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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout


a Growing Concern
17 hours ago

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God may have rested on the seventh day, but for a growing number
of his ministers, there is more work -- and stress -- than ever, and
less chance to unwind. That has led to all sorts of health problems
among clergy, from a lack of exercise and a rise in obesity to
problems of depression and substance abuse and all the many ills
DAVID GIBSON of modern life that pastors spend so much time helping their
Religion Reporter
congregants tackle.
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Indeed, even as the folks in the pews head off to vacations this
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summer, priests, rabbis, pastors and ministers of all faiths often
find themselves looking after those left behind and still in need of
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spiritual support, or using any down time to catch up on the
inevitable backlog of administrative work that always takes second place to the care of souls.

"It's a huge problem," said Rich Teeters, a veteran pastor and speaker who currently serves as
at Renaissance Church, a non-denominational congregation in Summit, N.J. "People's deaths
and serious illnesses and troubles and marital problems -- they don't take vacations." DAVID GIBSON

Last year, for example, Teeters had to break off his vacation to conduct the funeral of a friend. No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a
"In some cases you just care so deeply, you say, 'How can I sit here and enjoy the beach or the Growing Concern
August 02, 2010 | 17 hours ago
golf course when someone I love is going through hell?' If you're conscientious, you can't just
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Teeters, who also founded a Vampire Novelist Anne Rice Quits


Christianity, but Not Christ

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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

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relationship with Christ, allegedly for good reasons." Race
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Many other clergy from all denominations are still battling the high expectations, however --
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from congregants and themselves -- and they are paying the price.
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A national survey in 2001 of more than 2,500 Christian religious leaders conducted by Duke
Divinity School showed that 76 percent of Christian clergy were either overweight or obese, 15 Number of Americans Who Say
percentage points higher than for the general U.S. population. And other research has shown Afghanistan Was a Mistake Hits New
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that clergy across all faiths are succumbing to higher rates of obesity, hypertension, diabetes,
August 03, | 9:11 am - By Bruce Drake
and other ailments than their congregants.
View All »

"There is a deep concern about stress," Rabbi Joel Meyers, former executive vice president of
the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, told The New
York Times. "Rabbis today are expected to be the C.E.O. of the congregation and the spiritual
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guide, and never be out of town if somebody dies. And reply instantly to every e-mail." Female
Journalists

Catholic priests can be especially prone to problems too, given that they are unmarried and
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can throw themselves into their work with no family life to provide balance -- and a tendency
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to consume unhealthy food on the run. The past decade of scandal and crisis has also hit
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priests hard. In 2006, a priest support group established the Upper Room Crisis Hotline, a
toll-free number for clergy who were feeling suicidal or depressed or overwhelmed, and Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston and Our
dioceses across the country are establishing programs to try to get priests to take care of their Shared Crackers and Jell-O Heritage
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for their own well-being and the well-being of the people they tend to," Father David L. August 02, | 6:00 pm - By Suzi Parker

Toups, a priest of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., who is associate director for the View All »
Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations for the U.S. bishops, told Catholic News
Service. "It's about making sure their physical and spiritual needs are being met and about
them being credible witnesses for God."

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Some experts say the situation may have been aggravated by the recession, as well. The down
economy has not only hurt donations and created more financial challenges for pastors, but it
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Even in the best of times, however, many factors can contribute to clergy health problems. to Chelsea Clinton's Wedding

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Clergy routinely work 60-hour weeks, and often have just one day off -- and not the day Engagement: It's Off Again. Maybe
everyone else is off. Also, every function that a priest or rabbi or imam attends is likely to have
food -- and not necessarily healthy fare -- that he or she is expected to share. On Her Wedding Day, Saying the Things
Left Unsaid

"Doughnuts will be the death of me," several Methodist pastors told researchers with the Duke

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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

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Clergy Health Initiative, a seven-year project with Duke Divinity School that is looking at the Today -- At Last
health of United Methodist pastors in North Carolina.
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4:30 a.m.
Another problem is the clergy shortage that affects many faiths, not just the Catholic
priesthood. That has left many pastors overworked, overstressed and underpaid, and too often Chelsea Clinton's Wedding: Making Bill
Clinton Long for Arkansas?
a Lone Ranger with little support from other ministers or the congregants.

