preparation it takes to feed your soul on Sunday morning? I want to hear from you. What did you think your pastor does? Leave me a comment and share this article with people who think preachers are lazy and just out for money.