It’s true, this year I did make some quiet half-verbalized resolution to be more healthy. Too many hours at my desk or in my car is making me soft – and I was feeling it! But for me, health is more than just exercise, it’s about ensuring that I put my priorities in order. How do I spend my time? Is ministry about desk-work? Is the time I spend driving about town helping me connect with my neighbours? The question is less about my exercise, and more about joining God in the work he’s calling me to. How do I stay healthy in the work I do?
An article in the Fall 2010 edition of Neue magazine says this,
“From obesity to depression, clergy burnout has become a major concern. A Duke University report found that in teh Evangelical Lutheran Church alone, 69 percent of ministers are obese, 64 percent have high blood pressure and 13 percent take anti-depressants. Of all Christian clergy, 76 percent were overweight – 15 percent higher than the general US population. With ministers working up to 60 hours a week, experts say they must make room for sabbatical, Sabbath days and healthy habits.”
Do you think there is a connection between the overall health of our pastors and the health of our churches? Thoughts?
I think the health of our pastors is reflective of an attitude that permeates some mainline churches I have served in. I have coined it the “coming messiah” syndrome, that is that congregations expect by hiring one person all will be made well. An extrapolation of that, is that there is a belief that a pastor needs to do everything, while it is actually more of a family motif that is needed where each member fulfills certain responsibilities.
Well that ends my ramble.
During the three decades of my full-time parish ministry I managed to survive one bout of heart problems and several depressive episodes. But that was then–now, given the serious economic and other issues facing many congregations–I find myself, a “retired” pastor closing in on 70 supplying a number of congregations which indeed do need a new style of pastoral ministry–one which features “team work” instead of the old “Lone Ranger” leadership, and a major emphasis on positive planning for effective ministry. I also practice what I told my clients in social work situations–Self Care is very important–have a good Self-Care plan and build in accountability to make sure you follow it.
Ty and Barry,
Both of you touch on the solo-pastor challenge that our churches face. The challenge is not the solo-pastor, but the problems that come from piling everything on one person. What fundamental paradigm shift needs to occur for us to develop healthy, effective pastors?
Preston, the pastor provides certain functions (but as such, we need to reexamine what we mean by pastor and institution), but we speak of a “faith family” or “community of faith” and that means that each person within the community/family needs to fulfill a role, and share in roles, just like a healthy household. That is the true paradigm shift, living the metaphors we have been flining around for years.
A pastor is called to lead and to care, like a shepherd for the flock, and in that call must become more effective. The “flock” cannot be coerced, or forced to come into relationship with God and the community, but only invited. The pastor cannot make a person’s spiritual life a reality (as many people think the pastor can), but it is the individual and the community sharing in their lives of relationship that causes the seed of Spirit to sprout and grow. It is also a life-long endeavor that stands against the “I want it NOW!” conditioning of society. The better I lead and care, the less “busy” I am with the work of ministry as it is being done by the “saints”. It is time that pastors are no longer looked at as “the answer” for spiritual life but rather the finger pointing the way.