Twice this week I’ve had comments about clergy workload. I don’t think that the people making the comments were aware of the weight of their words.
One suggested we get together socially some day for coffee; when I mentioned that I usually have a full work calendar during the week, there was genuine confusion that I had set ministry commitments beyond Sunday mornings.
Another person, in a discussion on Thom Rainer’s blog “How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation” (spoiler: 114!) suggested that 40 work hours per week seemed like a good idea, but wasn’t going to happen.
The first comment came out of misunderstanding of how a clergy’s work week is structured, yet could inadvertently feed into the myth that clergy only work an hour each week (less if the choir sings an anthem!).
The second comment was intended to support a realistic expectation of workload, but could inadvertently feed into the myth of acceptable overworking and 24/7 availability.
These two comments, in such stark contrast to the other, reminded me of the need for balance in my workweek. Under normal circumstances, 40 hours is a healthy amount of time for full-time ministry—all ministries, lay and ordained. In my experience, as a clergy person, there is some flexibility in hours—some weeks involve more hours, obviously; yet those need to be balanced by weeks with fewer hours.
These comments also reminded me of the opportunity to be a role model of balance. I aim to demonstrate the benefits of engaging in rewarding work as well as the necessity of sabbath rest. I aim to model availability whenever life throws a curveball, but also that limits need be set on accessibility. I demonstrate accountability for my time to the Parish Council, and I rely on their support in helping to maintain a sustainable workload.
Balance: it’s essential to establish and maintain; it’s essential to adequately communicate to those with whom we serve, so expectations can be realistic.
How do you maintain balance in your work-life? How do you support those with whom you serve? How do you support your clergy in their quest for balance?