Is this what full time ministry looks like? 40 hours per week on call, meeting with church members and community organizations, leading Bible studies, and planning programming?

No… On top of that, you will have to write a weekly sermon.

Ministry is not a 40-hour per week job. This was made abundantly clear to me during the week of July 3. The church office was closed on July 4 for the national holiday, and I took Monday, July 3 as my sabbath day for the week. Great, a three day week, you might think. You could not be more wrong.

You see, an extra day off for a pastor doesn’t mean that they simply work one less day that week. It means that they work extra hard on the other days to make up for that day off and might still feel behind at church on Sunday morning.

I work five days a week, Sunday through Thursday. This is the first adjustment you have to make when you work in pastoral ministry. Sunday is your Monday. Not only that, but it is the equivalent of giving a major presentation every week first thing on Monday morning. Imagine that for a minute. Every week, without fail, you are expected to stand up and tell people something that will help them to love God and love their neighbors. Every week!

But I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s not a hard message to sell. Oh, sure, some people resist and say, “God can’t love me, look at all the bad things I’ve done.” Or others will say, “I can’t love them, look at all the bad things they’ve done.” But in general, the people who sit in the pews every Sunday morning are trying the best they can to love God and to love their neighbors. This is nothing new. The message just serves as a reminder, a jumping-off point, a place for them to come back to when they might not be sure about God’s love for them and their call to love others.

woman preachingOne thing I learned in Introduction to Preaching with Dr. Teresa Fry Brown last year was that people’s reception of your sermon depends on the message, but it also depends on what is going on in their lives. Sometimes someone is just not in a place to hear your message that day. Sometimes they will tune out after the first few minutes. Sometimes they will tune back in later and miss a major point.

This can be disheartening, but I also think it is freeing. It serves as another reminder that ministry is not about my ability to create an experience or an emotion. It is about God working through all the church staff, volunteers, and in the hearts of people. I just make myself available. I try to be faithful to God’s call for me to empower those who are trying to grow in relationship with God and with others. And along the way, I will grow, as well.

This summer, I am not preaching every Sunday. But I still work 40 hours per week as a pastoral intern. I imagine that some of the tasks I am doing will get easier and take less time when I am a pastor, but I know that the sermon will only add to that workload.

Being a pastor is not a 40-hour a week job. So what? Neither is being a Christian.

Learn more about the ministry internship opportunities that Candler offers.

Photos: Tiffania preaching and leading worship at First UMC Lakeland.