Why Aren't We Treating Our Clergy Better Part II ?

Over the past several years, I have provided consultation to clergy who are experiencing difficulty. Some clergy have experienced problems with difficult supervisors and senior Chaplains. Other clergy have had challenges regarding marital or family stress, divorce, or helping to support elderly parents. Clergy can also experience concerns regarding mental health and substance abuse. Any or all of these issues can feel overwhelming for a minister who is trying to provide effective leadership to a congregation.
This process is further compounded by the mentality that ministers don't have problems. Here the notion is that clergy have been engineered by God to have " Teflon " ability to have all stress , discomfort and problems just simply slide off of them. Although the idea that clergy don't have problems is not realistic, it's amazing how some congregations respond when they discover that their pastor is having a problem. There is also the notion, expressed by some congregants and church officials, that if a pastor has strong enough faith, then personal problems should not be an issue. I recently found out that a clergy person commented about another clergy person going through a difficulty saying "this person will be stronger going through this difficulty. " Really ?
My concern is that clergy who are going through personal difficulties don't necessarily have great access to pastoral care and mental health resources. According to a recent article:
Three of the major researchers into clergy life all voiced similar statistics:
The Barna Group reports that
90% of pastors report working between 55- 75 hours per week
50% of pastors report feeling unable to meet the demands of their jobs
70% constantly fight depression
50% of pastors starting out will not last 5 years
50% of pastors' marriages end in divorce
70% of pastors do not have a close friend
Ellison Research reports that according to the results of their study:
71% of pastors say that they are overweight by an average of 32.1 pounds
52% say that they experience signs of stress on a weekly basis
Other statistics note that pastors' physical health is comparatively worse than others in the areas in which they live, while pastor's mental health is likewise riddled with increased symptoms of clinical depression, anxiety, stress and burnout. Why 50% Of Pastors Are Divorced & 70% Are Depressed ...allchristiannews.com/why-50-of-pastors-are-divorced-70-are-depressed
Why wouldn't religious denominations want to be proactive and supportive of clergy who are experiencing difficulties ? One would think that providing for the emotional, psychological and spiritual health of clergy would be a great priority for church officials.
Yet, I have seen time and time again, that when a pastor really needs consultation and support by a church administrator, that they tend to get ignored. I did witness one time when an Episcopal bishop was proactive and immediately got one of his clergy and their spouse into mental health care with a provider at the church's expense. This was a most admirable act on behalf of this bishop, but it was an exception to what I usually observe.
As I have mentioned previously, the Church is going through a tough time. Budgets are shrinking, churches are closing, some denominations are also ceasing to be. Church administrators have a huge responsibility trying to keep a denominational structure sustainable. However, with this has been a tendency to emphasize a centralization of power and authority at an executive headquarters level. So decisions that were once made at a lower synod, conference, association level are now being made at the Chief Executive level and the policy is then trickled down for everyone in the ecclesiastical chain of command to endorse and to subscribe. This flies in the face of a church polity structure that would call for more collaboration and covenant.
In 1999, Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote a significant book entitled " Why Christianity Must Change Or Die ? Spong argued that Jesus was a man who found the God presence in himself and manifested it in his life. [PDF]Why Christianity Must Change or Die www.gurus.org/dougdeb/Courses/Jesus/Spong/Spong.pdf. The Jesus who is depicted here was someone who was concerned about the human suffering of others. He was not a remote official. I would like to paraphrase Spong and suggest that what we need is an end to imperial Christianity.
We need to take better and more aggressive care of our clergy. A denominational official was recently observed to note that " ordained clergy may be optional for the future. " This would be devastating and would continue to contribute to the low morale and poor psychological and spiritual health of some clergy.
We need to do better for the sake of our faith, and our people and for ministry.
May it be so.