Expectations of the Elders

From Thom Rainer:

An experiment I tried several years ago, though, might prove instructive. When I was a pastor in St. Petersburg, Florida, I gave a survey to the twelve deacons in the church (I jokingly said we had eleven good deacons and one Judas!). I listed several congregational responsibilities and asked them to share the minimum amount of time I should average in each area each week. I listed about twenty areas; but they were free to add other responsibilities to the blank lines.

I’m not sure exactly what I was anticipating. I just know that I was shocked when I tallied the results. In order to meet those twelve deacons minimum expectations I had to fulfill the following responsibilities each week:

  • Prayer at the church: 14 hours
  • Sermon preparation: 18 hours
  • Outreach and evangelism: 10 hours
  • Counseling: 10 hours
  • Hospital and home visits: 15 hours
  • Administrative functions: 18 hours
  • Community involvement: 5 hours
  • Denominational involvement: 5 hours
  • Church meetings: 5 hours
  • Worship services/preaching: 4 hours
  • Other: 10 hours

Total: 114 hours/week

If I met just the minimum expectations of twelve deacons, I would have to work more than 16 hours a day for seven days a week. Or I could take one day off of work each week, and work 19 hours a day for six days a week. And remember, I still would only meet the minimum expectations of twelve people in the church, not the entire membership.

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  • Clay Knick

    I did something similar in what I am sure was a much smaller church. The expectations were about the same.

  • That’s just one of the perverse features of the centerpiece of evangelical ecclesiology: sola pastora. I don’t know how much the old “marks” of a church are representative of our theology anymore, but think about who the main actor is in each of the marks. We often define ourselves, legitimize ourselves, as a church by the activities of one man among us.

    We need to believe and be more than this.

  • Kande Koogle

    … and then what happened? I’m curious to know what the next level of conversation was when you reviewed these expectations with the deacons. Did you do that as a group, did you do it individually? Or perhaps not at all? Please, do tell…

  • Jeff Borden

    Playing with numbers a little more… We have 168 hours in a week. Assuming a 6 hour period of sleep per day that will leave less than 1 hour forty-five minutes of time per day not allocated for the ecclesial expectations.

    Wow. One hour and forty-five minutes…a day, and I haven’t even begun to think about basic necessities of personal hygiene, diet requirements, household chores and errands, investment in family, and downtime. Wow, again.

  • craig cottongim

    Gives a whole new perspective to “Work out your salvation with fear & trembling…”

  • Brian Metzger

    I wonder if the problem isn’t in the question. Asking my leaders how much time I should spend on sermon prep or any of these other areas may get a response of what they think it COULD take or what they imagine it would take THEM without really expressing their opinion about what it SHOULD take me. I’m guessing these weren’t stupid men/women so it’s likely they could do the same math we’re doing here and would recognize the impossibility. Posts like this get us fired up and entrench us in our me vs them mindsets but don’t really paint an accurate picture. Are there elders/boards with unreasonable expectations? Certainly. These same elders/leaders have just as unreasonable expectations of people they live with, work with, are served by and work for. There are thousands of godly leaders who are incredibly supportive working alongside pastors and pastoral staff who Rainer has apparently never met. I’ve been blessed to know many and I’m posting this to honor their support, sacrifice and faithfulness.

  • Susan_G1

    I would have added to the list how much time you should spend with your wife/family.

    I am curious as well what you did with the results.

    Physicians are not pastors, but I could probably come up with a similar list and give it to staff and patients. You would be surprised how much time is spent on paperwork instead of seeing, diagnosing, and counselling patients.

  • Joni Kirk

    It’s interesting how much is also expected of bivocational pastors (those that supposedly work “part time”). It really turns out to be another full-time job.

  • tmarsh0307

    I agree…we have several physicians in our church and I know that their lives are very busy. Other jobs are as demanding if not more. Ministers are not the only ones with difficult jobs/vocations, but I think few realize the demands that ministers face.

  • Phil Miller

    Reminds me of the office I used to work at. Our boss would give us to-do list if he was going to be out of the office, and it was always more than we could ever get done in that time. Once one of my coworkers asked him what on the list was the biggest priority. The boss literally replied, “they all are! You need to work on them all at the same time!” He wasn’t joking, sadly.

  • Chuck Roberts

    I’ve always said there are no part-time pastors. There is only part-time pay.

  • Barb

    We heard one complaint that went like this: ” When you are in the hospital sometimes only a Deacon comes to see you.” We were searching for a new pastor and the committee brought us a list kind of like this–no wonder it took such a long time to find one.