Seems I’m always getting questions from guys about time away...so at The Jenkins Institute we did a survey. It’s not extremely scientific but finding will interest many. 447 completed the survey in 8 days.
Just over 60% of the respondents have been in ministry 6-30 years, 32% thirty-one years or longer and 9% five years or less. 40.3%, the largest group have been at the same congregation 6-15 years - this appears to be a healthy trend.
196 or 44% get two days a week off (always remember that Sunday can’t count as an off day). An unhealthy 13% don’t get any days off and a privileged 14% can take as many days off each week as they wish!
Let me go ahead and give you the numbers on the bonus question: It was on how often the ministers meet with their elders. 29 folks did not complete that question but of those who did...
And now for the stuff you’ve all been waiting for:
Let’s start this part of the survey with total Sunday’s off -
11 of those who took the survey don’t get any Sunday’s away.
8% get 2 Sundays off each year
9.3% are allowed 3 Sundays a year
19% get 4 Sundays a year away. That was the highest percentage.
13.4% take 5 Sundays a year.
13.9% and the second largest percentage are permitted 6 Sundays a year to be gone.
4% are allowed 7 Sundays away.
And 9.3% are allowed 8 or more Sunday’s a year away.
One was allowed 20 and another 26 - survey buster bums!!!!
Here are some of the comments under this question:
“I, like many ministers would rather be preaching on the Lord's Day. Yet, this hinders in the gaining of knowledge from other ministers years of experience and study.”
“I get 14 days a year... It's never been stipulated how many can be Sundays.”
“I don't take any "off" but do preach in other places on mission trips and while doing seminars.”
“fifth sundays and for additional sundays if i need to for family reasons”
“I do not get many "off" days, even during gospel meetings. The work doesn't stop. I do get a couple of vacation weeks, but I am usually asked to preach where I go.”
Next we broke it down a little. Obviously some do not have what their time away is designated for and a number (nearly 50 indicated they can be away as much as they want as long as they do not abuse it). An overwhelming 70.7% take two Sundays a year off for speaking engagements elsewhere. 19.4% get four a year. 94.7% get either one or two Sundays a year to attend lectureships. The chart below describes vacation time.
To interpret 80.8% are allowed two or three vacation weeks a year. Sadly those times are only mandatory for 5% of the guys.
Sixty-two percent of those who took the survey have not had any increase in time off since they began their work.
And here's some good news: 93% of our brothers feel like their elders trust them in maintaining their own schedule and hours. Less the 3% have left a work over time disputes. Over 85% believe the elders treat them fairly in time off or time away.
It's a very lengthy list but some of this would be helpful for you to read this and perhaps share some of it with your elders. I am giving direct comments on the question: "If you could tell elders one thing that would help me feel more trusted or appreciated in this area what would it be?"
The most BY FAR had no comment here or just expressed that they are pleased but the following comments might be a good representation of what is the general feeling of various ministers:
The ebb and flow of ministry that makes comp time necessary.
always remember that the preacher is on call 24/7. No day is truly off.
My work is for God. I appreciate their help in doing this
Remember to always stay close and keep the relationship strong in the Lord.
Have a yearly review to note some special situations that may require some time off. ex. returning from an overseas mission trip.
Be understanding of the situation
More time off would provide for a refreshed preacher.
I am here as long as you feel I am effective, and I will leave with joy and appreciation when you tell me to go.
That you are doing a good job and should take time to renew yourself and be refreshed to be better.
Care about a minister's need to rest and be with his family
Tell me that you appreciate the work that I do and tell me to take a day off each week.
Keep leading me!
If you trust me to care for the spiritual needs of the congregation, then you should trust me to get my work done. I may only be in the office 30 hours one week, but I may be there 80 hours the next. I promise you get every second that is needed to do the task right.
I would like for them to see that I take the time allocated and perhaps even grant me a sabbatical.
They don't realize how little money and vacation time off we get. We are not treated like everyone else in society is treated. Seems that no one cares to monitor our position on these matters. It has been hard to bring them up myself at times. But that doesn't change much anyway.
I would tell them time off is more helpful when it is time away.
Take copious notes when you hire someone. Don't assume you know every way they spend their time in church work -- and give regular raises and vacation increases as the years go by. Frankly, most Elders have lousy memories.
Different people produce their best results under different conditions and by different means. Judge the fruit, not the hours.
Ministry is not a 9 to 5 job, it's a lifestyle choice.
Ministry--especially mission work is non-stop, taking some personal time is not only okay but necessary to keeping me fresh in this work.
Would thank them for the trust they give me.
If you don't trust me after 18 years, when will you?
