Spirited Life is a two year program for United Methodist pastors in North Carolina. I am currently finishing up the introduction retreat today. This is a really cool program and it is focused on improving the health and well being of clergy. For more information you can go to their website where they will explain it better than I can.
There have been some good nuggets of information and some really scary stats. I’ll start with the scary stuff first. I have mentioned more statistics back on this post. First off there is a sense that health care costs are out of control and getting to the point that young clergy with young families cannot afford the healthcare coverage. This has been something I have vented on this topic for a while now. Currently we will pay over $1000 a month for my wife and two children to be on the conference healthcare plan. We do not have any other options. What really hurt was to learn that there is a clergy family in NC that has to have their children on Medicare because the cannot afford the cost of the conference healthcare plan.
The other fact that knocked me on my heels was the number of 35-44 year old males (I’ll be there in a few short years) in North Carolina who suffer heart attacks. The NC stat is that .5% will have a heart attack in this age range. For clergy it is 6.1%. With my family history, my father had a heart attack and a double bypass during that age range, my radar went way up. It was also shared that the clergy profession has moved up in rankings as a risky profession. 30 years ago we were way under the radar and now we are near or at the top of professions that are the riskiest to our health. (reason we cannot be affordable insured?)
Enough bad. What this retreat is focused on is how to deal with stress. Clergy live in the midst of a ton of stress. Not only do we carry the weight of our own personal lives and family’s lives on our shoulders, but we also carry the lives and personalities of our parishioners. This stress leads to bad eating, no exercise and other unhealthy habits. So we learned some tools on how to manage stressful times and how to look at them objectively. I thought this was very helpful. To attempt to sum it up as best as I can, this is called I AM Worth it. When we get in a stressful situation we ask four questions, Is it IMPORTANT (the I) to me? Is what i am feeling and/or thinking APPROPRIATE to teh facts of the situation? Is this situation MODIFIABLE in ways that will reduce my negative feelings and/or thoughts? When I balance the needs of myself and others, is taking action WORTH IT?
By asking these four questions we can start to realize what kind of dog we have in the fight and whether or not we even need a dog in the fight. There are some other more involved ways to handle answering yes to all of these questions but the key is if you answered NO, then to free yourself from it.
The last point I’ll make, as this post gets a little long, is the importance of saying No. I think clergy feel the need to please people and care for people by saying yes. But when we say yes we are saying no to someone. When we say yes to coming back from vacation to do a funeral, we say yes to the church and no to our family and ourselves. To live healthy lives we have to learn to say no to the right people and yes to the right circumstances. There are church members who will demand everything they can from their ministers but is that a healthy relationship? God says no all the time, why can’t we.
I’ll probably post some more stuff about this as other areas hit. The next part of this process is Naturally Thin, a course on how to eat right, not a diet, but education on proper eating. I’m going to go soak up some more worship this morning and enjoy participating instead of leading.