What Does a Pastor Do?
Updated: Feb 18
When people find out I’m a pastor, one of the first things they ask is, “what do you do?” They realize that a pastor probably doesn’t spend forty hours a week preparing for Sunday morning. I can’t claim to speak for all pastors. I can’t even guarantee that what I do is representative. But I can tell you what I do.
1. A Pastor Prays
It isn’t any easier for me to pray than it is for you. It’s a struggle! But it is a crucial aspect of my calling. I have a list of people whom I pray for daily. It includes my family and the officers in the church. It also includes people who have pressing needs. Further, I pray regularly for every member and regular attendee in the church I pastor. Ideally I pray for each person at least a couple of times a week. I also am constantly praying with people throughout the week. For example, I meet with one of our elders weekly to pray about the needs of the church.
2. A Pastor Does Administration
Yes, pastors have administration too. For me it includes planning and preparing for meetings, attending meetings, submitting expense reports, and managing projects in the church. I’m also a member of a committee for Presbytery–a regional body in our denomination. I receive and compile reports three times a year for it.
3. A Pastor Plans and Leads Worship
Worship is the most important thing we do in life! I plan our weekly worship service carefully. That involves choosing the Scripture passages, creeds, and psalms, hymns or songs that make up our liturgy. In my case, it also means printing and folding our worship guides for Sunday morning. With the other elders of our church, I share in leading the service.
4. A Pastor Preaches and Teaches
My denomination (the PCA) believes preaching is vital for a healthy church. Therefore, it’s a key aspect of my work. About this time of year, I plan sermons for the next year. Weekly, I prayerfully study a passage of the Bible that’s the focus for my sermon. The study includes interacting with the original languages. I usually read a few commentaries on the passage. I may also read on subjects related to the passage for that week. One of my most valuable resources for preaching may surprise you–it’s my relationships with people (both in and outside of the church). Then I write the sermon.
Depending on the season, I may also be teaching things like Sunday school or a new members class. In all of my preaching and teaching, I aim to encourage and equip the saints for the work of ministry.
5. A Pastor Spends Time with People
Josef Pieper said, “The natural habitat of truth is human conversation.” In any given week I spend a significant amount of time meeting with folks. With engaged couples, for instance, I do pre-marital counseling. Sometimes people meet with me to seek counsel about some difficulty, need, or question in their lives. In addition, I’m involved in regular bible and book studies. Finally, we have a men's Bible study in which I also take part.
6. A Pastor Shepherds
As one of the elders at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, it’s my privilege to invest in the spiritual well-being of our church members. If someone is struggling spiritually, it’s our responsibility to figure out what’s wrong. We then try to offer the help they need. It’s also our responsibility to encourage everyone to use their gifts to serve. In addition, I get to hear personal stories of faith on the basis of which we welcome new members. We also take seriously our call to exercise spiritual discipline.
7. A Pastor Reaches Out and Engages
The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, a pastor, to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5). It’s one area in which I’m seeking to grow. For me, it begins in my neighborhood. I’m getting to know my neighbors and their kids. As a family we invite neighbors into our home to share a meal. We also seek to make our home a hub of activity for kids in the neighborhood. I want to introduce my friends to Christ.
To engage in my community, on a rotating basis I pray before the start of our local Town Council meetings. The church also belongs to our local Chamber of Commerce. It’s a great group, and provides wonderful opportunities to get to know a variety of new people. It also offers an excellent avenue to serve outside of the church.
How does what I have described compare to what you thought pastors do?