Faithful and Fractured is a must read written by Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, PhD, and Jason Byassee, PhD.
Ray Jean is a researcher at Duke University and Jason is the senior pastor of Boone United Methodist Church in Boone, NC. This book answers the question, ‘Why are pastors in such poor health, and what can be done about it?’ The contents include the rationale for and outcomes of the multi-year Duke Clergy Health Initiative conducted by the Duke Divinity School.
Dale Fletcher, of Faith and Health Connection has given a solid synopsis of the book, here.
Here’s what I would add:
No surprise, coming out of Duke, the research and reporting is top notch. The book breaks down many aspects of Pastor health and in an easy to read way. I even learned a few new facts after almost 5 years working directly with Pastors myself.
“The health insurance costs were astronomical, making it impossible for some churches to pay for a full-time pastor with health benefits.”
“Reports showed clergy submitting more health care claims than the general population.”
In Chapter 7, a pastor quotes “My biggest thing is having someone to be accountable to.” Accountability is HUGE for this sub-population. As ‘shepherds’, they are accountable for everyone around them typically, but who are they accountable to? Of course God, but on a day to day, face to face interaction there’s a gap here. That’s a problem!
The Duke team has put a great deal of effort and planning into not just what they are doing, but why they are doing it AND capturing the transformation along the way.
I think this is a wonderful book of awareness for Christians. Many believe the job of a pastor is a fun easy going role. SO not the case! And because of that, it wears and tears on the temple. People have no clue the hardships that Pastors go through to to be able to show up and get on that stage some Sundays. Yet they do it and they do it with a smile on their face.
While The Clergy Health Initiative through Duke is focused on the Methodist denomenation throughout North and South Carolina, MissionFiT (our ministry) is cross-denomenational and finding the same statistics for this sub-population here in North Carolina.
- The stress for pastors is astronomical.
- It affects several areas of their lives – family, church, friends, individual health, etc.
- The health of pastors is in the tank these days. It affects their body in every way – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
- The career of a pastor is a super sedentary one with long hours and too many meetings built around southern (here in the Carolinas) fried food and coffee.
- There is a serious clergy health crisis that needs to be addressed.
- There’s more and more dysfunction within the leadership teams these days, creating more stress.
The sad part of all of this is the math. That’s an average total of 24,000 senior pastors between North and South Carolina alone in this predicament. And it’s not just the senior Pastors we are seeing in poor health, it’s most of the church staff so multiple this by 3 to 20 or perhaps more.
My advice would be 2 fold:
- For congregations to read this book. The people in the seats on Sunday need to know this information so they can A. have better appreciation for their Church Leaders and B. support those Leaders well.
- Pastors, you know the stats (for the most part) – you’re living them. If you’re a pastor out there and resonate with this book (which I don’t know how you couldn’t), I encourage you take that next step towards making healthy changes in your life.