as part of my methodist connectionalism, i covenant to make sure i don't get too isolated in my local church but stay in touch with my district and my conference. as methodists, its just what we do to stay connected. part of what that means here in our conference is that districts have 4 or 5 days each year called 'district resourcing days,' in which all the pastors from that district get together for some time of learning.
this past saturday we had a district resourcing day centered on the concept of clergy health and wellness. Ginny Samuel, associate dean for contextual learning at the seminary where i went (drew), was the presenter, and i heard at least part of her presentation before, so i didn't really learn anything per se, but it was a good reminder of how important it is to stay healthy, especially in a career that is notoriously UN-healthy. consider some statistics:
according to a study done by the united methodist board of pensions and health benefits, the majority of pastors work more than 60 hours a week and exercise less than 30 minutes a week.
1 out of every 4 clergy reports very little or no exercise.
clergy consistently rank in the top ten for careers at risk for heart problems.
pulpit and pew, a publication of duke divinity school, reports that when they interviewed 2,500 clergy they found that 40% of those clergy say that they are depressed some or most of the time. Only 10% of the general population said the same.
many many more statistics support the same basic ideas: that clergy, in general, are an at-risk group because of the stress of the job and the decisions that they typically make in response to that stress. and that was where dean samuel was really focusing her attention on saturday: choices. of course, when a pastor does a funeral or a deals with an emotionally wrenching counseling situation, there is some kind of emotional reaction to that. the key is making sure that the reaction is intentional rather than impulsive. so instead of going home "to relax and unwind" and eating a bag of chips (this is SO me), i might go home to relax and unwind and go for a walk or make a collage. in short: make a concious decision about how you are going to handle stress.
one interesting tool that ginny gave us was a website called realage.com, which allows you to take a questionaire to determine your "real age" as opposed to your biological age. it asks you a variety of questions about your health, your eating habits, your hygeine, your social life and so, before it gives you your real age. i took it yesterday and found that my real age is younger than my biological age! this was encouraging. but it also pointed out some things that i already know that i need to do to improve, so that was convicting, as well.
in short, i am just reminded this week that i cannot give to others what i don't have myself. that is, i need to take care of myself if i am really going to be able to shepherd God's people. i need to be healthy.