Don't overload me with multiple responsibilities beyond the pulpit then question why I have no time off
trust and appreciate me more vacation time as I have been here longer
It would be nice to be told we love you and love having you in the pulpit but we give you vacations for your benefit and you need to take one. If I never remind them or ask them for the vacation they would let me preach every lesson for the entire year.
That they would like to encourage me to do more meetings and that they would give me the time away to help other areas with the Gospel.
I have no elders but I do know of one eldership that sends their preacher off and he cannot preach while off. I think this is wise.
If it applied. I would encourage them to recognize the preacher as a fellow worker and not a "hired" hand.
Don't ask me to keep a log for you. I'll keep a ministry log for my own purposes, but not so that I can be "managed."
Being on call 24/7 could more easily be maintained if more vacation time were allowed.
I've been faithful and responsible in the past with my time off so please continue to trust me.
Even though I've never left a congregation because of an issue with days off/vacation/etc. that has been a issue of concern. The one piece of advice that I would give to elders is to make sure that they do not treat Sunday as a day off for the preacher. That issue (at a couple of churches that I've worked with) has been a depressing issue for me to handle.
Thank you for trusting me the way you have. I will continue to be trustworthy about my time off and my work as a whole.
a minister often counsels more problems in the congregation than the elders do, his sermon, bible class prep time, hospital and sick visitations, visitor follow ups, etc take a toll on any one. A minister who is doing his job, needs time to rest, reflect and unwind before burn-out sets in. When elders shepherd, deacons serve and ministers minister the congregation has an example to follow.
This question is poorly worded. I am telling elders in general something to make you feel more trusted in "this" area? In what area? I think you mean, "What one thing would help your elders trust your judgment and appreciate your diligence in regard to time off?" (dj note: thank you, but it appears most didn’t have any problem understanding the question :)).
Help out more spiritually and leave the physical part of church to the deacons then all would be able to have time off
The leadership here has always trusted me to make up time out of the office for surgeries/ hospital calls/ etc. Basically, as long as I have my lessons in place there has been no fuss.
We have a great relationship in this regard, and I go out of my way not to abuse or take advantage.
Encourage the new preacher to be "off" when he's "off," rather than momentarily out of sight.
I have to answer to God.
Allow the preacher his time to be with his family, and to rest.
Have them be preachers for a year.
I'd appreciate more flexibility for them to evaluate the value of my opportunities to speak elsewhere or attend an extra workshop, without reverting to my contract.
A Minister is on-call 24/7/365. He should have the freedom to decide what "formal" hours to be put in based upon the interruptions in his day and life by the congregation. He is working for the Lord and will do the work as the Lord directs him.
Make your ministers accountable for their time off. Make sure they take it.
Allowing a minister to be away a few times a year is healthy for the minister as well as the ministry. Obligating a minister to spend 50+ Sundays a year at his home congregation is a recipe for disaster in multiple ways: burn-out, tune-out, etc.
To be issued a master key.
Consider that preachers do not begin their ministry over each time they move from one congregation to another. They should consider it as if we are transferring from one location to another for the same entity, the Church of Christ. If a man preachers for 25 years then begins a new work his time off benefits should reflect 25 years of ministry, not that of a new employee.
another week of vacation
Ministers should get an additional vacation week for every 5-10 years of experience.
Recognition is as important as compensation. Saying you did a good job (especially when the work is unseen) goes a long way to motivation.
One preacher prior to me was given off every 5th Sunday when a month had five Sundays. When I asked about that for myself, the elders declined.
Approach matters of vacation time and Sundays off with a relaxed, accepting manner. It can be intimidating asking for time off, and it makes those conversations easier when they are not "big deals" for the elders.
Have a performance review each year
Twice a year they could ask me "Are you taking all your time off?"
It's not the time nearly as much as what needs to be done within the time
Take up for me when members complain that it appears I'm not doing anything. (Of course, the elders need to be aware of the time I'm putting in.)
encourage me to take Sundays off and get someone to serve in my place.
Don't micro-manage. The preacher is a partner. You've got to trust your partner.
Gage the over-all results of my ministry effectiveness and don't just count up the hours you see me at the church building. - Also, an annual dialogue review would be nice.
pat on the back
That holding ministry to 40 hours/week is impossible!
More supportive comments and volunteering to fill-in
If I'm expected to be "on call" 24/7, then it is only fair to allow for a little flexibility in my regular schedule.
This job takes a lot of time to do right. If it is being done right, then don't pick apart the hours in the office. That just means there are more hours of work being don outside of the office.
Please force me to take time off, I feel too guilty to compensate myself.
I work 60-80 hours per week on the 'ground floor'. It seems my opinion would be more valued and time off considered valuable.
