FOR OR AGAINST: On the Clock

In February on Church Music Today, Zach and I will be arguing, er, having a healthy discussion on topics that could be controversial and push-button issues for many of you out there.  Our February series is called “FOR OR AGAINST: There Are Two Sides To Every Story” in which we will be taking sides on certain topics and sharing viewpoints on each side of the argument.

Today’s topic is “On the Clock” where we will discuss the viewpoints of salaried, full-time ministers and their amount of time on the job.  Moreover, the task of recording or not recording and reporting your time worked.  Sit back, and see the two perspectives shared on this delicate topic.  And as always, we would LOVE your comments on the post. ***DISCLAIMER*** We are merely taking sides for a posts. These aren’t our full opinions on each subject.


(Dennis) I believe that it is OK for full-time ministers in the church to have to keep up with hours worked and if needed, report those hours in a deacon’s meeting, church council, etc.  Let’s face it, we are salary, which basically means we are paid to work 24/7.  We are on call for hospital visits, emergencies, holidays and so on.  I don’t think it is an issue in keeping the time I work which includes: out of office church activities, needs and visits (including phone calls, e-mails during the time I am home with my family).

There are different things associated with our position as ministers in the church.  Financially, the church votes on our salary and it is widely known.  Does everyone in public workplace know their co-worker’s salary?  Chances are, no, they don’t.  Knowing the time we spend working isn’t that much different.  I believe that we, as ministers ordained in the gospel ministry should show that our office hours and time put into our ministry match our calling.  Our calling has depth and cannot – should not – be done halfway.  Our time invested in our “jobs” should be supported by much prayer, planning and promotion.

If you don’t agree, is there something to hide?  Do personal events away from the office, two-hour lunches and other selfish things get in the way?  (Not pointing fingers, just saying things I have heard from many churches about their staff).  Is there something on your schedule you don’t want the church to know about?  What is the church perception of a full-time salaried minister who works 10-noon each day?  Doesn’t that show on Sunday mornings?  I believe there are expectations placed on each minister:  we expect our pastor to be well-prepared with his message, the music to be well planned and rehearsed and things communicated with the volunteers who are leading in advance.  It takes time to do all of those things well.  Not to mention the other areas of your job that people don’t see on Sunday mornings.  I think the worst thing that could happen – speaking of perception – is to have church folks see more of the financial and church administrative assistants than you.

Churches have been burned in the past.  Staff have mis-used church time and finances and they have a right to know that the people God has called to this church are using their time wisely and also being a good steward of the church funds.

Here are two views to support my argument:

1) Put yourself in the shoes of your Pastor.  If your Pastor is administrative-minded this will be something he is very focused on.  Church Administrators will be concerned about this too.  I have had many Pastors who said “I don’t care when you are here, just do your job and do it well.”  I also believe that if the Pastor is there holding regular office hours and you always walk in after your Pastor and leave before him – prepare for that discussion in an upcoming staff meeting.  Pastors probably want to report how the staff is invested to the deacons/elder/church council folks.

2) In a recent post, Bob Russell shared these thoughts on the use of our time:

We reap what we sew.

God honors integrity.

I will give an honest day’s work.

You have to police yourself (with time spent working).

Document how you are spending your time (keep a journal).

40-50 hours is suggested to work each week (matching the business world).

Do not include the time you spend attending church.

When you are on the job…work (don’t waste time).

Others on staff observe your habits.

Let’s give God our best and invest in what He has called us to do!  Now, Zach will do his best to prove me wrong!


(Zach)  I do not believe that churches should expect salaried ministers to keep a time sheet.  In my opinion, a time sheet is a metric that should be used to measure an hourly job.  It carries the connotation of clocking in and clocking out.   The thing I would point out is the word “salaried.”  A salaried employee is one who is paid a flat rate regardless of the amount of hours worked.  They are also exempt from overtime pay considerations.  For purposes of the argument, let’s say an average work week is 40 hours.  If it takes a salaried employee 60 hours to complete the tasks, even though he will have worked an extra twenty hours, he is still paid the same amount.  If it takes the salaried employee 35 hours to complete his tasks, he is paid the same.  The reality is that both the employer and the employee are agreeing to a fixed salary when the hiring takes place.  The over-arching idea of a salaried position is that you are paid with the expectation that you will get the job done regardless of how long it takes.  Anyone who has been in full-time ministry for any period of time will know that there are some weeks you work 60 hours and some you work 35.   It greatly depends on what time of year it is and what is going on in the life of the church.

