Clergy Self-Care Begins With Awareness

Here are some statistics (PastorBurnout.com) about pastors and servant leaders, that may shock members of a congregation, but will probably not surprise clergy members:

  • 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure

This project, “Self-Care: A Model for Servant Leadership”, was birthed because I had reached the end of my rope…more than once. Each time, I had tied a knot and held on, but the knot kept unraveling itself. I did not have a formal calling in ministry the first time I burned out. Several years later, still hosting a type A personality, I was full time Seminarian, student leader, minister-in-training, and part-time Chaplain. I was also the go-to person in the family, living on the West Coast, with an elderly mother on the East Coast, who has since passed away. I traveled to the East Coast six times inside of nine months. Does this sound familiar to you? I hit a wall. When was I going to start taking care of myself? When you are six feet under it is too late. I was not six feet under. My next words were Lord, help me!

I was always telling people to take care of themselves, but I never practiced what I preached.

My opportunity came in the form of a Senior Mentor Year project my last year of seminary. The project had to be meaningful for me to properly engage it. The project was planned in the fall and executed during the spring semester. I wrote up a proposal to host two, two hour self-care workshops for servant leaders, not just clergy, of all faith traditions.

Workshop participants consisted of Seminarians, Pastors, Chaplains, and other servant leaders. The first two hour workshop discussed burn out, what it might look like for the individual and how to mitigate burn out. The second two hour workshop, held approximately thirty days later, discussed what the participants experienced and practiced to alleviate stressors that lead to burnout. These practices included journaling, exercise & nutrition, message therapies, and relaxation techniques such as power yoga, meditation, and mindfulness walking.

Whereas all participants did not practice one of these every day, they did report more consciousness of stress triggers and awareness of healthy ways to address them.

Self-care begins with awareness!

Minister Phoebe Jeter is a 2015 graduating Seminarian at ABSW.

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