I am not an employee
A few more Sunday evenings to have others preach would be nice. I teach both adult Bible classes, preach both lessons, do the bulletin and website, two personal Bible studies a week, am in the devotional rotation, plus counseling, visiting, etc. Would be nice to have a few more Sunday evenings at least where I didn't have to prepare and preach... but God is good, and hasn't allowed me to burn out yet.
Give us a sabbatical!
They could want me to take personal time off and express it.
Allow me to enjoy my time off.
Realize a little more that my time has to be flexible and that compensation should be taken to make up for craziness of schedule from time to time.
Sometimes I think it might be helpful for them to know how many times I work part of one of my off days (especially Saturdays), because there seems to be some tension if I miss regular work hours for something personal, though I get no comp days, medical leave, etc. However, on the whole, I don't think this is a major area of misunderstanding.
Understand that if I arrive late or leave early, it is almost always ministry related.
I have the best time off plan I can imagine, and after 10 years of service, I feel totally trusted by the elders.
Forget about time. Allow a man to do his work.
ongoing recognition and enquiry about times of stress
let's just go by Christ's authority......
To have a written policy instead of an "understanding."
Give me a special one time Sunday off "just because" to let me know you appreciate my work
The amount of late night calls and being on call 24/7/365 requires more time off than other occupations.
If I am indeed doing my job correctly, allow me to determine my "needed" time away from the office and Sunday's, so as to better minister.
Offer a six-week paid sabbatical every three years.
I pray Elders will recognize the stressful nature of ministry and the impact it has on families. Ministers deserve to be treated as a fellow laborer and member of the family of God...not an employee. I am so blessed that my Elders feel this way.
Instead of mandating that I be in the office for set hours 40 hours a week, allow me to set hours based on the activities going on the day. For example if I am going to be out all evening allow me to be home either in the afternoon or morning. That way I am not working every hour every day. This will allow me to have time for chores around the house and to spend time with family.
Sometimes I work on my sermons at home while taking care of the kids or because the wife is sick.
If they could ensure I get two days off a week -- or at least every other week I get two, that would be great. And that they understand holidays should be time off for me too -- and if the holidays fall on a Sunday, I should get to take them on another day of the week.
Let the minister work out his continuing education studies at the office.
Show more confidence in me by speaking to the congregation in my behalf.
Have an extra weekend off each year
Rather than being told a certain number of hours to work, I prefer to have clear expectations outlined about what work is to be done. I can work for 70 hours a week, but if I'm not getting done what they expect, they may feel like I'm not working enough. That sets up a tension that is not pleasant.
More public affirmation to the congregation.
Annual review with both pros and cons would be profitable.
I am responsible to God for my Work.
Just that I wish they would trust me. Have to keep a time sheet and have them analyze every second of every day can be very frustrating.
They get 30 days a year vacation. Many members get up to 6 weeks.
Ministry is not a job, it is a life.
More genuine, heartfelt acknowledge for work done than "that was a good sermon"
Serving the Lord is a way of life not a checklist of "To Do's."
When church members complain our comment to you about the preacher being gone to much, reframe it for them. Take ownership as an elder, this was our decision to let him go for this many Sundays, we are blessed by our preacher having a broader influence in the Kingdom of God, we are blessed by having different voices throughout the year at our church. etc.
I would like for them to volunteer opportunities for time off (Preacher seminars, lectureships, etc.)
Communicate your needs and your reasons for time off. Spiritual leaders will likely respond positively. If they are unreasonable, it will be hopeless. Look for a congregation that has a heart. However, you must be a good person and true servant, who gains their trust
To occasionally ask me, "How are you doing?"
They should know that we have the churches best interest in mind and that if the work is getting done which they can tell then we should be able to manage our own time.
I used to be able to work on off days and if I did I received a comp day. That has changed now and if I work an off day...its just gone...I really feel its un-fair the way its done now!
Insist that I really do take the time off that I am allotted
When hired - set ground rules and be flexible. Realize most everyone (Elders, Deacons, Teachers, women) work on Sunday and for free so they really only have one free day a week.
Show more appreciation.
if you want me to have a good family, give me time to spend with my family.
Ministry puts us on call 24/7. We don't punch a clock but we run into a member at Wal-Mart and we are working as we learn of their illness, a death in the family or some other problem that needs our attention.
Go with me for meetings and mission trips
trust me i work for the Lord first and foremost. If I am doing the Lord's work, time off should not be a big deal!
Occasional private recognition for service.
Focus on quality and quantity
Adding to time off is sometimes as good as a raise in pay.
I would like for them to make my vacation Sundays mandatory.
