Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Ministers Actually Do

Several years ago, a member of a church where I was the pulpit minister told me that his young son had decided to be a preacher when he grew up. The reason that the boy had opted for ministry was that preachers only worked on Sundays and Wednesday nights.

The image persists that preachers and other members of a church staff just don't have a lot to do. Strangely enough, it seems that fewer and fewer are opting to take on this supposedly-easy job.

I'm confident that there are a few lazy preachers. I may have known a few. I may have been one myself at certain points along the way. But not only are most ministers hard-working most of the time, they also have plenty to keep them busy. And they want to be busy: teaching, preaching, and doing anything they can to promote the gospel of Christ and the well-being of the church. For most preachers, doing what they do is not a matter of opportunity and employment. Instead, it's more about giftedness and gratitude to the Lord, wanting to do anything to increase His honor in the world.

The summer I turned fifteen, I worked at a car wash. The pay was $2.00/hour. At 60 hours, that came out to $120 every week. I always felt rich on pay day. Since that time, I've worked in a factory and in a record store. I have worked as a lawn boy, a locksmith, and a radio announcer-disc jockey (operating two radio stations by myself for the grand sum of $4.00/hour). But for about 20 years, I was a preacher among the Churches of Christ. And that was as real a job as I've ever had.

But what is it, exactly, that ministers do? Members of churches have a right to know. Because that's true, years ago I put together a representative list of my responsibilities and tasks as the preacher in a single-staff church I was working with in Connecticut.

To people who have always worked in multi-staff churches, my list will seem strange, way too broad and general. To others who have spent at least some time in a smaller, single-staff church, the list might actually seem short. Such is the difference between specialists (in multi-staff churches) and generalists (in single-staff churches). Either way, here's the overview of ministerial responsibilities and tasks I came up with:

1. Worship Leadership and Ministry of the Word

Write, rehearse, and preach biblical sermons.
Prepare and teach classes that inform and inspire.
Create PowerPoint presentations or hand-outs to enhance the effectiveness of a lesson.
Write articles designed to promote and nurture faith.
Plan the worship time and make assignments to worship leaders.
Provide instruction to worship leaders about their various roles.
Plan and organize special times of worship (Spring Sing, Christmas service, elder and deacon ordination services, etc.) .

2. Evangelism and Outreach

Make contact with visitors to the congregation (visits, notes, calls, etc.).
Initiate and conduct personal Bible studies.
Conduct follow-up studies for new Christians, or teach a new-members class.
Promote and participate in benevolent efforts of the congregation.
Respond to questions about the church (usually phone calls or visitors).
Plan, organize, and conduct an annual Vacation Bible School.

3. Administrative Responsibilities

Maintain office hours.
Open and post incoming mail.
Respond to incoming mail, e-mail, and phone messages.
Write for and be responsible for the publication of a weekly church bulletin.
Compose and publish newsletters, flyers, reminders, etc.
Order and stock office materials (copy paper, envelopes, etc.).
Serve as monitor of the church building.

4. Spiritual Development and Personal Maintenance

Pray regularly.
Study the Bible regularly.
Read good books and magazines.
Sharpen writing and speaking skills.
Stay up-to-date with current trends that affect church and society.
Maintain contact with leaders in other churches.
Attend (and perhaps also organize) a regional church leaders' meeting.
Keep one's physical body in shape through regular exercise.

5. Spiritual Care and Christian Nurture

Keep in touch with members (lunches, home visits, etc.).
Provide counseling to members (often amid a crisis).
Provide counseling to non-members (often referred by members).
Conduct pre-marital counseling (usually several sessions).
Use cards and calls to support and encourage others.
Visit and comfort those who are sick and/or hospitalized.
Recommend books or websites to help others with specific needs.
Meet and pray with other leaders of the congregation.

6. Other Roles and Duties

Plan and conduct weddings.
Plan and conduct funerals.
Serve as an ambassador for the congregation.
Write recommendations for job seekers, college prospects, etc.
Entertain and accommodate guests of the congregation (visiting preachers, missionaries, those interviewing for positions with the congregation, etc.).
Oversee the work of other members of the church staff.
Promote and support Christian camps and colleges.

Again, this is a representative list. Naturally, at different times of the year and in different seasons of ministry some of these tasks will come to the fore while others are moved to the back burner.

If you currently serve as a preacher or have done so in the past, what would you add or delete or tweak? What are some of your reactions? If you've never served full-time on a church staff, what is it about my description that strikes you as remarkable? Naturally, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts and responses.


Wade Tannehill said...

I have also played the roles of church librarian, taxi driver, community chaplain, pinch hitter, and social worker.

Oh, and BTW, you left out "read and comment on other preachers' blogs."

Frank Bellizzi said...

Yep. All that too.