With the increase in part-time pastorates, churches seem to think more in term of a pastor’s hours. This attitude is no doubt imported from the secular economy. They start with the assumption that “full-time=40 hours per week.” Then, if the kind of part-time they are talking about is “half,” they conclude that this means 20 hours per week. Then they design a contract for the part-time pastor based on that amount of time.
First of all, let’s start with fallacious assumption that full-time pastors work for 40 hours a week. This has nothing to do with the way pastors actually work. I am emphatically not claiming that pastors work 50, 60, or 70 hours a week. I do not want to feed into the martyrdom/work-aholism of many pastors. I am saying that the work a pastor does cannot be measured in time. What we do was being done centuries before clocks were invented.
Ministry is not really a job like any other job. We don’t punch time-clocks and we don’t count hours. Serving as the pastor of a church is a way of life. It is not something we do to make money, God knows. It is something we are.
I recently saw a job description for a part-time pastor that carefully laid out how many hours a week the pastor was supposed to devote to certain activities. It was ridiculous and insulting.
First of all, a pastor’s work has a cyclical quality to it depending on the season. Secondly, a pastor’s work is subject to changeable and impossible to predict circumstances. Thirdly, the things we do don’t always take the same amount of time. Finally, it is often impossible to distinguish between time “on” and time “off” when pastors are concerned. (The job description also listed things the pastor was expected to do, but would not be getting paid for. Like praying.)
The PCUSA Form of Government describes the work of a teaching elder/pastor.
“Teaching elders (also called ministers of the Word and Sacrament) shall in all things be committed to teaching the faith and equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4: 12)…. When they serve as preachers and teachers of the Word, they shall preach and teach the faith of the church, so that the people are shaped by the pattern of the gospel and strengthened for witness and service. When they serve at font and table, they shall interpret the mysteries of grace and lift the people’s vision toward the hope of God’s new creation. When they serve as pastors, they shall support the people in the disciplines of the faith amid the struggles of daily life” (G-2.0501).
Here it is again, reformatted, adding the implicit categorization according to the traditional “means of grace,” the Word, Sacraments, and prayer:
· ---Teaching the Faith and Equipping the Saints for the Work of Ministry.
1. Word: Preach and teach the faith of the church, so that the people are shaped by the pattern of the gospel and strengthened for witness and service.
2. Sacraments: Interpret the mysteries of grace and lift the people’s vision toward the hope of God’s new creation.
3. Prayer: Support the people in the disciplines of the faith amid the struggles of daily life
Each part of this definition is oriented towards the work of the people. Pastors function as leaders, examples, teachers, servants, and advisors of other Christians. A pastor is a disciple trained to train others in discipleship.
The Book of Order makes no mention of how much time this is all supposed to take. It makes no distinction between full-time and part-time ministry.
Part-time pastoral contracts should be shaped around these three basic responsibilities, not hours. Since it is not just about doing these things, but teaching, equipping, strengthening, lifting, and supporting the people in doing them. In other words, the missing half of part-time ministry is not just jettisoned; it is taken up by the people, as trained and equipped by their pastor. Which is what the people are supposed to be doing anyway, were these skills not allowed to atrophy by the corruption of full-time ministry.
Then we need to take this part-time model and extend it to full-time ministry.