In my last post, I talked about one major reason why UU ministers usually don't preach every Sunday of the year, and why our tradition is different from Christian churches about this. In addition, there are the following reasons:
First, and most importantly, we believe in the prophetic power of the laity. We're not the only ones with something to say about our faith, about the big questions, about the future of the church, about social justice. We have amazing lay people, and we believe in sharing our free pulpit with them. This is a major difference from traditions which believe the ordained have a more direct connection with God, and a difference from traditions that don't let lay people preach without license. While we often give ministers a quality control responsibility for how their pulpit is shared, we fundamentally believe in the "prophethood of all believers." Our lay people are amazing, and we want to hear them.
Secondly, we have an increasing understanding that a healthy church is helped by a healthy minister, and that our ministers have high-stress jobs where they are always on call, and have little time to spend with family and friends who work or go to school in a regular work week. We want ministers to have friends and to have family, and to get some time to spend with them. That means they should limit their working evenings and have some Sundays off.
So how often do we preach? That varies tremendously. But what I often hear is that the average UU minister (full-time) gets one Sunday off per month (for 10 months), plus 4 weeks of vacation and 4 weeks of study leave. And then often added to this is up to 4 weeks of denomination leave for things like General Assembly, District/Regional Assembly, UUMA Institute and Chapter meetings, other continuing education, and study groups. Some of these may not actually encompass a Sunday, but may take up enough of the week to make it difficult to prepare a sermon for Sunday. So my math would say that full-time ministry would look like 52 Sundays a year minus 10 off minus 4 vacation minus 4 study leave minus up to 4 denominational leave, and the result would be 30-34 Sundays per year leading or participating in the worship life of the church.
Next up: Implications for bi-vocational ministry and implications for the changing church.