I have heard people say “The pastor has it so easy, he doesn’t have to go to work. What does he do all day? All he has to do is write a few sermons a week.” So, the following few questions are aimed at setting the record straight. —What does a day in the life of a pastor, or a pastor’s wife, look like?
Anonymous Pastor, Kathmandu, Nepal: Actually I had the same thought when I was a teenager, manual labor is hard work, being a pastor would be easier. I would liken that comment to a child saying, “I can’t wait til I grow up and can work a job and not go to school anymore.”
I’m sure each pastor and city will vary, but being a missionary has changed my daily tasks quite a bit. A daily task, that in America would be a simple errand, can take hours. This is hard to explain, but in short America is very efficient country.
An average day involves prayer meeting at the church with coffee and talking to the men who come. Many times this becomes a small bible study on a specific topic. After prayer is usually a run to the market. To me, driving in a foreign country to is the most draining task. Just those daily tasks take on average 2-3 hours.
Once home, we eat a meal, I take time for personal studying and balance the church finances. It’s all loose currency in rupees here, so purchases need to be written down daily to keep track.
I usually help with homeschooling our children for 2 hours. After lunch I usually block off a period of 3 hours for studying, sermon work. After studying, is time with the family, miscellaneous planning, scheduling, prepping for events and then dinner. About 5 nights of the week we have some sort of activity at the church such as outreach, band practice, midweek church service, concert scene, or fellowshipping. —We do try to have one night at home a week as a family.
Pastor Tim Schmoyer: What does a day in your life as a pastor look like? I drop my kids off at school around 7:30. Then I study Scripture in my office. I meet with people and pray, and give directions to volunteers. Every day is so different. I lead many Bible studies including one at our nearby retirement home. I attend denominational meetings and train future pastors in a church based education called the Antioch School.
Sophie Foley: We have had several magic shows, an Easter egg hunt, a talent show, an open mic hip hop night, an animal show and concerts in the park, to name a few of our events. We enjoy trying different approaches and it’s been incredible to see people turnout for them.
We have used the Gospel Illusion show, from several churches in Oregon. I was skeptical at first, would this be an effective way to portray the gospel? Would it be so cheesy people would leave? Does it cater to the weirdness of “magic”? These men do a fantastic job. They use various illusions to tell the story of what Christ can do in a life, they walk through various transformations and tell their own testimonies throughout the entire show. It has garnered an overwhelming response from the community. It’s geared toward young children, and parents have expressed such gratitude for something their kids can attend that doesn’t push boundaries or dabble with elements they don’t feel comfortable with. We have hosted these events in our church, out in the parks and in our local YMCA. All of them have been heavily attended and have had a great response at the altar call.
We teach English as a Second Language classes at our church at 6 p.m. before our Wednesday night service starts at 7 p.m. Several members from church volunteer alongside my husband and myself to teach anyone who walks in! We have several attendees who speak Mandarin, Haitian, Arabic and Creole, and are learning English.
We don’t speak the other languages, ha-ha, it’s quite a task. We focus on very basic concepts and mostly the arena of applying for a job. We have workbooks we use and then google translate is our best friend. Most have a basic ability to speak English so can communicate and understand the concepts we are trying to teach.
Boston Outreach 2017- The Potters House, Malden, Massachussettes, (Pastor John & Sophie Foley) with help from an outreach team from the McMinville Oregon Potter’s House Church ( Pastor Kevin & Janet Foley’s)
Pastor Kevin Obermeyer: As a pastor, it’s usually filled with people asking all kinds of questions about personal needs and problems, some with appointments but often just walk-ins or catching you at the store or just as you’re walking out the door. A few Bible questions come up from people who want to debate, and a couple of regulars are always trying to overcome some vice that you just talked to them about a short time before. People become very codependent on you, so you have to learn to draw boundaries.
All this occurs in several locations, such as hospitals, homes and at church, so there’s travel time. Now that we have cell phones, time can be spread among even more people calling between destinations. You don’t really want to give out your cell phone, but people expect and demand that you be reachable at all times.
Frequently, the full range of emotions are ripped back and forth from one visit to the next, grieving with one person as their child dies in their arms, then going off to the see next person, trying to shift gears and rejoice with them over their wonderful, exciting news of a new pregnancy.
