Being a professional church worker can be bad for your health. Studies of pastors, for example, show that clergy have higher than normal rates of obesity, arthritis, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure, addiction, diabetes and stress. At the same time church workers struggle with their health, congregations present the characteristics of unhealthy family systems with poor communication, conflict, and the stressors of change and decline. 47 percent of LCMS congregations baptize or confirm one or less adults annually. 80 percent of LCMS congregations have a plateaued or declining worship attendance.
At its September, 2015 meeting, our Board of Directors adopted eleven initiatives for the next three years. These initiatives are high priority work orders for our staff and committees. One of those initiatives is titled, “Wellness” and reads, “To provide resources which promote wellness among church workers, their families, and congregations.” The initiative responds in part to Resolution 3-11a (“To Support Church Workers”) from our 2013 LCMS Convention, encouraging congregations to support their workers and families.
2016 will be a “Year of Wellness” for congregations and their workers in the Minnesota South District. We will be partnering with three RSO’s (LCMS Registered Service Organizations) to provide an array of wellness opportunities. Through Grace Place Wellness we will offer Congregational Wellness Weekends and a Married Couples Retreat. Through Doxology we will offer pastors Spiritual Vitality Workshops. For workers and spouses at risk we will offer time away at Shepherd’s Canyon Retreat. More opportunities for accessible counseling will be available for workers as well as Concordia Plan Services incentives for working toward wellness.
When we talk about worker wellness, we mean the intellectual, relational, emotional, physical, financial, and vocational health of a baptized child of God serving church and community. By congregational wellness we mean the wholeness of a church family joyfully serving together in the mission of God. A serious symbiotic relationship exists between worker wellness and congregational wellness. An unhealthy church can make for an unhealthy worker; an unhealthy worker can make for an unhealthy church. Just as true, though, is the joy and harmony experienced when church and worker(s) are all healthy.
Leading the charge for this Year of Wellness is Dr. Mark Noren, Executive Assistant to the President and the District Ministerial Health Committee, chaired by Dr. Lucas Woodford. For emerging details, watch our website and our weekly online newsletter, E-News. Above all, pray that the Lord of the Church, by His grace and Spirit, will bring healing and health to our churches and workers.