Ministry work hours 5: Outcome vs hours

Hours works (and leave taken) are inaccurate measures. They focus on physical presence, rather than work done. Sometimes physical presences is a crucial part of a job. Sometimes it is a secondary but still valuable thing. It is always one measure of work. But you can be physically present and not working. Or working badly. Or working inefficiently.

Even worse, even to the extent that hours worked measures work done, it is measuring activity rather than outcome.

Someone can work a 60 hour week and produce little gain for the kingdom - dithering in a million little projects, crawling through unnecessarily detailed sermon preparation, meeting every single pastoral need, sitting on badly chaired committees and fussing about bullet points on powerpoint. Another person can sometimes work a 40 hour week and write a better sermon, train more people for ministry and invest in key new ministry initiatives.

I’m not too fussed how many hours my staff work, or how much leave they take - as long as they get the job done.

I tend to only drill down to tracking hours and counting leave when someone doesn’t seem to be getting the job done. Partly it helps me to hold them accountable. Partly it helps THEM to build in some basic disciplines around time management.

Sometimes I wonder if we focus on hours worked because we’ve never done the hard work of figuring out what outcomes we actually want. That requires too much hard thinking and clarifying. Easier just to cram up our lives with busyness. We feel godly because we feel exhausted. And others admire us because we are so frantic. But we are making little objective gain for the cause of the gospel.

Now this can be taken too far, where someone can be ruthlessly pragmatic, and produce thin or loveless results. And not be present enough to add the extra value that deeper relationships and engagement can bring. But then you can build in some basic expectations into the job description - and even better, employ the right kind of people!

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