Plus, I was a bi-vocational pastor at small churches mostly, so you have to go to your secular job as well as serve at the church. And once people at your secular job find out you’re a pastor, you become a pastor in the workplace, too, which doubles your ministry load.
In between all of this, you piece together preparation for the next sermon or decision regarding an upcoming church event or procedure before your thoughts are interrupted again. You try to block out scheduled staff meetings because you need that for church operation. And you try to spend as much time as you can with your family, until that next 2 a.m. phone call takes you away again. Then you get up early the next morning or just stay up through the night because it’s late, and start the next day all over again.
But somehow in the midst of it all, you feel blessed because you know you are in the right place, the place God called you to be, and you are the right person doing that job prepared for you for that time, and you are being used by Him for His glory to do His will to help and serve others.
You do have to find a few minutes here and there for self-care as well so you don’t just collapse. Other than all that, yeah, pastors have it easy.
Pastor Chad: Flexibility is the hardest part for me. I plan my day, but at any time I know the possibility of a pastoral care emergency may surface. I try to set aside specific time for nothing but sermon prep, but that is difficult because of interruptions etc..
Pastor Pablo Catala: As a working Pastor there is a balance of God/Family/work. These things are very difficult to manage because all require your full attention. It has to be God to help me make time—and productive time for all three.
Janet Foley, on behalf of her husband, Pastor Kevin Foley: My husband leaves the house to go to his office at 5:30 a.m. He has breakfast and reads his daily Bible reading. From 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., he attends prayer meeting. Sometimes he invites men out for coffee the next hour if any are available before work. Then he returns to the office to do all the bill-paying, accountant work, filing, mailing, church finances. He finds it necessary to do a lot of reading, Biblical studies and current events, historical information etc. as input for his sermons, (four per week plus Sunday School).
He schedules upcoming events, plans advertising. He oversees the upkeep of two huge buildings and a downtown parking lot, dealing with city officials, police, street people, security, vandalism, etc. He oversees the upkeep of the church van and strategizes for impact teams to the greater Northwest states. He counsels at his office throughout the day on phone and in person, also answering emails etc. He has a lot of interruptions and is available 24-7 to any requests, phone calls or texts that come his way! He meets with the local area pastors (from 5-6 churches) on Wednesdays and has sermon sessions as they brainstorm and put together that night’s
sermon (helping them learn strategies for sermon construction etc..) He writes sermons for Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening services. He also writes a sermon for most Saturday mornings for a class called “Serious Men,” where men come and have light breakfast and are taught deeper character challenges. He also puts together a weekly Bible class for Sunday School on Sunday mornings.
When he goes to church services, he comes early to pray. After he preaches, he stays long to talk with people and pray for any needs. If there’s time, he will invite people out for a meal with us, or over to our home. He visits the hospital frequently, and people who call for prayer in their homes when sick.
On top of all that, he is the area leader for Northern CA, Oregon, Idaho and Washington. He hosts an area-wide conference for a week in the Spring and an area-wide pioneer pastor’s rally in the Fall. He also hosts an area-wide marriage retreat in February. He is called on to preach marriage retreats, conferences and revivals at times throughout our nation and overseas as well.
On average, he spends 12 hours per day at the office. I try hard not to discuss church when he is home, obviously.
Alien Days 2018 from Potters House MacMinville, Oregon (Pastor Kevin & Janet Foley)
Anonymous Pastor: Random responses as they come to mind:
I’m on call 24/7
When others are done praying—I’m still praying
I regularly visit the sick and new converts
Laboring throughout the day
Being a psychologist, an EMT, a home health aid, a youth counselor and a marriage counselor
I feel as if I need to write the equivalent of three research papers per week—which includes citing sources and takes 1- 2 hours reading the Bible and studying and researching it and an additional 2-3 hours a day of compiling and editing the sermon idea
Pastor, on average how much time does it take you to put together a sermon, including research, study, etc.?
