Word of the Week

What Does a Pastor Do?

I've been a part of several conversations lately with new church attendees and community members where I have been stopped in midst of our discussion together with the question: "Now, I know you work on your sermons, but what do you do the rest of the week?"

It's a timeless question that generations of pastors before me and beside me have been asked and answered each in his or her own way. For there's not a rule book about how a pastor structures his or her day. It's usually based both on the personality of the pastor and expectations of the congregation. It's a unique job with some deadlines (Sunday is always coming, for example), but then it is also a job with a lot of unspecified responsibilities that can be attended to at a pace according to congregational needs.  I always say that no day of the week is ever the same and I never have reason to get bored!

But, just to help you get an idea about my approach, these are some of the "doing" tasks that my last week has included:

  • One-on-one meetings with parishioners going through time of crisis including taking communion to a church member in the hospital
  • One-on-one meetings with families/ individuals interested in learning more about the church and/or becoming official members of the congregation
  • Follow-up conversations/ emails with visitors from Sunday morning
  • Planning meetings/ phone conversations with church leadership about new initiatives for growth in congregational life
  • Attending to the administrative tasks of the church office: supervision of two other staff members, overseeing communication coming from the church office, planning with church administrator dates for the church calendar
  • Attentiveness to church outreach tools: updating Facebook fan page, twittering about important events, working with church administrator to update contact list for weekly email and making sure website is up to date, and of course blogging when new ideas come for posts
  • Meeting with church members who come to the office during office hours to ask questions, say hello
  • Attending community functions to represent the church
  • Preparing for upcoming Bible Studies by doing research on curriculum choices
  • Planning for worship; editing the bulletin
  • Connecting with colleagues in the area for meals for shared learning and support
  • And, of course, preparing for sermons by doing research, mediation and sitting still long enough so for God to have the opportunity to form my thoughts in the direction of what the congregation most needs to hear

And, the list could go on. Yet, it also could record things that I wish I had more time to do, contacts to parishioners and others that I needed to make and didn't, and more study time that I wished I had. . .When I think about what I do and don't, I always try to give myself grace to embrace the possibilities found in the next week.

While I can't answer the "What does a pastor do?" for all my colleagues, know this: there's so much more to the pastoral life than what you see on Sundays. Sundays are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the focus tasks of our job.

Yet, I wouldn't have it any other way! I get surprised daily by something new. I am and will continue to be grateful for this wonderful opportunity to put my energy and time into an organization with a great future. Because in the end, church life is not about the pastor which is why we work so hard. It's always about the congregation. Pastors just are the catalyst for helping congregations reach their potential as we are transformed together into the community of faith that God would have for us to be.

Maybe then, another good question for us to ask is: 'What do congregation members do to enrich and support the lives of their faith community?"