An hourly employee is a totally different ball of wax.  He is paid a per hour wage over a set number of hours per week.  There is a limit to the hours he is allowed to work and what he can be paid.  An hourly employee is required to work a set number of hours and not go over unless there is an exemption for overtime.  The salaried employee is expected to get the job done no matter what, the hourly employee is expected to get the job done if there is enough time.  The work of ministry is never finished.  There is always a “work in progress” aspect to it.  There is always another lost soul with which to share the Gospel, another sermon to preach, another song to sing, another person to visit, another person to disciple or counsel.  The hourly employee can go home at the end of the day and leave his job behind.  The ministry is a 24/7 calling, therefore, I believe the salaried approach is best because it most accurately reflects the nature of the job.

So how does this affect the church / staff working relationship?  Dennis made some really good points in his argument for a minister being on the clock.  I don’t believe it is completely cut and dry situation but I do believe there are several reasons the “hourly” arrangement is not the best approach for church or minister.

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”  (1 Timothy 5:17-18)

1)  While a minister earns his living from the church, the ministry is not primarily a vocation but a calling.  If your church insists on treating a staff member as an hourly employee rather than a called minister of God it is probably because they do not understand the reality of life in ministry.  The ministry is not a job you can leave at 4pm and return at 8am the next day.  Rather, it involves persistent mental, emotional, spiritual, and at times physical aspects.  Is your church willing to pay your pastor for the sleepless nights he spends?  The shortened vacations due to church member needs?  Sudden hospital visits?  The inability to turn-off his mind from thinking about the spiritual needs of his people?  Paying your pastoral staff a salary protects the church from overtime costs but also affords the minister greater dignity.

2)  Making a minister keep a time sheet displays a lack of trust.  Do not let one lazy former minister affect how you treat the one you have now.  If your current minister has the same problems, go to him with love and grace and see how he responds.  If he doesn’t respond well, he may not be the right fit.  I promise you that more rules will not make things better.

3)  I believe the best way for a church to handle the the expectations of office hours, job responsibilities, etc is to trust the pastor to handle his staff.  Who do you think knows better whether the staff is getting the job done than him?  I have been blessed with a couple pastors who told have empowered me to get my job done by trust and grace.  They know about the late nights,and they show interest in my personal, spiritual, and professional growth.  It’s amazing how much more you can get done when you don’t have someone looking over your shoulder managing your every move.   Pastors, it makes a difference when your staff knows you trust and care for them!  This will lead to them wanting to honor God with their work!

4)  Paying your pastoral staff a salary rather than forcing them to keep an hourly time sheet is a great way to minister them and their families.  Most ministers work far more than 40 hours.  Many also live away from their relatives and they often do not have the same type of help with children as those already established in the community.  The salary approach allows them to have the flexibility to get the job done, while still taking care of their families.

May God give grace, wisdom, and discernment for churches and ministers facing these types of issues!

Let us know your thoughts!  Please comment!


2 thoughts on “FOR OR AGAINST: On the Clock

  1. I believe left unchecked a person, no matter their work habits, will try to see what they can and cannot get away with. God created people and working is a result of sin. We will try not to work every chance we get, why do you think kids get excited about recess and adults get excited about vacations. I don’t think its too much to ask of a pastor or worship pastor to let the church know how they spend their job related time each week. On the other hand, the church needs to realize that being a youth/worship/lead pastor is not a nine to five job. I know of a church that requires it pastor to be there from 8-4 with an hour lunch, and they check, which is crazy. I also know a pastor that would claim visitation time when he was setting in a boat fishing with another person, little dishonest if you ask me. before a church calls a pastor there needs to be a written understanding of what’s expected each week. (my opinion visitation should never be on that list, that’s our job as church members, but a good pastor will visit). There is a fine line between what the church owes you for your work and you taking advantage of them. My church gets more then they pay for, seeing that i’m not paid for leading worship or youth so it’s a lot easier for me to slack off now and again but don’t think I don’t hear about it. By the way to prove my point about working, this was written from my work computer on the clock…LOL

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