Why pastors don’t always preach


preacher in a seat

This past weekend I didn’t preach at the church I love!

I LOVE to preach, but I don’t always preach.

Sometimes people wonder why preachers don’t preach every Sunday. They may even wonder what they do when they’re not preaching. Those are fair questions.

Here are the reasons I don’t preach every Sunday:

Family Vacation.

Every preacher/pastor should do this… I mean completely disconnect and pay attention only to your family. (BTW, many business owners would do well to do this too.)

Pastors spend their lives concerned with the lives of other people… that is their calling, and they should do that. However, it is not for no reason that we see pastor’s kids turning rebellious and hating the church. In many cases, it is because their parent (usually the father) paid more attention to the people in the church than he did the people in his family.

At our church, we tell our pastors, “If you’re not leading your home well, you are not qualified to lead our church… so make sure your home is in order.” This comes straight from St. Paul.

Pastor/leader, your family regularly needs to be the focus of your attention without having to compete with phone calls and emails asking for your time and energy elsewhere. Make sure you do it while there is time.

The church needs to hear from other teachers.

If you’re a parent you know this… you can tell your kids something over and over and over… then someone else comes along and says the same thing and your kids go “OH!!! I get it!”

Pastors are responsible to teach and model for the church what God calls us to in the Scripture. They/we do our best, but sometimes a fresh voice with new insight is just what is needed for the church to have that “OH! I get it” moment.

Some pastors hesitate to bring in guest speakers because they are afraid that the speaker might be better than they are! Listen, if you’re that bad people aren’t going to come week after week to listen to you. Besides that, you and I are not the best preachers out there. There’s always someone who is funnier, smarter, more passionate, and more experienced… and the people of your church are probably already listening to them on iTunes!

If you don’t take a break because you’re scared that your replacement might be a better teacher than you then you need to take some time off and do a heart check!

Not preaching gives me time to prepare to preach better sermons.

Carey Nieuwhof is a pastor, thinker, and writer who writes often about current trends in the church. In a recent article he addressed this matter of preachers preaching less. He wrote:

a growing number of preachers are realizing that preparing 52 excellent Sunday messages is increasingly difficult. Personally I’ve cut back from writing 70 messages a year a decade ago to about 35 a year today.

The result? I’m a much better communicator.

What’s creating all this change?

Simple. It’s the wide availability of digital options.

A decade ago, people who attended your church only really ever listened to you. Now they can hear anyone for free.  And they do.

As a result, the local pastor is often being listened to alongside today’s best communicators, and local pastors are opting for quality over quantity.

At some point, quantity and quality compete. And in today’s digital landscape, innovative leaders are opting for quality.

I’ve found that when I teach less, I teach better. Cranking out new material every week is something I love, and I find that when I take a break I am more passionate, clear, and thoughtful when I teach.


Pastors do more than preach.

Just because you don’t see your pastor on Sunday doesn’t mean he’s not working! Meetings, weddings, funerals, study, planning, praying, thinking… all of that happens during the week.

Just because he’s not there on Sunday does not mean he/she didn’t put in a full week!

BTW, people who joke that “preachers only work one day a week”… I know they’re trying to be funny, but they don’t understand what St. Paul wrote:

“I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (2 Corinthians 11:28-29)

Pastors go to sleep with the people of their church on their mind… and they often wake up with those same people and situations on their mind… praying for them, thinking about them, wondering how they can help….

So what do preachers do when they’re not in church?

I can’t answer for every preacher but I do one of four things:

I visit another church.

Every preacher should do this! We forget what it’s like to visit a church for the first time. We forget what it’s like to be in a place where no one knows your name.

If we want new people to come and feel welcome in our church, then we need to know what it feels like to be a stranger in a church!

I take time to learn something new.

Sometimes a conference runs into a weekend and it requires that the pastor be gone on Sunday.

I speak at another church or conference.

Most pastors have an allotted number of weekends for speaking opportunities outside of their local church.

I do what you do sometimes… sleep in and chill out for the whole day.

Yep. That happens sometimes too!

So that’s why pastors aren’t teaching every Sunday and some insight into what they might be doing.

If you’re a pastor, what would you add to this list?

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