7 September 2016

Part I: Are Clergy Hours Fair?

We're beginning our series of difficult topics this month (Embrace The Awkward!). As part of my research into various subjects,  I came across a rather controversial article written by Thom Rainer (a prominent American clergy worker and researcher) which I thought was worth sharing.

A few years ago he conducted a survey to get an idea of what people in the church thought he should a) do with his time each week and b) how many hours he should dedicate to each one. He listed 20 areas and received the following answers:
  • "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 (minimum)"
       (see his original article here)

114 hours a week MINIMUM - the number staggered me! This works out to be approximately 16 hours a day/7 days a week, or 19 hours a day/6 days a week. This leaves 5 to 8 hours a day for sleeping, eating, socialising, self-care, and family time.

When I looked into the maximum weekly hours legally permitted by the Australian Fair Work Ombudsman, I found the following statement:

"An employer must not request or require an employee to work more than the following hours of work in a week, unless the additional hours are reasonable:
  • for a full-time employee, 38 hours or
  • for an employee other than a full-time employee, the lesser of:
    • 38 hours or the employee's ordinary hours of work in a week.
An employee may refuse to work additional hours if they are unreasonable."
Source: Fair Work Ombudsman (click here for more details)

114 hours a week works out to be 3 times the maximum hours legal in Australia!

Of course, these numbers may come as no surprise to you. If you're a seasoned clergy worker or family member, you'll know that the hours on paper are often not enough to meet all the tasks required in ministry. Like many jobs, there are hours that are simply required to get the work done. I've personally spoken to many Australian clergy workers who are nearing retirement and still work up to 70 hours a week (10 hours/7 days or 11.6 hours/6 days) - some of them employed as part time workers.

With hours like this, no wonder that burnout is a significant risk in Australian clergy workers?!

While the call to ministry is a personal vocation & commitment that extends beyond being a paid job, the expectations of others (including employers and even the clergy workers themselves) regarding hours worked can significantly exceed the hours agreed to on paper. This can cause significant stress and hardship not only to the clergy worker, but also to their families and congregations when they're unable to meet these expectations or burn out trying.

So how, or where, do you draw the line?
I wanted to start the conversation on this subject with some questions:
* How many hours do you work (on paper compared to in reality)?
* How do you manage differing expectations regarding work hours from your employer, your church, or even yourself?
* Do you think these are reasonable expectations?
* If not, what would you like to change?


We'd love to hear your thoughts. You're very welcome to comment below anonymously.

~ Rachel