TIME or TASK? How Many Hours Should Staff Members Work? [Take 2]

In my last post, I pointed out that asking how many hours a staff member should work is asking the wrong question – and worse, it’s a question with two different right answers.

I then proceeded to look at the question of how many hours from a leader’s perspective. In this post we’ll look at it from a staff member’s perspective.


From a leader’s perspective, the question of how many hours a staff member spends on the job or in the office is irrelevant (assuming of course their job is not to answer phones or be constantly available in a support role).

That’s because the only question that really matters is, “How well is this person accomplishing the task for which they were hired?”

Everything else is secondary. If someone gets the job done with excellence in far fewer hours than I expected – more power to them. If they need more hours than everyone else – I’ll find a way to keep the lights on.


But from a staff member’s perspective the question of how many hours I spend on the job is relevant. That’s because the key issue is not just, “How well am I doing my job?” It’s also, “Does my work and work ethic honor God?”

Colossians 3:22-24 puts it this way. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”

Anyone who takes that verse seriously will find that it’s a game changer. I know it sure changed the way I approached my job when I was in a staff role.

Here are some of the impacts it made in the way I thought and approached my job when I was a staff member – and some ways it still impacts me when I’m not the one in charge.

[list type=”ul” style=”1″]To do a good job I have to do the right job. Now that might sound simple, but it’s not. In a staff role, the right job is not what I think should be done first. It’s not what I want to do most. It’s whatever my boss wants me to do.
Frankly I’m amazed how many employees fail to fully understand the importance of putting their boss’s agenda first. And I’m even more amazed by how many think it’s not as important as what they want to do.^Go the extra mile. Jesus said to go two miles when asked to go one. At the time he was actually referring to a Roman law that allowed the army to conscript anyone into service for one mile.
Now if the godless Roman army deserved more than the bare minimum required, certainly any ministry I work for deserves the same. That makes it hard to justify an attitude that says, “I did my job, what more do they want?”^Toughen up. Ministry isn’t a union job. It’s not about boundaries and benefits. It’s about service and sacrifice.
Lots of us love to talk about the concept of servant hood as long as no one treats us like a servant.
When I was a staff member I used to remind myself that most of the people I worked with were working 40-55 hours a week before attending our worship services, small groups or volunteering. That made it pretty hard to justify a 40 hour ministry work week that included a worship service and mid-week ministry.^Be thankful or quit. I once had a job I hated. I learned it wasn’t so bad when I lost it.
I now tell anyone who complains to me about their workplace, boss or job to go ahead and quit – and to do it first thing tomorrow morning.
That always brings some strange looks.
But the fact is, if they can’t find a better job (for whatever reasons, the economy, geographical constraints, family issues or whatever) then they must have the best possible job at the moment. And if that’s the case, instead of complaining they ought to send flowers or a thank you note.[/list]


So how many hours should a staff member be expected to work?

The answer depends on what side of the coin I’m answering the question from. Yet ultimately, the only answer that really matters is the one that corresponds to the role I play.

If I’m a leader, the answer is found in whatever it takes to get the job done.

If I’m a staff member, the answer is found in whatever I’d do if I was doing it for the Lord.


So what do you think?

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