The Pros and Cons of Office Hours

It’s surprising how much tension there can be about something as seemingly mechanical as office hours. But the truth is, it represents your culture, relationships and partially sets the tone for the work ethic of your church team.

It’s a little complicated to write on this topic because not every group of staff have the same roles and responsibilities. Therefore, different teams have different needs when it comes to office hours.

For example, it’s commonly a good idea for the majority of your administrative and support staff to have regular office hours usually something close to the traditional business times of 8:00am to 5:00pm.

However, in some situations an administrative staff person, for example, a campus administrative assistant might work 4-5 hours on a Sunday. There are many reasons why flexibility is helpful in setting what the actual “office” hours are for some staff.

(Note: this post does not address working from home. That is an entirely different subject.)

To be more practical and therefore helpful, this article will concentrate on the pros and cons of church staff that are more ministry focused, (rather than administratively focused.)

The following is not an argument for a particular schedule, but rather practical ideas to help you think through what is best for your team.

Before the list of pros, let me suggest that your ministry staff may be served well by some regular office hours together, but not their full work week, and rarely is ministry contained to a 40-hour week. Again, it all depends on what their responsibilities are.

The Pros of Office Hours:

1) The larger the church staff, the greater the need for office hours.

The scope and complexity of the work in large and very large churches is facilitated better with proximity and quick access amongst staff. Again, perhaps not 40+ hours, but a substantial number of hours when the team knows everyone is there.

2) Teams who are project-based are served well by set office hours.

The idea here is that if a particular member of the team is not present, the project gets delayed and off schedule. It can then impact morale because others must scramble to make up for the person not present.

3) Overall communication is enhanced through regular office hours.

It’s difficult to over-communicate on a church staff. When the staff has regular hours together, they are naturally more apt to communicate more often and therefore catch and correct things quickly.

4) Team relationships are fostered by at least some regularly set office hours.

It’s much easier to maintain and cultivate positive and productive working relationships with consistent time together. 

The Cons of Office Hours:

1) Office hours can be used as a substitute for trust and accountability.

If you don’t trust that your staff are working, then you have the wrong staff. If there is an individual issue, address that person, don’t set a policy. Trust and accountability are never truly fostered by policy.

2) Ministry scheduling does not fit into the standard 8:00am to 5:00pm time structure.

A significant amount of ministry takes place outside the normal business hours.

Sunday is the obvious example. Depending on the size of your church, ministry staff can easily work anywhere from four to ten, even twelve hours on a Sunday.

Student ministry is often during the week and sometimes multiple nights a week, ministry training is often on an evening, etc.

3) The needs of people cannot always be met at or in the church building.

From hospital visits to weddings, funerals, and community gatherings like fundraisers and board meetings, plus evangelistic connections, etc., much of ministry takes place away from the church building and happens at irregular hours.

4) Personal productivity isn’t always maximized by set hours.

I’ve addressed the importance of the team being together in the pros section, but not every staff member is wired the same way.

The work hours for individual staff members might be better maximized by allowing them to work according to their personality. For example, some might flourish by starting at 6:30am and going home earlier in the day. Others might be more productive by starting at 9:00am or even 10:00am and going home early evening.

So, what about your church staff teams? What is best for you?

I’d love to read a comment from you. What pro or con would you add to either list?

17 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Office Hours”

    1. Good question. The bivocational pastor and team are a unique circumstance that calls for a unique solution. The most common approach is not agreed upon office hours per se, but agreed upon meeting times. They are similar, but because most of the team may have another job, it’s tough to match up “open” office hours where you all may or may not be there. So, for example one early morning meeting, one late afternoon meeting and one early evening meeting a week might be a good pattern to connect, create, plan, and solve problems.

  1. Jeffrey Stanford

    How do you encourage student pastors who want to get to the schools but their pastor requires “office hours”?

    1. Hey Jeffrey, that’s a tough one without knowing more of the story and that’s not practical here. So, I think the best route it for the student pastor to have a direct and honest conversation with the senior pastor about expectations and empowerment. Meaning, what are the expectations to grow the student ministry and what does empowerment look like to accomplish that end? Then I’d suggest going for an agreement such as once a week or twice a week, something like that, where the student pastor is on campuses at set times. That way both goals are achieved, the student pastor still has office hours, they are just office hours in the field!

  2. In terms of staff requirements/expectations, what do you recommend for special Sundays such as Easter and/or Christmas/Christmas Eve? In your opinion, should there be an expectation for staff members to be present for those special services? We have had tension due to staff members desiring to travel to visit with family during holidays.

    1. This is so our church! The senior pastor, music leader, etc…everyone is gone. We have our most important public ministry services led by lay people which turns out hodgepodge! I would love to see any advice responses, as well.

    2. Every church culture is different, and different roles typically have different expectations. For example, administrative and support staff are not commonly required to be present for holiday and special services. However, somewhat obviously, all ministry staff must be present. It comes with the territory of the job. The most important thing is to have these expectations and agreements made up front in advance. Having these convos during or close to the holidays invites too much emotion and crowds out objectivity.

  3. Thanks Dan. In the past couple weeks, I’ve been sharing similar thoughts with my team and developing an “in-office” schedule. You can’t build culture without the communal gathering. This is very helpful

  4. It seems that these discussions need to be framed around outcomes (i.e., goals, direction, etc.) and activity (i.e., daily habits, guidelines and expectations). In my experience, church leaders are often tentative around providing clear expectations of how to evaluate staff.

    On Outcomes:
    We hire because we have a specific intent of what a person in a role should aim to accomplish with their time. An example could be that we want a youth pastor to: 1) grow youth spiritually in their understanding of scripture and in their trust in God to lead them daily; 2) grow the numbers in the youth group from X to Y; and 3) communicate effectively to parents and the broader church community. These are goals for the staff member to achieve using their time and activity.

    On Activity:
    Daily routines are needed with varying degrees based on the personality and baseline habits of the staff team. Office hours, communication habits and meetings can be used to foster greater coordination, mentoring and to increase regimentation. Meanwhile, we are aware that just because a person is “in the chair” doesn’t mean it is productive time or even ministry time, as Dan has pointed out.

    Thanks for the article, Dan.

  5. As an XP with many years in most every type of ministry, my basic requirement for the staff people I currently shepherd is that they develop the self-initiative to 1) grow as a ministering believer; 2) increase the number of people you are ministering to; 3) show up a little early for everything; 4) let me or my assistant know where you are; and 5) lend a hand without being asked.

    1. I like those values. What’s the process like of initiating new team members into that ethos? I’d guess that new team members a few boundaries early on. Also, are there seasons (Easter, Advent, etc.) where you all are a bit more prescriptive about set hours?

      1. The expectations are definitely included in our day-one info. It’s never hard at first, but the habits and the motives have to be accepted and learned. Plus, we try to restate them monthly as encouragement. I serve the staff and congregation as C.E.O. (Chief Encouragement Officer).

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