It’s now official: we work too much.
Don’t blame me for that unpleasant dose of reality; blame Juliet B. Schor, a Harvard economics professor who has written The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (Basic Books). Ordinarily I don’t put much stock in the opinions of Harvard economists — they’re also the ones doing such a bang-up job repairing the Russian economy — but in this case Ms. Schor’s assertions concur with personal experience.
She points out that despite all the technological innovations designed to save time, U.S. workers are actually putting in more work hours today than they did 20 years ago. To be specific, the average American now puts in 164 more work hours each year than he or she did two decades ago; that’s the equivalent of another month on the job.
Why the expanded work schedule? For one thing, those very high-tech devices we thought would save time have actually raised expectations and allowed us to be productive (and working) more hours each day. Another factor is that it is less expensive for employers to keep one employee at work longer (even with overtime) than it is to hire an extra employee. The result? More “burning the candle at both ends” — if you still have a candle left.
Preachers can relate. As “white collar workers” (a nice way of saying nobody’s about to start paying us overtime), we’ve seen the workday expand dramatically, from the men’s Bible study and prayer group at 7:00 a.m., through hospital visitation and counseling sessions, and on to the evening’s meetings and calls. Occasionally, you even get a few minutes to do some sermon preparation.
Because of the growing need for help with this problem of overwork, here are some suggestions that might allow preachers additional leisure time:
1. Use all those “simple sermon services” they advertise in the mail. Why take all that time to do the tough work of study, prayer, and writing sermons when you can purchase (as little as $4.95 per Sunday, illustrations included”) one of those “sermon services” that provide you pre-fabricated, ready-for-prime-time sermons; some even send along prayers so you don’t have to talk to God unassisted.
2. Preach shorter sermons. If a preacher spends an hour of preparation for every 30-60 minutes of time preaching, it stands to reason that shorter sermons will save lots of study time and let you spend more time in ministry at your local golf course or tennis court. In just an hour or two, you can prepare a full five-minute sermon, complete with a two-minute introduction, a point (three points takes entirely too long), an illustration (see “simple sermon services” above), and a whiz-bang 30-second conclusion. Guaranteed to make sure your congregation beats old First Church to the head of the cafeteria line every Sunday.
3. Delegate. Why should the pastor have all the fun (and preparation time) involved with preaching? Even if you don’t have staff members to rope in — I mean, involve in — to preaching every other Sunday, just look out into the pews and you’ll find a host of likely candidates to step into the pulpit. And your congregation is sure to hear some unique presentations.
Just follow one or more of the above suggestions and you’re guaranteed to have more leisure time. In fact, you may find yourself with lots of leisure time — at least until your next church.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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