As in the case with most things, at least in my experience, the more you learn about something the more you become aware of how much you have yet to learn about it. I’ve been thinking about that lately as it relates to jobs.
In every job I’ve had, someone would inevitably ask the question, “What do you do all day anyway?” Implied in a question like that is, “How do you stay busy for 40+ hours a week?”
Going into seminary, I knew that pastors do a lot more than preach a sermon or two on Sundays. They also attend meetings, visit the sick, help plan services, and perform a number of other administrative functions for the church. What I never really stopped to think about is how much time all of that really takes.
This semester I’ve taken both a preaching course and a pastoral care course and I’ve learned that both take more time that I thought they would.
The time spent on pastoral care is very dependent on the size and the needs of the congregation, the staffing of that congregation, and a host of other factors. In addition, it is very unpredictable -- sickness and illness, deaths, accidents – many times these things come unannounced and require immediate action. Because of all those variables time spent on pastoral care is very hard to predict. So suffice it to say, it happens and it a vital and integral part of the job description of any parish minister.
On the other hand, sermon preparation is a fairly predictable and steady part of the job of a pastor. What I’ve learned is how much time it takes to prepare a 20-minute sermon. In general, even the most experienced pastors say it takes about 15-20 hours to prepare a sermon. The general rule of thumb is about 1 hour of work for every minute of delivered sermon. So if you attend a church where a pastor is expected to deliver to full-sermons a week, that works out to forty hours just in sermon preparation alone.
I was under the false assumption that sermons would go faster the more experienced one got at them. While that is somewhat true, there is only so many ways one can reduce prep time and still do the text justice. It’s like baking a cake…if it needs to bake for 30 minutes, it needs to bake for 30 minutes – there isn’t any way to make it cook faster.
So, what’s the point? The next time you wonder what your pastor does all day or you feel like he isn’t calling on you as much as he should, just remember that there is probably more going on behind the scenes than meets the eye. Extend some grace and have the attitude that they are doing the best they can. Love your pastor, because chances are, he loves you.