There is a growing awareness of the stresses dateon clergy, many points of connection between stories of ‘burnout’, and an ease in identifying some general causes. Everyone, it seems, is aware of cases of ‘good clergy burning out’, and the damage happening, both personal and to communities, and able to talk in general terms about ministry stress; within those same conversations it is clear that there is need for further analysis, sociological, professional and theological, of what is happening. We live in a time when many professions are instituting ‘wellness programs’ as response to the identified stresses of contemporary professional life and social realities. This general awareness is making its way into the culture of the church; however much our work on ministry wellness may be able well to benefit from wisdom from the social sciences, there are additional theological and ministry-context specific realities that seem to be calling for attention. For example, ministry wellness issues certainly include, but are not limited to self-care issues.
Faith, Worship and Ministry worked to identify constellations of issues – clusters of presenting and underlying concerns relating to ministry wellness. This mapping process has continued to be honed as consultations expand across various Dioceses and Provincial groups. The Winter 2003 edition of Ministry Matters included three articles addressing ‘clergy wellness’, with the intention of sparking conversation and reflection across the church. The article “Beginning to Think About Clergy Wellness” gave a thumbnail sketch of the map of issues with which the working group began. We have worked to create a “map” of the related issues which helps to keep a holistic view of the inter-relating issues (i.e.: issues of ‘wellness’ cross many areas – discernment and formation for ministry, continuing education, psychological well-being, physical health, stipends and benefits, and across variety of cultural contexts and macro-issues present in the culture and society around us). Some general observations: many dioceses report a situation of high concern or crisis, and a desire to learn from what others are doing in their initiatives such as those listed above. Some identify a need to hear from the insights, resources, expertise, and personnel to help them to begin to address the needs of their own particular contexts.
On ‘wellness’ in the process of looking at ministry ‘wellness’
It is tempting to approach the issues of clergy and lay leader ministry wellness from a perspective that begins with the problems of individuals and proceeds in a pathological process toward analysis. Such an approach suggests that there is a norm for health that can be reached simply if problems are diagnosed and treated. Throughout its work in 2001-2004, the Ministry and Worship working group viewed this approach as limited, and identified the need to work at the problems and challenges in ways that hold the constellation of issues in balance with a vision of health for the church in its ministry and mission. A better focus can be achieved by holding up ‘best practices’ and asking what factors contribute to the nurturing of vital and healthy Christian communities.
Canadian Anglican Diocesan Wellness Resources
- Diocese of New Westminster, Get Fit, Keep Fit Covenant in Ministry program, with background information on Appreciative Inquiry.
- Diocese of Toronto, with links to Fresh Start and Momentum (early ministry support)
Fresh Start is a program to assist and draw on the strengths of congregations and their leadership in times of transition, usually times of transition in leadership. It originates in the Episcopal Church USA, and has been adapted to the Canadian Anglican context during a pilot project phase in the Province of Ontario. The license for Fresh Start is available for use throughout the Anglican Church of Canada. For further information, contact Eileen Scully, Director, Faith, Worship, and Ministry.
For more information on Fresh Start:
Ministry Wellness Resources –Ecumenical and Full Communion Partner Resources
- Ministerial Heath – A very fine website of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with a large resource section, analysis, links.
“WellBooks” – Some Suggested Readings
- Pulpit & Pew: Research on Pastoral Leadership – article on Clergy Health
- Adams, James R. Learning to Share the Ministry. Washington: Alban, 1975.
- Anglican Church of Canada, Diocese of Ottawa. Clergy Self-Care Guide. Ottawa: 1996
- Bullock, A. Richard. Clergy Renewal: The Alban Guide to Sabbatical Planning. Washington: Alban Institute, 2000.
- Coger, Marian. Women in Parish Ministry: stress and support. Washington: Alban, 1991.
- Hands, Donald R. Spiritual Wholeness for Clergy: a new psychology of intimacy with God, self and others. Washington: Alban, 1993.
- Hahn, Celia Allison. Growing in Authority, Relinquishing Control: a new approach to faithful leadership. Washington: Alban, 2001 (originally 1994).
- Harbaugh, Gary L. Caring for the Caregiver. Washington, DC Alban Institute, 1992.
- Harris, John C. Stress, Power and Ministry. Washington: Alban, 1994.
- Herrick, Vanessa and Ivan Mann. Jesus Wept: Reflections on Vulnerability in Leadership. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1998.
- Hobgood, William Charles. The Once and Future Pastor: the changing role of religious leadership. Bethesda: Alban, 1998.
- Irvine, Andrew R. Between Two Worlds: understanding and managing clergy stress. London: Mowbray, 1997. Book review
- Melander, Rochelle, and Harold Eppley. The SpirituaMarch 13, 2008 Alban Institute 2002.
- Oswald, Roy M. Clergy Self-Care: finding a balance for effective ministry. Washington: Alban, 2001.
- Pappas, Anthony. Pastoral Stress: sources of tension, resources for transformation. Bethesda: Alban, 1995.
- Peck, Jack Percy. Care for the Carers: guarding against burnout in ministry. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1994.
- Reid, Benedict. A Spirit Loose in the World. Summerland: Harbor House, 1993. (sabbaticals for clergy)
- Sitze, Bob. Not Trying too Hard: new basics for sustainable congregations. Washington: Alban, 2001.
- Walker, Kelly. Loss of Soul: Burnout. Toronto: KW Publications, 1995.
If you have suggestions of further resources which might be added to these lists, please contact Eileen Scully.