A pastor not being accessible? That would be the strange situation, wouldn’t it? I thought the pastor couldn’t be ministering if he wasn’t accessible. After all, the shepherd isn’t going to be able to protect and feed his sheep if they can’t get to him, can they?
The fact is, many pastors aren’t accessible for a number of reasons, even when they’re “doing their pastoring thing.” On the other hand, there are those who are always available to everyone and anyone, and therefore don’t accomplish many of the tasks that are needed as pastor. Not protecting time to prepare sermons, failure to spend adequate time with his own family, and not taking care of himself are some of the problems that will be encountered when availability overcomes other needs of ministry. The expectation of many people is that the ministering staff is, and should be, available at any time, day or night. After all, isn’t that the reason he is being paid?
Educating the congregation to the plans and needs of the pastor and setting healthy boundaries with reasonable flexibility can be helpful for the pastor who wants to be responsible in all areas of his life. This is true for the entire ministering staff.
An open door policy allowing both church members and those from the community access to the ministering staff is good practice and good public relations. By open door, I’m suggesting that it’s very important that ministers not show favoritism toward a particular group in the time they give. With that in mind, let’s think about some ways pastor, and his ministering staff, can be accessible and accomplish what’s needed in ministry.
Regular hours for being in the office, having appointments or taking calls are a first step in keeping things reasonable while being accessible. This doesn’t mean that there can be no other times that the pastor will be available. One advantage is that it does limit unnecessary interruptions. Additionally, it makes study/sermon preparation much easier because it is time established and protected for this important aspect of his work. Time with family and personal time are also more realistic when there is a known plan for time to be “a person,” and not the pastor. Publishing the hours of availability and keeping them as consistent as possible will help the congregation in observing his right to have time for accomplishing all of his responsibilities.
The biggest problem that might occur with regular hours for time of availability might be when the time is enforced so rigidly that legitimate needs of the church are overridden by the policy. Educating support staff to assist with good screening practices to protect the pastor and yet get proper needs of individuals addressed is important.
Appointments are one avenue of allowing for controlling time and at the same time, being available to many of the congregants. Support staff that schedules the appointments during the time of availability makes it easier for time to be managed reasonably.
Setting boundaries isn’t always easy for a person committed to helping others. The boundaries aren’t just to keep others in line. It’s necessary for the one setting the boundaries so that the goals for personal care and addressing other tasks are accomplished.
Establishing policies with the church’s support help protect the pastor and ministering staff and relieve pressure that can increase productivity and survival rate of the ministers at a church. The minister who enlists the support and understanding of the church will find that it’s a lot easier than if he assumes there will be automatic acceptance of his scheduling.