In a meeting with my SPRC when I talked about the number of hours I was putting into the church and what a healthy workweek was it lead to a very interesting discussion.
It was expressed by one member of the committee that he was tired of pastors talking about the hours they work. His expectation was that the pastor should consider the the church his church and that like every other member should put in volunteer hours beyond their "working" hours. I often spend far more than the "healthy hours" of 50-55 hours a week working in different areas of the church. Yet, there is always someone that is unhappy because I wasn't at their meeting or event. I have been told that former pastors were at everything and still took time for family and other activities. Of course one of those pastors only "needed" 4 hours of sleep a night. I get about 5 a night and find it impossible to meet the unrealistic demands.
While I would feel like I was on vacation working 50 hours a week it really brings to my attention that no matter how many hours you put in you are not where someone thinks you should be. We can not, nor should we, try and make everyone happy.
The selfish demands of a congregation that you be totally committed to their church and only after you have met every one of their perceived needs should you look to do something else is unhealthy not only for yourself but for the congregation.
I wake every morning about 5:30 and read and study from 6 to 8. This is what helps keep me current and renewed both in my faith and my ministry. When I talked about needing 20 or so hours a week for sermon and ministry preperation and time for spiritual reflection I was told that if my spiritual life needed more attention I should do that between 6 and 8 in the morning and do my sermon prep and study during the day. When I asked if there would be a problem if I made myself unavailable during this time I was told that I shouldn't expect uninterrupted time while in the office. In other words, we want you to be available at our beck and call and you should find time to care for yourself when it doesn't effect our wants.
This disscussion has made me wonder if we shouldn't be taking a very close look at the spiritual health of more of our congregations and the demands they are placing on their pastors and staff. I believe that they are directly related. A church that is spiritually healthy would want, no, expect it's pastor to maintain a healthy spiritual life. They would expect the central role of the pastor to be spiritual leadership.
I wonder as we start down the appointment season if there is not important questions that should be asked of every church that would give us a more realisitic view of why they want a pastor. Maybe the judicatory officials should start asking and be more clear about what a church demands of its pastoral leadership. I have determined that I want to see what is on that churches written profile before I think about an appointment to a new church. Maybe we should start calling the last 3 or 4 pastors and talking about what the real expectations are in the congregation.
The churches lack of thought or concern for my spiritual, mental and physical health has made me realize that too many pastors are allowing congregations to consume them and they are paying a great cost for that. Look at the number of broken and damaged relationships in our pastoral families. Look at the health issues that many of our clergy face. Look at those that are leaving the ministry or retiring long before they should. When will we begin to take this problem seriously? How can we make sure our judicatory officials know what is going on in our churches and our families?
If you are feeling the need for rest and renewal, maybe now is the time to take it. Maybe today is the day to start caring for yourself and your family. More importantly, today is the day to renew your relationship with Jesus Christ.