The Pastor as Hourly Employee?

One of my favorite things is getting together with other pastors and asking them how their ministry is going. Most of the time a pastor will say that things are going great, and then he will share some of the joys of his ministry. However, occasionally a pastor will sigh deeply and tell me that things are getting difficult… and on more than one occasion, that the pastor goes on to tell me that he has a particular elder who demands to know how he spends his time.

There are few things that elicit a deeper groan of sympathy from my own heart than a fellow pastor of a smaller church who tells me that his elders are suspicious enough to resort to tracking how much time he spends “in the office.” To me, it is an immediate sign of an unhealthy session that distrusts the pastor when the elders want a man to keep track of his hours or when they take it upon themselves to do so. I once knew a fellow minister who had an elder who would drive past the church and take note of what time he arrived each day and when he left each day. If he wasn’t keeping the same hours as the elder did before he was retired, he was reprimanded at the next session meeting. Being treated like this makes the pastor feel like a pack animal or Ben-Hur rowing in the slave galleys, rather than what he is – a trustworthy minister and pastor.

I hear enough of these stories that it seems like something that needs to be addressed. And part of the reason I feel I can address this, myself, is because I serve a church where the session does not treat me as a paid hourly employee. They don’t demand that I account for every minute of my day or scrutinize my schedule. In the church where I currently serve, I have never, ever felt like I am their employee; I feel I’ve been treated as a pastor, a minister who seeks to use his time well and live a life that is above reproach.

On the other hand, there are many pastors out there who don’t have the freedom to speak on this issue–and likely won’t even feel free to share this article on social media–because they are literally turning in timesheets and showing their work as if they were high schoolers clocking in at their first job at the Burger King.

There are a few things we can know about a small church that watches and scrutinizes the hours of the pastor:

1) Most likely, there are business leaders on the session.

2) The session members do not trust their minister.

3) The church will almost certainly chase their pastors away.

If you are a ruling elder on a session where you know the minister is being watched and scrutinized like this–if not by you, then maybe by another elder–I hope to give you a few reasons to stop this practice immediately, and consider even repenting to the pastor for how you’ve treated him.

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