Pastor Kevin Obermeyer: Hard to say. Sometimes it just comes to you almost completely laid out, so maybe a couple of hours just to get it written down. Other times you can spend several days of researching before starting to put it all together over a couple more days. I know some pastors who spend at least 40 hours on a sermon. I’ve never spent more than probably 20 hours total, unless I start to question myself and try to rewrite things, which usually ends up a disastrous mess.
Pastor Pablo Catala: About 4-6 hours
Pastor Kevin Foley: On average I would say 8-10 hours
Anonymous: If I were able to sit without disruption and go from start to finish without any starts and stops it would take me about 5 hours to write one sermon. I preach three sermons per week.
Anonymous Pastor, Kathmandu, Nepal: On average each sermon takes about 5 hours to prepare from start until ready to preach. This varies- some are quicker and some take much longer. —Anonymous Pastor, Kathmandu, Nepal
Pastor Chad: This is very difficult to put a number to. This is because from the moment my last sermon is over I am thinking about the next one. I am meditating on the passage of Scripture in my mind while I go throughout all other activities with ministry and family. If it was just giving a speech, I would be able to give a number of hours. But, since a sermon is much more than a speech, involving a spiritual battle the only answer I can give is that I am preparing all the time.
How much time do you spend in personal Bible study, prayer and reading, a day?
Pastor Chad: I will answer this question the same as the previous. For me, sermon prep and personal devotions go hand in hand. The approach that God humbled me with from the beginning was that I always am preaching to myself—this is true every time I preach. Thus, I am always spending time in my mind on my personal Spiritual walk and reflecting on what God is teaching me.
Pastor Kevin Obermeyer: It often gets broken up throughout the day, and I’m constantly in prayer. But additionally, I do try to set aside a specific uninterrupted half hour to hour.
Angelica Obermeyer: I am an active member of two women’s Bible studies so I often find myself studying and learning. I also spend most of my day in prayer, whether I’m talking to God as I wash dishes, praise Him over an answered prayer, or ask Him to hold my tongue when I’m frustrated. It really is constant open communication.
Pastor Pablo Catala: About 2-3 hours
Janet Foley: An hour or so.
Anonymous: I spend a minimum of an hour plus every day. And prayer is 45 minutes to an hour per day.
What are some duties you perform for the church on a regular basis that your church may not be aware of?
Pastor Tim Schmoyer: Although we have a church treasurer who handles the day to day finances, I do a lot of financial paperwork to report to our elders about where our church is financially. Also, when we were building a new part to our church building, I did a lot of financial paperwork to secure our mortgage and also made a lot of decisions regarding the building itself. I also take time to meet with other church planters in our denomination.
Anonymous Pastor, Kathmandu, Nepal: Ministry schedules, buying supplies, house visits, hospital visits, monthly financial and spiritual reports, yearly financial and spiritual reports. Possibly people know of these but most likely not aware of the consistency with which they need to be done.
Sophie Foley: Clean and organize the nursery and Sunday school rooms several times a week. Practice for worship during the week, call those who haven’t shown up, follow up on new converts, take phone calls any day, and any time, they come in. Open our house and church any time for counseling.
Pastor Pablo Catala: We pray often, we schedule dates for special events, make sure the bills are paid and deal with demonic attacks often.
Pastor Chad: Late night phone calls. Helping people work through issues that are held confidential. The amount of time we spend in prayer for the congregation. How often people ask to talk and pray following the service. Coaching and helping other Pastors and ministries.
Pastor Kevin Obermeyer: Mowing the grass; fixing toilet leaks; solving computer network issues; paying bills and struggling over some; changing light bulbs. Checking sound and other equipment, shopping for church supplies. Setting the thermostats at a temperature for least general complaint.
I’m first to arrive and last to leave no matter how early or how late or how many times— and many pro-bono acts of service. Most of these things are small church issues and are often shared with other staff and volunteers, but ultimately the buck stops here if there’s no one else, for anything.
Janet Foley: I guess I feel like I spend 6-8 hours a day on church business. I note what is needed on the building and act as a liaison to help organize and make sure maintenance is done on our facilities. I do a lot of public relations and advertising (graphic arts). I like to plan and think ahead; I am an idea person and love to rethink everything that we do. I am an event planner! Recent wedding, bridal and baby showers for church members. I love thinking of ideas to reach people and to help connect relationships. Things like Book Clubs and Youth Rallies, floats in the parade, writing tracts, making flyers, Meet and Greets after church etc. Beautification Ministry! (Ha!)
