Answering God's Call Shouldn't be Bad for Your Health

Date Posted: 5/20/2020

Answering God's call shouldn't be bad for your health. But for about half of all ordained United Methodist clergy, it is. Especially with COVID-19, and the extra responsibilities Texas Annual Conference clergy are taking on each day.

Close to 50 percent of United Methodist clergy across the US who answered a survey conducted by the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits said their jobs stressed them out.

Five percent suffer from depression, 26 percent report at least some functional difficulty from depressive symptoms and 47 percent experienced hostility in their congregations.
To show some perspective, for matched U.S. adults used as a benchmark, only three percent suffer from depression and 12 percent report difficulty working, taking care of things or getting along with others.

The survey also found United Methodist clergy have a higher percentage of physical conditions including obesity (40 percent), high cholesterol (51 percent), borderline high blood pressure (prehypertension) (11 percent), asthma (17 percent) and pre-diabetes (9 percent).

It's just the job. Stressors that seem to come with the job include trouble maintaining a healthy work/life balance, frequent appointment changes and relocations and existential burdens of ministry - feeling obligated to carry the weight of others' emotional and spiritual burdens or overwhelming needs.
Other stressors range from striving to live a healthy lifestyle while surrounded by high-caloric, fat-saturated potluck dinners to problems with living authentically and failing to live according to deeply held personal values and beliefs. 

Experts agree that Clergy need support/accountability systems where they can talk about the demands of ministry in a confidential environment.

Tips for clergy to deal with stress:

  1. having hobbies
  2. nurturing humor and working to keep a balance between work and family
  3. participating in a cell or small group with another clergy person
Some tips for church members include:
  • 1. Make sure your clergyperson is taking time off for Sabbath and vacation
  • 2. Don't schedule (Zoom) meetings every night of the week. Give pastors time to spend with their families
  • 3. Welcome new pastors and their families, and
  • 4. Handle conflicts in a loving, Christian manner.
Our goal is to have healthy congregations and clergy leading our United Methodist Churches. Find a way to reach out and touch base with your pastor this week to express your care and love in this interesting new season of ministry.

*portions of this article are from Kathy Gilbert, United Methodist News Service.