That ministers cannot energize a congregation when he himself is exhausted. Ministers need to be physically and spiritually recharged. Sabbaticals should be mandatory every two years or so. By sabbatical Im not referring to specific time off. But a time when that minister can go and spiritually connect with God. However long that takes. If you put a time limit on it, all he will think about is how much he has to do when he gets back. I know this. I've had one sabbatical in 12 years and afterwards was basically punished by being told "no more time off" afterwards. I'm burned out. And seriously considering leaving the ministry now. I don't say this in bitterness but rather in the hope that this will help elders to understand.
Esp when the preacher is far from family (parents, etc) allow him the time he needs to visit them, take care of them as they age, etc.
If you don't trust a man to be responsible with his time, don't hire him to be your minister.
I would like at Least 6 Sunday off. It is good for the church to hear other people, and for them to get a break from me
Have them let me know that they understand my work and want em to have time off so I do not burn out.
Trust that I'm getting relevant work done during the week!
From time to time stand up and back up my lessons.
Ask questions if you don't understand why the preacher wants to attend certain meeting or be off at certain times. Don't ever assume you know the answer.
Listen when I talk about being stressed regarding workload and take on a few of the jobs for a period of time.
Word of mouth agreements are fine, but as a preacher stays longer in a place it gets to the point where he is constantly on call. At the same time, as a minister I do not protect my off day! So it is a two way street. I have no certain day as an off day.
I need shepherds - not a board of directors!
Give a "surprise" week off with funds to treat spouse, family, etc. to something nice, fun, relaxing!
For them to offer time off, a sabbatical of 3 or 4 weeks.
My elders ask that I keep a journal, which I have done for eleven years now. At first I was offended, but as the years have gone on I appreciate them for asking. It has helped me to be better scheduled and regulated in my hours. It has even helped to save me when members have made accusations about my absence from the office.
Increase my vacation time or days off as I stay at a church longer. For example after 5 years you get 3 weeks off, after 10 you get 4 weeks off, etc.
If the elder's policy is an open one in which I can seemingly ask off at any time, then when I do ask off I should not be treated as a criminal for taking a week-long vacation for the first time in 8 years of working with them.
To make the time off I get feel like something I have earned and should not feel guilty about taking. This is not intentional on their part, but it comes through and makes me reluctant to ask for time- especially for personal use.
Just your basic run of the mill encouragement.
Let me have more time off in the summer to speak on Wednesday night at VBS etc.
I'd appreciate not having to “work ahead” on things like the bulletin, etc. for the times when I'm gone (elders COULD write, or we COULD use material written by someone other than me for those weeks.
My elders tell me to be sure to take personal time but then ask me to do so much that it's impossible to be away from my work. They don't have a complete appreciation for the time I put into my job.
Time off does not equal laziness, but rejuvenation. Comp time is important since every day and week potentially has 'schedule-busters'.
They've given me the flexibility to determine office hours, days off, etc. but it's rarely publicized to the congregation from the elders' perspective. So some members don't know the agreement up front...making it easier for them to "judge" how my time is used. So they can "come to bat" for my flexibility when it's questioned and they can regularly discuss/promote our agreement.
I wish they would not be fixated on office hours. I am required to spend a set four hour period in the office four days a week. The office is not the best place for me to complete my study and preparation for sermons and classes. I would like for them to trust me enough so that the office hours are not such a big deal.
My elders are great on this issue, but I wish they publicly supported me more. Lots of the members make jokes (and some of them aren't joking!) and I wish the elders would take up for me in those situations. They are great to privately express their thanks and appreciation for the hours I work, though.
Understand that this job is unlike any other job out there. Specific office hours aren't going to work because one week to the next you don't know how much time you might need to spend in hospitals or other people's homes. The quality of a minister's work will be reflected in his sermons and the relationships he develops within the congregation - not in the number of hours he puts in at the office.
Stand in the pulpit and announce to the congregation how the eldership feels about the local preacher. Tell him privately how you feel about the preacher!
A minister's job is like a fireman's. Most of the time, you might see them at the firehouse, washing the fire engine, or throwing football and wonder what our tax dollars pay for. What you didn't see is him responding to a call at 2 am, helping people, and putting his life on the line for us. Ministry isn't (normally) life or death, but we are expected to respond when the call comes.
Define my holidays so I don't feel guilty about taking them off!
I would like for them to encourage me to take time away from church work. I'd like for them to make sure I attend lectureships/seminars without the pressure of preparing to preach when I get back. Whenever I'm away, I'm not really away, because one elder makes me feel guilty for taking time away from the church.
Realize the great ideas you pass off to us to complete aren’t nearly as easy/timely to make a reality as it was to have an idea. Don't just have an idea and pass it off, help with the work, show you’re dedicated
Thank you for understanding life is life.