Multiplication Center

It DOES Matter How Pastors Spend Their Time

May 18, 2010

clock-will-return What would happen if you asked over 200 pastors to provide an hour-by-hour calendar of a typical week, and then you compared the schedules of those whose churches had a very high percentage of conversion growth, against those of everyone else? 

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, did just that, with some fascinating results. He calls the high-conversion-growth churches “effective”:

  • The effective church leaders spent ten hours each week in pastoral care (counseling, hospital visits, weddings, funerals) compared to thirty-three hours for the comparison group pastors.
  • Effective church leaders average five hours per week in sharing the gospel with others. Most of the comparison church pastors entered “0” for their weekly time in personal evangelism.
  • Comparison church leaders spend eight hours a week — more than an hour each day — performing custodial duties at the church. The typical custodial duties included opening and closing the facilities, turning on and off the lights, and general cleaning of the building.
  • Leaders of effective churches average 22 hours a week in family activities. The comparison church leaders weren’t too far behind with 18 hours of family time each week.
  • Pastors of effective churches sleep slightly over six hours per day. Pastors of comparison churches sleep almost eight hours per day.
  • Pastors of effective churches spend twenty-two hours in sermon preparation each week versus four hours for pastors of comparison churches.

The time allocation of effective leaders seems to complement the way they describe their own leadership styles. In order to accomplish what they considered priority functions, they had to sacrifice in other areas. As htimer-stopwatch-in-hande concludes: “Thus the effective leaders cannot do many of the responsibilities often expected of them as pastors. They cannot make all the hospital visits. They cannot counsel everyone. And they cannot perform all of the custodial duties that may be expected of them. But as leaders they can see that those things get done.”

If his survey covered typical church sizes, then the majority of responses above will be from single staff churches (or maybe ones with 2 or 3 staff). Yet the underlying idea probably holds true for all sizes of churches: It seems to make a huge amount of different how pastors spend their time, and what voices they listen to in making decisions about each 168-hour week.


Bird-Warren-jacket Warren Bird, Ph.D., is Research Director at Leadership Network, and co-author of 21 books on various aspects of church health and innovation.

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