I play piano for every church service and altar call and help the leader with song selection and provide music, ideas etc.. I try to get with people for coffee or lunches, remember birthdays.
Spent all week last week picking out colors for the exterior of our building…working with painters and community leaders for historical commission planning. Picking out light fixtures/ working with electricians. Designing cupboards and cabinets / working with carpenters. I love helping renovate our buildings from looking sadly dated to fresh and inviting!
Spent two days working on courtyard planters and gardening for our exterior last week. I love talking one on one with people and brainstorming how we can do better or coming up with new ideas. I am not happy with stagnation! I send flowers and cards and visit those who are sick.
…But my most important ministry really is making sure our home is a refuge for my husband. He loves a simple home-cooked meal and a smile from me when he comes home. Clean clothes and an ironed shirt. A happy wife! (Sometimes that is the hardest thing of all…)
Procurement of supplies necessary for projects, events, legal business etc
Going to personal events: graduations, recitals, funerals
An analogy: My grandfather owned a farm, his responsibility for the farm, was 24/7, 365 days a year—fixing the electric fences – repairing the tractor- milking cows- planting corn- harvesting crops, feeding the animals. I say again: 24/7, 365 responsibility. That is what ministry is like.
The takeaway—since the responsibility is so similar, you can draw your own conclusions. But mentally I feel a responsibility that never leaves me, the needs are always on my mind. For me being a pastor means I don’t punch a clock at 5 pm and go home. Weekends aren’t a break from my job either, as you can imagine.
What are some things your church could do to lighten your load or refresh you and your family so you can better serve God and them?
Pastor Kevin Obermeyer: Probably the simplest would be just to volunteer to help with something, even just once, or once a month—or once a year. Getting volunteers is one of the hardest things to do with church people, so the same few people end up doing everything all the time.
Pastor Pablo Catala: Be faithful and stay that way. —Pastor Pablo Catala
What keeps you going?
Witnessing how God changes lives. —Pastor Tim Schmoyer
*I will be continuing my series of interviews with pastors and pastors wives for a few days into December.*
**It would bless these pastors and pastor’s wives, myself, and others, if you would please share these articles.
***Of The Word Ministries—Ministry for Pastors
Pastoral coaching with a primary focus on encouraging pastors in their personal spiritual development. Looking beyond the problems a Pastor faces to show how personal devotion to God’s Word is always their foundation. Offered free of charge. Donations to the ministry gratefully accepted. Contact at:
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @OfTheWord
Find simple truths in the complex parts of Scripture on Rachel Schmoyer’s blog, Read the Hard Parts
You can also read more of her writings on parenting, books, and party ideas over at rachelschmoyerwrites.com.
Prior Posts in 2018 Series of Interviews with Pastors & Pastor’s Wives:
Part 8: The Preacher and the Writer
Part 7: A Preacher’s Kid Speaks
Part 3: Life as a Pastor’s Wife
Part 1: If My People
You can read part 1 of my 2018 series of interviews with pastors & pastor’s wives, If My People, HERE
Pastor Obermeyer is doing his part to help combat Biblical illiteracy and ignorance. You can check out his brand new Sonshine Institute, an online learning center bringing you great content on a variety of subjects.
Proceeds from the Sonshine Institute help continue to serve needs in Bible teaching, counseling, sexual abuse, and other outreaches.
You can also check our Pastor Obermeyer’s blog here: ministry.obiehouse.com
Pray for Your Pastor Text Campaign
Text the word PASTOR to 74574 to sign up to receive either daily or weekly prayer reminders with suggestions for praying for your pastor and a matching scripture reference via text message.
Check out Energize Ministries
A ministry dedicated to motivating and educating churches to care for and encourage their pastors and families. Energize ministries offers encouraging articles and podcasts for ministers and their families, resources to equip and opportunities for getaways so they can be refreshed.
***It would bless these pastors and pastor’s wives, myself, and others, if you would please share these articles.
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