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Time or Task: How Many Hours Should Leaders Work?


Larry Osborne: "I’m surprised how often both business leaders and pastors ask me about the number of hours they should expect out of a salaried staff member."

I’m surprised how often both business leaders and pastors ask me about the number of hours they should expect out of a salaried staff member.

The answer is a coin with two sides.

On one side is, what kind of work ethic can a leader realistically expect from the troops? On the other side is, what kind of work ethic can Jesus rightfully expect from a Christian?

Today I want to look at it from the leader’s point of view. In my next post we’ll look at it from the staff member’s point of view.

To business and ministry leaders who ask the “how many hours” question, I always point out they’re asking the wrong question.  

The right question is: What did I hire this person to do, and how well are they doing it?

Here are some important things to keep in mind.

If someone can get their job done with excellence in fewer hours than most people—more power to them. If someone else needs more time—keep the lights on. 

Now, obviously I’m assuming issues like character, integrity and teamwork line up well. But all things being equal, it really shouldn’t matter how long it takes someone to do the job I’ve hired them to do. It should only matter how well they do it.

I’ve also noticed that, “How many hours should I expect?” is often code for, “How many hours should they be in the office?” When that’s the question behind the question, it’s usually asked by a leader who has a personality or work style that prefers the office.

Don’t Miss

These types of leaders tend to forget the many nights out and off-site meetings that some of their staff members have. And since these meetings and events take place out of sight, they fail to add them back into the work ethic equation.

Not long ago I was talking to a pastor who was complaining about the work ethic of his youth pastor. Seems he never showed up at the office before 10 a.m. and was often out for long lunches, sometimes never to return.

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Larry Osborne

Larry Osborne

Larry Osborne is a senior pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, California. With 20 weekly services on five campuses, North Coast is known for both its innovation and its small back door. You can learn more about the principles he shared here in his upcoming book, Sticky Church (Zondervan/October 2008) and the Sticky Church Conference. You may also visit the North Coast Training Network at

Larry on ChurchLeaders   Larry's Website

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