American Baptist Churches Ministers Council launches Clergy Health Initiative

Jul 23, 2014 | Pastoral Excellence Network

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The Pastoral Excellence Network is pleased to award a Catalyst Grant to The Ministers Council of the American Baptist Churches to launch the Clergy Health Initiative on August 13, 2014. The initiative seeks to take a holistic approach to clergy health, focusing on the areas of self-care, physical wellness, financial wellness, and retirement readiness.

“There is a burgeoning crisis with regard to clergy health,” Rev. Dr. Debora Jackson, Executive Director of the Ministers Council told the American Baptist News Service. “We are so busy caring for others that we often neglect caring for ourselves…. The hope of this initiative is that we can help one another be more intentional about our self-care and physical health, and engage in the planning necessary to ensure our financial well-being for the present and into retirement.”

A seven-year study conducted by Duke University beginning in 2007 showed that Methodist ministers reported higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma than their non-clergy peers. Obesity was ten percent more prevalent among clergy. The effects of ill-health have a major impact on the ability to perform effectively in ministry and have a direct effect on insurance costs.

These and similar findings motivated the Ministers Council to propose a Clergy Health Initiative in partnership with MMBB Financial Services, American Baptist Foundation, American Baptist Home Mission Societies, and the Pastoral Excellence Network. The goal is to positively impact health outcomes for clergy, emphasizing a holistic approach to health through peer group learning. This initiative will leverage the clergy peer group learning model while focusing participants on the areas of self-care, physical wellness, financial wellness, and retirement readiness as the means to help individuals achieve their health goals.

The Ministers Council’s connection to the Pastoral Excellence Network resulted from the American Baptist Together in Ministry program, originally part of Lilly Endowment’s Sustaining Pastoral Excellence initiative. Over the course of a decade, thousands of clergy learned first-hand the benefits of realizing clergy friendships, establishing a network of support and being strengthened in ministry as individuals covenanted together. This initiative takes that learning one step further, focusing on health as a component of clergy group gatherings with the hope that support around health goals will help individuals better meet those goals.

With the accountability partners found in peer groups, clergy will be emboldened to make progress toward their self-determined goals. How much easier might it be to lose ten pounds if others knew that was a goal? What a motivator we would have if we knew that someone in our group was going to ask us whether we have made progress on our retirement plan. That is what this initiative offers: the incentive to care for self as we participate in the care and keeping of others.

The Ministers Council, ABCUSA, an independent, non-profit organization of ordained, commissioned, and lay Christian leaders who are serving American Baptist Churches, works to nurture, encourage, and strengthen ministerial leaders by providing fellowshipping opportunities, spiritual enrichment, and educational programming to fuel the effectiveness of the men and women called of God to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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