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Press Release: Wespath Releases Findings from Seventh Clergy Well-Being Survey

July 25, 2023

Overall well-being continues to see steady decline, specifically in physical and emotional areas..

For Immediate Release

Contact: Julie Capozzi
Managing Director, Communications
(847) 866-4111
[email protected]

Glenview, IL—Wespath Benefits and Investments (Wespath) today released the results of its seventh biennial Clergy Well-being Survey, providing valuable insights into the current state of United Methodist clergy.

This year’s survey collected data from over 1,200 clergy in The United Methodist Church representing a wide range of demographics. The results showed some positive developments since the previous 2021 survey, especially clergy’s spiritual vitality in daily life and ministry. However, other dimensions of well-being have continued to decline. Notably, rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension continue to worsen. Stress and depressive symptoms also remain a serious concern.

The survey, launched in 2012, has now accumulated 10 years of data, enabling Wespath to identify additional significant trends affecting clergy. Over the past decade, the number of clergy reporting "very good" or "excellent" health has seen a steady decline. This is significant, as self-reported health is an important indicator of overall health status. Insights on the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on well-being showed more than half of the clergy reporting adverse effects on social and emotional well-being in particular.

“Even though we saw some areas of well-being improve in 2023 after very dismal results in 2021, the overall 10-year lookback tells us that clergy well-being, which was a problem a decade ago, is an even bigger problem today. We see that clergy struggle with well-being compared to their secular counterparts, in no small part due to the often unrealistic demands placed on clergy from multiple directions,” says Kelly Wittich, Director of Health and Well-Being at Wespath.

Wespath conducts this survey as part of its mission to care for those who serve, supporting clergy through a comprehensive approach focused on five dimensions of well-being: physical, emotional, spiritual, social and financial. The survey also sheds light on the diverse experiences of different clergy demographics, with notable disparities among clergy based on race, age, gender, location and church size.

The findings from the survey provide valuable insights that will guide Wespath’s future programs and efforts aimed at supporting the well-being of clergy and, by extension, the families, congregations, and communities that clergy serve. For example, in 2021, results showed the most significant decline in emotional well-being, which led Wespath to the create the on-demand First Aid for Mental Health webinars and First Aid for Mental Health Champions Training. The objective of this effort is to help the UMC community learn how to identify mental health concerns in others, respond with empathy instead of judgement, and help those affected find the support they need.

In the coming months, Wespath plans to facilitate listening sessions across the UMC to better understand the decline in clergy well-being, as well as foster and encourage conversations about clergy well-being with leaders and members across the UMC connection. By collaborating across the denomination to address the needs identified in this survey, Wespath will continue its mission of supporting the holistic well-being of clergy and the broader United Methodist connection.

About Wespath Benefits and Investments

Wespath Benefits and Investments (Wespath) is a not-for-profit agency that has been serving The United Methodist Church (UMC) for over a century. In accordance with its fiduciary duties, Wespath administers benefit plans and, together with its subsidiaries, including Wespath Institutional Investments, invests over $24 billion in assets on behalf of over 100,000 participants and over 100 United Methodist institutions (as of December 31, 2022). Wespath invests in a sustainable manner that seeks to achieve positive financial, social and environmental impact while upholding the values of the UMC. Wespath maintains one of the largest reporting faith-based pension funds in the world. For additional information about Wespath Benefits and Investments, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.