"Many clergy could not identify a close friend in the church or the community," said the Rev.
Andrew Irvine at the release in 2006 of a multi-year study of Protestant clergy in six Comics

denominations in Ontario that showed many of them were burning out. "Clergy have been seen
as either superhuman who needed no friends, or subhuman who could exist without them --
but certainly not human."

Moreover, like any service profession, clergy are expected to be available at all times, whether
it is the dinner hour or their vacation.

"The untenable nature of the experience for me was being designated the holiest member of
the congregation, who could be in all places at all times and require no time for sermon
preparation," Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest, said in describing her memoir,
"Leaving Church," about her decision to abandon the pulpit. "Those aren't symptomatic of a
mean congregation; those are normal expectations of 24/7 availability."

Indeed, unlike doctors or police, for example, pastors are supposed to be people who have
dedicated their lives to a spiritual goal and are not expected to focus on themselves and their
own welfare in the here and now.

"I really don't think people think about their pastors," said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, research
CHAOS THEORY
director of the Duke Clergy Health Initiative. "They admire their pastor, and their pastor is
Featuring political comics by Robert
very visible. But they want their pastor to be the broker between them and God, and they and Donna Trussell More>>
don't want them to be as human as they themselves are."

The other problem with being put on a pedestal is that "pastors then want to live up to that
expectation, and they do expect more of themselves than they expect of the people in the Woman UP
Video
pews," said Proeschold-Bell, assistant research professor at the Duke University Center for
Health Policy. "And they're harder on themselves when they fall short."

Proeschold-Bell said the root of the stress is that for a minister, work centers around so many
different relationships, and the demand that he or she be all things to all people. She
compared clergy work to planning a wedding, where it is not just the amount of work but the
number of people who must be kept happy that is exhausting.

In religious communities, each congregant tends to have a different view of what a cleric
should be -- preacher, fundraiser, counselor, spiritual exemplar, etc. -- but few have any real
conception of what the job entails. "Some congregants think their clergy work one hour a week
preaching, and maybe another hour to prepare," said Proeschold-Bell.

There has been growing attention to the issue as the problem has become more obvious, at
least to denominational officials if not to the congregants themselves.

A program called the National Clergy Renewal Program, funded by the Lilly Endowment, has
been underwriting sabbaticals for pastors for several years; the program will provide up to Weekly Videos
$50,000 to 150 congregations in the coming year. And places like The Alban Institute in Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online
Herndon, Va., are studying the topic and offering expertise and resources to denominations Sunday Show More»
trying to make their clergy healthier

But experts also say the solutions have to start at the congregational level.

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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

Congregants can encourage pastors to take time off, and not view everything in the church as
the pastor's responsibility. They can also be sure to provide healthy food at church events. But
clergy must also learn find time to exercise or relax, even if it means saying no to some
requests. Otherwise, they won't be healthy enough to serve their flock later on.

Rich Teeters said he finds the only way to take time off is to get out of town so that he is
physically removed from the congregation and can't respond to every phone call.

But he also believes that if a clergy person shouldn't be a martyr, long hours and porous
boundaries between one's work life and personal life is also an occupational hazard.

"I still regress," he said. "It's a constant struggle, it's a process. I do really well for a while, then
I can get caught up in everything."
Filed Under: Religion, Culture, Disputations, Ethics
Tagged: clergy burnout, Duke Clergy Health Initiative., National Clergy Renewal Program, Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell,
summer vacations

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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

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cjcastles 3:01 PM Aug 3, 2010 (2) (0)

A mentor once said, "When I entered the ministry it was a low stress, high prestige calling. Now it's low prestige, high
stress." As I retire at the end of the month after 34 years in ministry, I am looking forward to exploring what having a
weekend is like.

