"Pastor, I've always wondered: how long does it take you to prepare a sermon? As a board member, people ask me, and I'd like to be able to explain why we pay you so much. Could you keep track of how you spend your time and put a summary in your monthly board report?"
Such a request, coming from a member of the session, vestry, deacons, or trustees, can raise the blood pressure even of experienced clergy. It is a natural request in a society that considers "the days of a man's life" as a type of property to be exchanged for salaries and wages.
Most of us know that the smart response is a non-anxious one. Possible non-anxious answers range from accurate ("I find it varies from eight to twenty hours") to honest ("I'm not sure; it depends how much looking out the window and how many false starts you count") to whimsical ("Last week's sermon about aging took me sixty years").
In lean economic times, boards often fail to recognize that their desire for "good preaching" means they need to pay their clergy leader, not to put in certain hours, but to play a certain role in the community of faith. The best response to questions about how long it takes to write a sermon may be the honest one: it takes a lot of time, including time that looks like work and time that looks like goofing off.