Sunday, May 24, 2009

And it's no different here

Figures from a survey of 300 Canadian pastors came out in the February 2009 edition of Presbyterian Record, as a sidebar to an article entitled: Breaking the Silence - the mental health of our clergy. The issue of wellness, or the lack of it, amongst clergy has tended to be covered up for decades, because clergy are expected to be so 'holy,' 'capable,' 'fit and healthy' that they never need be sick or off-duty. The situation in New Zealand is little different. There are times when it seems as though ministers have little to do all day except write the weekly sermon and visit a few elderly ladies in the parish. But the truth of the matter is, of course, that most ministers are frantically busy, overloaded to such an extent that they don't have nearly enough time for their families, nearly enough time to relax, or virtually any time to just sit and listen to what the Lord is saying to them.
There are many reasons for this, including:
Ministers working a minimum of 50 hours a week, and often more than that;
Not having the days off to which they're entitled;
Feeling as though they have to be perfect when they're often under huge stress to perform;
Feeling empty, going through the motions, in terms of prayer, worship, Bible reading, spiritual life in general;
Lacking someone who can counsel or mentor or come alongside them;
Suffering depression or burn-out or panic attacks and having to live with it.

The Canadian situation only confirms what is known in New Zealand. This is what the National Mission Office has been working on for several years: finding ways to help ministers avoid breakdowns and depression.

The full report can be found at the Caring for Clergy site - click on Current Research and then on 'Clergy Well-Being - Seeking Wholeness with Integrity'.

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