Thirteen Factors That Influence Clergy Health and the Five Dimensions of Health

The Church Systems Task Force identified 13 key factors that differentiate clergy who are healthy from those who are unhealthy.

Thirteen Key Factors Chart

The chart below shows how the 13 clergy health factors are aligned with the five dimensions of health identified by the Center for Health. Colors associated with the five dimensions of health are listed on the left. A colored box in a column indicates a link between the health dimension and the clergy health factor identified at the top of the column.

The chart illustrates that improving any one of the clergy health factors could improve a person’s health and well-being across multiple dimensions. For example, if a clergyperson improves his/her relationship with the congregation, he/she may improve three of the dimensions of health: emotional, spiritual and social. Likewise, coping successfully with appointment changes and relocation can positively impact all five dimensions of health.

Some of the 13 clergy health factors are more “personal,” some are more “institutional.” Whether positive changes to address a clergy health factor are rooted in individual behavior or in Church systems, the reward for improving these factors will be greater well-being across multiple dimensions.

Thirteen Factors and UMC Employment Systems

In recognition that some of the 13 factors are influenced by employment “systems” in the UMC, the chart below replaces the five dimensions in the above chart with UMC career aspects, such as itineracy or supervisory practices. Colors associated with the various components of UMC ministry are listed on the left. A colored box in a column indicates a link between the career aspect and the clergy health factor identified at the top of the column.

Download a PDF of the 13 Key Factors and the 5 Dimensions of Health chart.

Additional details about each of the 13 clergy health factors:

  • Stressors of the appointment process—feeling stressed by the appointment process; feeling reluctant to talk to one’s district superintendent because of the power he/she holds over appointments; feeling resentful about being paid less than laypeople in similar professions
  • Appointment changes and relocation—more frequent appointment changes; more frequent long-distance moves
  • Work/life balance—having difficulty balancing multiple roles; feeling guilty taking time to exercise; avoiding health care because of time demands; struggling to achieve overall work/life balance
  • Job satisfaction—feeling dissatisfied with one’s appointments; feeling isolated at work; feeling disappointed with ministry; wishing for a way to exit the system
  • Education and preparation for ministry—feeling unprepared by seminary for the everyday responsibilities of ministry; feeling one lacks the skills and training necessary to excel at pastoral duties
  • Marital and family satisfaction—low marital satisfaction among clergy with families; low appointment satisfaction among spouses and/or children
  • Eating habits in the work setting—struggling to maintain a healthy diet with food available at church meetings, social gatherings and home visits
  • Relationship with congregation—feeling judged rather than supported; feeling the congregation’s expectations are too high or do not match one’s own beliefs about the appropriate pastoral role; feeling the congregation desires a clergyperson with a different leadership style; avoiding relationships with congregation members so as to avoid improprieties; avoiding health care for fear that congregants might find out
  • Existential burdens of ministry—feeling obligated to carry the weight of others’ emotional and spiritual burdens; being overwhelmed by the needs of others and the sheer importance of the issues to be addressed in ministry; feeling expected to solve unsolvable mysteries
  • Living authentically—feeling unable to be one’s “authentic self;” failing to live according to deeply held personal values and beliefs
  • Personal centeredness—feeling a lack of control over one’s life; ruminating about the past; difficulty experiencing the presence of God
  • Outside interests and social life—a lack of hobbies, outside interests and/or participation in group activities for personal renewal; having few friends or people with whom one can share personal issues; feeling detached from one’s community
  • Personal finances—high debt; low income; few assets; little to no personal savings

Click here to read the complete Church Systems Task Force report.

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