Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Workaloholics and Ministry

I finally got around to opening the November/December issue of Youthworker Journal. One of the articles stated that 80% of pastors surveyed felt that ministry has had a negative impact on their own family.

Recently, a friend of mine pointed me to a youth ministry job posting he was looking at. Part of the post read as follows, "Approximate time needed to perform position: 55 hours/week (including church functions) – must be available after school and weekends, when the students are available."

Is it just me, or is that part of the problem? I understand that, as a youth pastor, I need to be available at "odd times" when the youth are available. I also understand that I may need to put in over 40 hours a week. But 55? I'll ask my three readers to weigh in, if they would. It seems to me that, as a pastor, I do expect that those who are a part of the body will volunteer their time and talents to accomplish the work of ministry. As a part of the body, I therefore expect the same from myself. The way I look at it is that the church pays me for 40 hours and anything above that is done voluntarily by me. Should I expect people (myself included) to volunteer 15 hours a week to the church every week? Is that reasonable? Should I expect a family with young children to volunteer the same amount of time that a family without kids at home volunteers?

It seems to me that part of the problem of pastoral burnout is workaholism. Workaholism is a theological problem too. That is if I'm a workaholic I believe that ministry is primarily accomplished by me. Part of the problem are churches who expect their pastors to be workaholics. Now, there was a time when I was proud of my 60+ hour weeks, but no longer. If I have a 60+ hour week (or even a 55+) these days I feel like I've failed somehow, and that strikes me as being healthy. It seems to me, 40-50 is a much more reasonable expectation, knowing that occasionally there will be those weeks that require more, but this should not be the norm. I'd love to get some input on this one.


Blogger Len said...

Good post Brian. I think you are right. i'm probably in the 45-50 range. There are seasons where it's crazy, that's part of ministry, but to consistently have those 60-70 hours weeks illustrates the Parkinsons law. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson's_law

I put a link to your post on the YMX board hoping others will give input, too.

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian, I think there's something very wrong with that church. In my mind it's not OK to expect that anyone regularly work 55 hours weekly. A church with its head on straight is going to be aware that that is a path straight to burn-out. A healthy church is going to say "we expect you to make your family and your self-care a high priority. We expect you to invest time and energy in identifying and training volunteers to expand the ministry that can happen under you."

I'd never apply for that job. By the way, I'm a 12 year veteran in youth ministry, all at the same church, and I regularly work a lot more than my paid 30 hours a week. But I do it because it's my church and I have a vision of where I'm going and it takes me more time than 30 hrs. The difference is that I generate my hours, not that the church requires it. julie

11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that 55 hours would make me hesitate, but I'm curious does this include your own spiritual walk? I know that with our volunteers we could their time with God and prayer as hours volunteered. Also, if your church does small groups, is the group time included even if you're a member and not leading it? If the activity is something you'd be doing anyway, does it count as hours?

There are a lot of questions I would want answered before i make the judgment of if 55 hours is too much. Although it very well could be IF you don't have your spouse and children supporting you.

6:37 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I appreciate the comments and hope to get more before I comment/ interact with questions you have raised.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Jeff Greathouse said...

I think that the bigger problem (over the hours) is the boundaries and if we can set them.

Too many times, we think that we need to be available 24/7 and I think that is a HUGE MISTAKE.

We need to have clear-cut spaces that are our own and our families.

I also think that we need to learn how to be more flexible in our lives and do ministry / life in a better flow/rhythm.

1:39 PM  
Blogger The Thief said...

My thinking goes along the same lines as Jeff's. There must be a flexibility and flow. I understand that a YP needs to be available when the youth are, but not every night.

I try to order my life with God first, my family second, and the ministry third. This means that I'm flexible with my hours, knowing that some times I will put ministry work off until later because I need to spend some of that time with my family.

The other part of this that I didn't see mentioned is Sabbath. I'm convinced that Sabbath rest is the most broken commandment of ministry professionals, and when we neglect Sabbath, it's our attempt to take matters into our own hands instead of allowing God to have control.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Shannon said...

I think...know...that those expectations are what causes major burnout in Youth Ministers, fosters unhealthy relationships and hurts spiritual relationships.

2:07 PM  

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