A note to Pastors: work Less

Alright. I am pretty fired up. In the past few weeks I have heard comments from people that get me amped. They all say it in different ways, but it goes something like this:

I am working a ton of hours each week. I have not had a day off since I don’t know when, and I can’t remember my last vacation.

image Usually it is said with some pride. “Good-on-me for the hard work. I’m getting it done.” Am I supposed to respond with a pat on the back or some kind of heroic award? Hello McFly, we are killing ourselves. Some of us have jobs that own us. This is not how life was meant to be lived. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it is a gift of God to enjoy work (Ecclesiastes 3:13), but this is out of control.

Don’t believe me? Get ready to be rocked.

Pastor Darrin Patrick from The Journey in St Louis offers the following statistics, which he gathered from such organizations as Barna, Maranatha Life and Focus on the Family. The following stats concern Pastors:

1500 leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, burnout, or contention

50% of Pastor’s marriages will end in divorce

80% feel unqualified and discouraged

50% would leave ministry but fear they couldn’t make a living

80% of Bible College and Seminary students will leave the ministry in the first five years

70% constantly fight depression

40% have had an extramarital affair while in ministry

70% say their only time reading the Bible is when they prepare sermons

And the icing on the cake:

50% of Pastor’s wives said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage was the day their husband entered ministry.

It’s time for somebody to stand up and put a stop to the bleeding. The kingdom is not advancing because the men who are supposed to be forceful (Mt 11:12) are depressed, overworked, under-spiritual, and have struggling marriages.

So, maybe your job is not full-time ministry, but I would bet that there are some startling statistics for your field. What are you doing so that your job doesn’t become your life?

After almost 20 years of ministry I can tell you that I am in this for the long haul. It’s a marathon and we have to pace ourselves. Here are some practical things I have put into place to make sure I am a healthy leader:

  1. I take days off each week. That’s right dayS. At MCC, our staff get two days off a week. I’ll be honest, some weeks we have things that creep into those days off, but they are the exception, not the rule. I know your argument: “You ask people to work a full-time job and then volunteer at church. It seems unfair for Pastors to have two days off per week.” My short response is: “Deal with it.” My long response is that I work 5 days and clock in 45+ hours. Plus I am extremely productive. It’s not about the hours punching the clock, it’s about the output; the results. I’ll save that for another post.
  2. I call my wife every afternoon. I have been doing this for 20 years. Am I whipped? Nope. I love my wife, I have a great marriage, and am beating the stats.
  3. I schedule dates with my wife, kids, and have family nights. I have some work to do in this area, but I am intentional about three of the most important people in my congregation.
  4. I take every vacation day coming to me. It is my goal each year to use every single vacation day I have. As a matter of fact, I recently told our staff that they are required to use all of their vacation days every year. If they fail to use them by the end of the year, they rollover. To me. “Hey Carl, this is Scot. I’m on the beach in Grand Cayman on your vacation. Too bad you are not here.”
  5. I Life Journal every day. My day begins with time reading the Bible and writing out thoughts and prayers. It keeps me centered.

Don’t brag to me about how you work like a dog and never take vacations. Be like the rest of the world if you like. I’m not impressed with the number of hours you work. Neither is God. We work like the church depends on us. Last time I checked, Jesus said that he would build His church (Mt 16:18).

It is possible to have days off, date nights, vacations, AND advance the kingdom.

It’s time to get busy living.


Thanks to Hendrik Christian for the use of the image.

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4 thoughts on “A note to Pastors: work Less

  1. scot u never fail to make me laugh. have fun on the cruise and may God use that time to refresh ur soul and strengthen ur marrige. much love and peace to u brother.