Monday, August 31, 2009

Cracked Pots

While trying to track down a book called The Cracked Pot, the state of today’s Anglican parish clergy, by Yvonne Warren, I came across an article from 2007 on the Church Times archives, called What Price Priesthood? by Rachel Harden.

It discusses clergy burnout, stress, the difficulties of being ill and then having to recover within the parish, long hours with little time off, and other problems of ministry. Yvonne Warren, herself the wife of a clergyman for 40 years, notes that the Church in the 21st century is experiencing a cataclysmic time of change, with huge implications, and says, “This has affected patterns of ministry more than most, and many clergy are feeling the impact of this, not just in terms of workload, but in their sense of frustration and feeling of increasing irrelevance in a largely secularised society.”

Another book is mentioned in the article: Clergy Burnout: Recovering from the 70-hour work week. . . and other self-defeating practices by Fred Lehr. Lehr had a terrible time saying “no”, and loved feeling needed. “In reality it exhausted me, and I hated constantly being caught between my family and my congregation. I found myself helplessly falling in what we call burnout.” He sought help, and used his experience to work on a specialised treatment programme.

The Society of Martha and Mary produced a report in 2002 called, Affirmation and Accountability. In it they called on dioceses and other church structures to provide more constructive solutions for clergy who were on stress-related sick leave.

The article is fairly long, but well worth checking out. There are several personal statements at the end from people who have been through burnout and similar struggles.

Unfortunately, The Cracked Pot is now out of print, and only available through Print on Demand at the publishers, Kevin Mayhew. Affirmation and Accountability is also hard to get hold of in NZ (there is one copy, at the Kinder Library). Clergy Burnout is more readily available.


Wendi Gordon said...

Thank you for this post. I recently read Fred Lehr's Clergy Burnout book and include it in the recommended resources section of my own site for clergy,

As both a pastor and spouse of a pastor, I am very familiar with the unique stresses clergy face, and provide life coaching, workshops, and other resources to help pastors rediscover the person behind the collar.

It is great to see increasing numbers of blogs, websites, and newspaper articles addressing clergy burnout and related issues. Hopefully greater awareness of the problem will make it easier for hurting pastors to get the help they need and for the church at all levels to develop more realistic expectations and a better support system for its leaders.

Mike Crowl said...

Thanks for your comments, Wendi. Yes, there's certainly a greater appreciation of the need for clergy care, and our own office is working steadily towards a wellness programme that hopefully will make a difference in the Presbyterian denomination in New Zealand.