Pastors, On The Whole, Enjoy Their Work

"The Aquila Report" published a story by David Briggs this month giving some interesting updates on the American pastor.

More than six in ten clergy members say they're very happy in their work, which is double the response of other American workers. It's sad that four in ten aren't fulfilled in their work, but sadder still that the majority of American workers aren't fulfilled. I can't say that I've ever had a job I hated, but it must be tough to get up every day and go to a place we don't want to go.

Ministers are being paid more, too. The study found that the "clergy wage disadvantage" in 1983 was $12 per hour; now it's about $9 per hour. This means ministers are paid less than comparable professionals but the gap has narrowed.

And in 1976, 61 percent of ministers lived in church-owned housing; now only 14 percent do. This is a welcomed trend since home-owning gives ministers some financial security and makes for longer tenure in their churches.

Another part of the study found that ministers are balancing work and family more effectively. An old study in 1934 found clergy worked 76 hours each week. By 1979 the average work week was 52 hours; now it's 43 hours per week.

I do remember with appreciation the tutelage I had from the late Dotson Nelson who was my field supervisor in my doctoral program. We had a time-study project and he remarked that a minister probably should work 60 hours each week in order to be effective. I've found his counsel accurate, though most ministers struggle at balancing work with family and vacation time.

Ministers wrestle with parts of their jobs, but on the whole, they'll grateful for the privilege of serving in vocational ministry. I remember an old movie about the life of Babe Ruth in which the character was surprised he could play baseball and be paid for it. I don't know if this is true, but ministers generally echo this attitude.

With Ministers Appreciation Month coming up in October, it's a good time to let your minister know your love for him or her.

Someone came up with a tongue-in-cheek list for those who want to get rid of their minister.

1. Pay him a living wage. He'll probably eat himself to death.

2. Pat him on the back and tell him what a good job he's doing. He'll work himself to death.

3. Tell him you're giving him a trip to Hawaii for his church anniversary. He'll probably have a heart attack.

4. Unite the church in prayer for him. He'll become so effective some large church will take him off your hands.