What Does a Pastor Do?


I’ve been a part of several conversations lately with new church attendees and community members where I have been asked the question: “Now, I know you work on your sermons, but what do you do the rest of the week?”

There’s so much more to the pastoral life than what you see on Sundays. Sundays are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the focus tasks of our job.

It’s a timeless question that generations of pastors before me and beside me have been asked and have answered each in his or her own way; for there is no rule book about how a pastor structures his or her day. It’s usually based both on the personality of the pastor and expectations of the congregation. It’s a unique job with some deadlines (Sunday is always coming, for example), but it is also a job with a lot of unspecified responsibilities that can be attended to at a pace according to congregational needs. I always say that no day of the week is ever the same, and I never have reason to get bored!

But these are some of the “doing” tasks that my last week has included:

  • One-on-one meetings with parishioners going through times of crisis, including taking communion to a church member in the hospital
  • One-on-one meetings with families or individuals interested in learning more about the church or becoming official members of the congregation
  • Follow-up conversations or emails with visitors from Sunday morning
  • Planning meetings and phone conversations with church leaders about new initiatives for growth in congregational life
  • Attending to the administrative tasks of the church office by supervising two other staff members, overseeing communication coming from the church office, and planning the church calendar with the church administrator
  • Attending to church outreach by updating the Facebook fan page, twittering about important events, working with church administrator to update contact list for weekly email, making sure the website is up to date, and of course blogging when new ideas come for posts
  • Meeting with church members who come into the office to ask questions or say hello
  • Representing the church at community functions
  • Preparing for upcoming Bible studies
  • Planning for worship and editing the bulletin
  • Connecting with colleagues in the area for meals for shared learning and support
  • And, of course, preparing for sermons by researching, meditating, and sitting still long enough for God to have the opportunity to form my thoughts in the direction of the message the congregation most needs to hear

And the list could go on. It also could record things that I wish I had more time for — additional parishioners I would like to have contacted, more study time I wished I had. When I think about what I do and don’t, I always try to give myself grace to embrace the possibilities found in the next week.

While I can’t answer the “What does a pastor do?” question for all my colleagues, know this: there’s so much more to the pastoral life than what you see on Sundays. Sundays are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the focus tasks of our job.

Yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way! I get surprised daily by something new. I am and will continue to be grateful for this wonderful opportunity to put my energy and time into an organization with a great future because, in the end, church life is not about the pastor. It’s always about the congregation. This is why we work so hard. Pastors are just the catalyst for helping congregations reach their potential as we are transformed together into the community of faith that God would have us be.

Maybe, then, another good question for us to ask is: “What do congregation members do to enrich and support the lives of their faith community?”

This article originally appeared on Elizabeth’s blog found at https://preacherontheplaza.wordpress.com.


About Author

Elizabeth Evans Hagan, ordained Baptist minister, most recently served as senior minister of the Palisades Community Church in Washington, D.C. She is the author of Brave Church: Tackling Tough Topics Together (Upper Room Books, 2021) and Birthed: Finding Grace Through Infertility (Chalice Press, 2016). Hagan is the executive director of Our Courageous Kids, a foundation that serves young adults who grew up in international orphanages. She is an alumna of the Lewis Center’s Lewis Fellows leadership development program.

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