Report Abuse

pecorrn 2:47 PM Aug 3, 2010 (0) (2)

I just want to coment on the problem that the clery are having. This doesnot seem to be a problem with the Latter Day
Saint church; commonly known as Mormans. Ther is no paid claey every bishop and stake president is a common man
who works for a living just like the rest of us. I do not see any over weight or depressed leaders in my church. And by
the way, we are called latter day saints because we follow the same leader-ship doctrines in these latter days as the
saints did in Jesus's time. those people were called saints and Juses Christ is the head of our church. Just thought
some would be interested to know this.

Report Abuse

dreada6669 2:46 PM Aug 3, 2010 (2) (2)

this is basically everyone in america, over worked, obese, tired, depress etc. not only them. every job is tough, deal with
it.

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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

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mdunham227 2:46 PM Aug 3, 2010 (4) (2)

I really feel for the members of the clergy. I feel it is against human nature for the Catholic Church to not allow priests
to marry. It's no wonder there have been such scandals in the priesthood. It is overwhelming what is expected of these
men and woman. I pray for those who have chosen to guide people toward their spiritual life. God bless all of them.

Report Abuse

Sharon 2:40 PM Aug 3, 2010 (3) (0)

Pastors are CEOs of their churches-they need to "draft" congregants to chair committees/boards, etc. to handle some
of the tasks. I think every church needs more than a single pastor; there should be at least two associate pastors for
every church with more than 500 members. Also, maybe it's time to back off on some of the international missions
and the mega-churches in order to make things more manageable and to use more of the church's funds for local
projects. Mandatory vacations should be instituted. Let the bishops, elders, etc. fill in for the pastors while they are
away! I don't happen to think that this is a problem unique to the clergy-we are all guilty of taking on too many
resonsibilities and not allowing for enough "down" time. Simplify, simplify, siplify!

Report Abuse

Frank's Family 2:37 PM Aug 3, 2010 (3) (0)

The Church and Jesus in the beginning had multiple problems that threatened its very existence When you read the
gospels and the accounts of the apostles, especially Peter and Paul, it makes you wonder where these holy men found
their courage to carry on. The light that initialy brought them to their true pastorate never dimmed, albeit, they had
their moments of weakness and sin.What stresses and threats they have certainly were more savage and barbaric than
they are today.Yet that same light that brought them, the apostles, to their pastorate is with the pastors of today. The
light that gave them the courage to suffer martyrdom for their faith, and for today, prove to be an excellent example
for future pastors.The light is faith.

Report Abuse

Cherylesdream 2:37 PM Aug 3, 2010 (3) (5)

Catholics Have gone to the extreme by not letting the clergy marry and have a wife. The king james bible does not say
a man should not marry it says a man should marry because of the lust in him. All of us have battles in our everyday
life . We were all born in sin but Jesus Died On The cross So We Could Have Life Everlasting with him if we repent .
It Says In the LAST DAYS MANY WILL FALL AWAY FROM THERE FAITH AND THIS IS HAPPENING NOW. A
pastor needs time to relax and be with his family there is nothing wrong with that.

Report Abuse

RhinoBarbarian 2:28 PM Aug 3, 2010 (5) (0)

This article rings true. I have seen many pastors(I am a Christian if anyone is wondering) be burned out by the people
from the church. However, I have seen the reasons why this is the case. 1. People don't give to the pastors. I am not
talking finacially, I am talking emotionally and spiritually. I mean, people can only have so much emotion inside of
them. How can a pastor be expected to pour out all their emotions and spirtiual influence with no one giving back?
That will empty them very quickly. 2. People are whiners. They complain about everything. The color of the church, the
coffee, the doughnuts, the childcare, the parking, the slightly used hymnals or Bibles provided in the pews, what the
pastor or other wear. Enough is enough people. Sometimes when you simply don't like something you have to grit your
teeth and deal with it. 3. They look to the pastor, a man, for all the answers instead of to God. Pastors are only human.
They fail just as bad as everyone else. But no God. God is perfect. Try taking problems to Him first. If people would fix
these problems, the pastors would be much better off.

