10 Reasons Many Pastors Are Workaholics

Some time ago, I wrote a post on what my workaholism is costing me. I still struggle with that issue, and I’ve learned that many pastors share that struggle. Here are some reasons we’re susceptible to this sin:

  1. We’ve been trained to balance a lot while working hard. Sometimes we learned that trait in seminary when we worked multiple jobs while earning a degree. Our practice then has become a habit now.
  2. We live in a world where achievement is recognized. Whether it’s right or not, those who get recognition in the church world are often those whose churches are the biggest and whose ministries are best known. Getting there requires work.
  3. Many of us are competitive by nature. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but I do know that many of us would like to lead the largest ministry – and we work hard to try to get there.
  4. We forget what we preach: that God is the One who reaps the harvest. We proclaim one message about God’s sovereign work while living as if nothing good can happen unless we’re in the middle of it.
  5. We are needy people who desire the praise of others. That truth means we’re just like many other people, except that our role puts people in our lives who naturally love and affirm us – and we do what it takes to get that affirmation.
  6. None of us wants to let God down. He called us, and we want to be faithful. The problem is that we don’t know how to be faithful and get needed rest at the same time.
  7. We always see things that need to be done. That’s because there’s always something else to do. People always have needs. Communities always need a witness. Our work is never done.
  8. We don’t really understand grace. Somehow, we talk about grace while working as if our approval from God were dependent on our efforts.
  9. We use work to avoid other issues. Occasionally, work keeps us from dealing with problems in our home, or it helps us to ignore recurrent sin patterns in our own lives. Work thus becomes a cover-up to bigger issues.
  10. We, like all believers, still struggle with idolatry. That’s what workaholism is – and the wrestling match is still real. 

Pastors, what would you add to this list? Be honest.  

8 Comments

  • david mcbryar says:

    One thought that came to mind as to why pastors are workaholics is simply the expectation of their congregation. They want the pastor to be able to have the best researched and prepared sermons, they want him to be at every little meeting, they want him to be on every single committee, they want him to visit every single need no matter how minor, they want him to keep office hours whether anyone ever comes by or not, they want him to read all the new books that come out so he can answer their questions when they read it, and they want him to be the example of a husband and father even though with all the other expectations he has little time to do so. So a pastor must be a workaholic or seem lazy although he works 60 hours+ a week. Granted, this is not all churches but it is a lot of them and also it is not every single member that has every one of these expectations but when the majority holds to a least several of them you must maintain them all.

  • pastorstevebedard says:

    I used to work focused on the hours I was putting in. It was life-draining. Now I’m goal oriented. I set out what I want to accomplish in a week and no longer focus on the hours. Now I am both more productive and have more time for my family.

  • Rick says:

    what was not mentioned is that board driven churches have a tendency to measure a pastor’s productivity by his workload – way too many boards drive their pastors (it especially comes out in annual reviews where the goal posts are moved) – furthermore, congregations tend to be clueless how much individually and collectively they add more to the pastor’s workload year after year. any pastor that tries to cut back his work load to 40 hours a week tends to be classified in many congregations as lazy. As a lead I found it very challenging to cut back to 60 hours per week in many quarters of the year simply because of the contemporary dynamics of leading a congregation.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks, Rick, for this insight. 

    • Sam says:

      Amen! Jesus was NEVER in a hurry. Being in tune with our Father, CAN, if we allow, have us in the right place at the right time…working perhaps…..”smarter” and not necessarily “harder.”

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