13 Factors That Influence Clergy Health

The Church Systems Task Force research identified 13 factors that are highly correlated with clergy health, differentiating those who are healthy from those who are unhealthy. These factors may also be aligned across the five dimensions of health. The 13 factors identify sources of stress, challenges to maintaining physical health, obstacles to emotional health, impacts upon social health, the importance of spiritual health and the influence of finances—all of which have implications for how interventions are designed, implemented and evaluated to reduce the gap between those who are in good health and those in poor health. Individuals who are able to manage and address these factors tend to be healthier.

The 13 clergy health factors are:

  • Personal centeredness—lack of control over one’s life; ruminating about the past; difficulty experiencing the presence of God “at work”
  • Eating habits with work that often involves food—struggling to maintain a healthy diet during church functions; cultural significance of food at social gatherings and home visits
  • Work/life balance—complexity balancing multiple roles; guilt when taking time to exercise; avoiding health care due to time demands; struggling to achieve overall work/life balance
  • Job satisfaction—appointments may not be good match for gifts and graces; isolation from congregation, disappointment with ministry; desire for option to exit ordained ministry with positive impact on self and church
  • Personal finances—high debt; low income; few assets; little to no personal savings
  • Outside interests and social life—a lack of hobbies, outside interests and/or participation in group activities for personal renewal; few friends or people to share personal issues; detached from community
  • Relationship with congregation—feeling judged rather than supported; disconnect between the congregation and one’s own expectations about the role of pastor or church leader; limiting relationships with congregation members to avoid improprieties; avoiding health care for fear that parishioners might find out and judge
  • Stressors of the appointment process—stressors caused by appointment process; reluctance to talk to DS because of power he or she holds over appointments; resentful about receiving lower pay than laypeople in similar professions
  • Marital and family satisfaction—low marital satisfaction among clergy and church leaders; low appointment satisfaction among spouses and/or children
  • Existential burdens of ministry—carrying the weight of others’ emotional and spiritual burdens; overwhelmed by others’ needs and the importance of ministerial issues; expected to solve unsolvable mysteries
  • Living authentically—unable to be one’s “authentic self”; struggling to live according to deeply-held personal values and beliefs
  • Education and preparation for ministry—insufficiently prepared by seminary for non-spiritual responsibilities of ministry; lacking skills and training necessary to excel in certain pastoral duties
  • Appointment changes and relocation—frequent appointment changes and long-distance moves; social and emotional disruption of relocation

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