How many hours should church staff members work each week?

Larry Osborne answers the question:


The answer is a coin with two sides.On one side is what kind of work ethic can a leader realistically expect from the troops? On the other side is what kind of work ethic can Jesus rightfully expect from a Christian?

Today I want to look at it from the leader’s point of view. In my next post we’ll look at it from the staff member’s point of view.


The right question is: What did I hire this person to do and how well are they doing it? Here are some important things to keep in mind. If someone can get their job done with excellence in fewer hours than most people – more power to them. If someone else needs more time – keep the lights on. Now obviously I’m assuming that issues like character, integrity, and teamwork line up well. But all things being equal, it really shouldn’t matter how long it takes someone to do the job I’ve hired them to do. It should only matter how well they do it.

I’ve also noticed that, “How many hours should I expect?” is often code for “how many hours should they be in the office?”  When that’s the question behind the question, it’s usually asked by a leader who has a personality or work style that prefers the office. These types of leaders tend to forget the many nights out and off-site meetings that some of their staff members have. And since these meetings and events take place out of sight, they fail to add them back into the work ethic equation.

Not long ago I was talking to a pastor who was complaining about the work ethic of his youth pastor. Seems he never showed up at the office before 10am and was often out for long lunches, sometimes never to return. I asked the lead pastor if the youth group was healthy and growing. He told me it had doubled in size and that lots of great things were happening with the kids. I asked if the parents were happy, He told me, “Yeah, they love him. But I can’t ever keep him in the office.” I told him to fire the kid and give me his phone number so we could hire him.

Read more from Larry here…

What do you think of Larry’s response?  Is he right?  Are you asking the right questions?

What’s the average work week you ask/require of your staff?



  • Ed Rowell May 14, 2013 Reply

    Larry is right when he says office hours are an inaccurate standard of performance. But there are a couple of other issues here–expectation and accountability.
    1) Everyone needs a clear sense of expectation. For us it is 40-50 hrs a week, no more than two nights a week away from home. Our work week is Sunday-Thursday. Take all/most of your vacation every year.

    2) When working out of the office, everyone (including the lead pastor) is expected to let at least two other people know where they are and with whom at all times. Accountability not only keeps us from confusing activity with real work, it keeps us from that secret life that so many pastors develop over time that leads to ministry-ending sin.

  • Ezra May 14, 2013 Reply

    this is an interesting subject. I would like to ask if pastors require there staff to volunteer in a ministry outside of their normal job duties? Most pastors ask members who hold down 40-50hr workweek jobs to volunteer a few hours, so should those working in a church volunteer free hours too?

  • PastorShane May 14, 2013 Reply

    I ask this same question of myself on a regular basis. I don’t expect an answer but it is healthy for introspection.
    I pastor a small (but growing) church in the mountains. The church has no office and I work out of my personal vehicle.
    All of my sermon prep is done at home at the kitchen table.
    Funerals, weddings, counseling, home visits, study prep and a myriad of other things insure I work 40+ hours a week.
    I’m not sure a church should be supervising the number of hours a pastor spends in prayer and Bible Study.
    If a pastor is neglecting his duties — He has deeper problems than “work ethic”

  • Pete May 14, 2013 Reply

    I have re-worked my schedule at my church as the Director of Worship. I am not technically full time hours, and originally I was working Tuesday through Friday and Sunday (the rest of the staff worked Monday through Thursday 10-3). But I wasn’t always in during the whole office “work day” – I did a lot of work from home (during the day and evenings, late nights…) as well as Wednesday evenings with the youth group and Thursday evening worship practice, an occasional coffee with my various volunteers and a Sunday evening worship service that I was in charge of planning, organizing and leading (and the two services on Sunday morning of course).
    I found out that some of the staff were complaining because they didn’t think I was putting in my time (because I wasn’t in the office at the same time as them)! I was pretty hurt and upset at first, but decided to simply take my Friday off instead of Monday, and do more of my work from the office. I don’t think it is as efficient this way. I usually end up working way more hours than I am paid for – because I still end up doing a lot of work in the evenings – I’ve since dropped the Sunday evening service and moved rehearsal to before Sunday service, but still do the youth on Wednesday and coffee with volunteers and other random work from home in the evenings… but it has really helped the staff relationships and such. I’ve never really seen ministry as something we clock in/clock out of anyways.

  • konicaguy May 14, 2013 Reply

    I believe having certain office hours each day is acceptable, with the flexibility to go offsite to work as long as you have the accountability of where and what you are doing.

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