Ministry work hours 4: The lay leader works a 40 hour week plus 10 hours for church?

Although I probably end up at a similar conclusion, I think the logic of this common maths equation is unhelpful:

The committed church member works in their job for 40-50 hours and then works 10-15 hours for church. The minister should do at least the same amount.

I think it is unhelpful because it introduces a whole bunch of categories for thinking about ministry work: that it has to be ‘fair’ compared to a lay leader, that it is about ‘duty’ vs ‘free service’. I don’t think this perspectives are especially constructive for the mindset of the paid minister or for the lay leaders.

Moreover, I think it is misleading because the kind of work and work hours are incommensurate. School teachers get big holidays. But a mate of mine who’s a school teacher commonly responds to those who complain about this: “Well why don’t you become a teacher then?” :-)

Here are a couple of ways that the lay leaders’ 10 hours overtime for church doesn’t quite match the paid minister’s 10 hours:

  1. For the lay leader, this work is a recreational and social break: finally getting to see church friends and do something that matters. For the minister this is more of their day job.

  2. For the lay leader, even if it is harder stuff (doing finances for church, sitting on an elders board), there is the satisfaction of doing something that makes a lasting, eternal difference.

  3. For the lay leader, church social function can be purely an enjoyable occasional, for the ministry leader even the most pleasant church social occasion has a dimension of ‘work’ to it.

  4. For the lay leader, they have the free choice to invest this discretionary time with church - shouldn’t a paid minister have similar discretion to perhaps give this time to a range of causes: The Australian Kendo Renmei, political lobbying, the parent-teacher association, writing the Great Australian Novel, involvement in some parachurch ministry?

This list might not be complete, nor completely true for every paid minister or lay leader, every paid ministry or lay leadership position. But it is an example of why trying to do work out a simple analogy just doesn’t work. I suppose you could spend time and effort trying to find the closest possible analogy and get some benefit from this process. But largely I think it is a red herring, that will be both inaccurate in terms of thinking about the work and psychologically unhealthy for everyone involved.

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