Report Abuse

price2952 2:12 PM Aug 3, 2010 (2) (1)

I have to admit as a pastor myself, the demands are extreme. I personally am battling with many different issues. It

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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

has been on my mind lately to not pastor anymore, this is difficult to come to, I wish I knew the answer.

Report Abuse

zmg88 2:12 PM Aug 3, 2010 (2) (10)

Organized religion is dying. Attendance at churches all over the country has dropped rapidly , which explains the
shortage of priests and ministers. More and more people believe logic rather than faith. I don't see a problem with
either. It's good for some people to have faith. For others, it doesn't do anything. A lot of people are resorting to
individual spiritualism now anyway and are straying away from the church.

Report Abuse

Cherylesdream 2:40 PM Aug 3, 2010 (6) (3)

I dont know where you are getting your information but the Churches across America are growing by leaps and
bounds! People are getting saved and Going to Heaven instead Of Hell. Read the bible and find out for yourself.

Report Abuse

Eddie 2:55 PM Aug 3, 2010 (0) (0)

There are some number that would be interesting to know. Polls on growth of organized religion and smaller
non denomination religions.

Report Abuse

omemin 2:08 PM Aug 3, 2010 (0) (2)

As a pastor, accountant, and graduate student all at the same time, I can say that the problem of burnout is real. I
have not had a vacation since going to Norwich University last summer to complete a Masters in Military History. I am
now enrolled at Liberty University online for a Masters in Divinity. I do not get paid by my church (the congregation
just barely keeps the doors open). The current economy has many congregants worried, as many are on fixed incomes.
There is much to be done, but human and monetary limitations leave many of them undone. That adds guilt to all the
other stresses. My family suffers, I suffer, and the church suffers. In reply to KMA, the advantage to "buddy buddying
up" with a clergy person is the absolute sanctity of your privacy and, in the case of the clergy I know across
denominations, more than a little life experience. Most clergy come to the job after many years in real life.

Report Abuse

palnicki 2:14 PM Aug 3, 2010 (0) (2)

The church higher ups, who like to imitate Jesus as their role model, live in shabby homes and walk
everywhere in whatever clothing they find in thrift stores so they can't support those who are likely to succeed
them.

Report Abuse

KMA 6:28 AM Aug 3, 2010 (1) (11)

The Job of being a Religious leader is not what it use to be. It doesn't pay and people don't expect to pay either, unlike
the psychiatric business which is in competition. While Jesus professed followers must be servants of the people, a far
back as one can remember, priests roles were always ones of authority seemingly perched on a pedestal. With the
advent of modern communication, people have shunned authority by voting with their feet. How do you buddy buddy
up with a minister or priest? They are pretty much unhandy, inexperienced with raising a family or 9-5 workers and
short of expecting a lecture, they are all talk and always in the position of being judgmental and people don't want this
kind of relationship. Also with tight money goes the house keepers and paid support.

Report Abuse

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No Rest For the Holy: Clergy Burnout a Growing Concern

Eddie 2:53 PM Aug 3, 2010 (3) (0)

I'm sorry you feel that way about ministers or priests. I've talked to a few Ministers and Priests and they were
rather nice and knew more than just the "churchy" stuff. But like the article says, they are just human, and we
are all different. I think its hard for a Minister or Priest to get too friendly with some people because of the
darn politics with each church. With money and people involved things can get really difficult to manage. They
do need vacations. Everyone gets physically and mentally tired. If your not rested, your not at your best for
those you are trying to help or serve.

Report Abuse

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