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good advice for habitual health

1. Embrace the value.

The Rev. Bob Tschannen-Moran teaches, "Until we embrace the value of wellness not only to our own health and happiness but also to the integrity of our calling as clergy and as a church, wellness will remain a low priority item."

2. Leave "la-la land."

Says parish nurse Lisa Thomas, R.N., "You're not doing anyone any favors by ignoring all this, just so you can go to an extra meeting or make an extra phone call. You're living in la-la land."

3. Honor "Sabbath" as holy — even on Tuesdays, if necessary.

Respect pastor's established offi ce hours and "days off," except in cases of emergency. Encourage or take comp time after interruptions occur.

4. Look out for false gods.

"I am fully persuaded that the Hebrew prophets had it right," says the Rev. James B. Nelson. "It's not Yahweh versus no god, it's Yahweh versus false gods. We're always worshipping something, and we're always looking for other gods to save us."

5. Discover your "soul protectors."

"When you're engaged in work at a spiritual level, you are constantly being asked to make yourself vulnerable," says the Rev. Lark Hapke. "Pastors long to know that they have a few 'soul protectors' looking out for them in their congregations."

6. Say no to clergy-bashing members.

Says the Rev. Richard Sparrow, "Church leaders must name the problem and be willing to say, 'You can't take aim at our pastor.'"

7. Make health a congregation-wide commitment.

Self care is not a luxurious pursuit, it's faithful stewardship. Establish a parish nurse program or healthy congregations initiative. Offer a gym membership as part of clergy's benefi ts package. Learn more from Barbara Baylor of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries at ucc.org/ justice/health.

8. Promote healthy eating options ...

               ... at church meals and meetings.

9. Set goals with action steps.

Says the Rev. Nancy Nelson-Elsenheimer, "It's basically about setting the goal and then putting one foot in front of the other."

10. Remember that wellness is comprehensive and incremental.

Promote lifestyle changes that mirror your church's theological values and social justice commitments.


Reproduced with permission. This information comes from a larger article on clergy self-care and wellness entitled, “The sturdy, reliant, self-destructing pastor,” written by Ben Guess, in the United Church News, January – February, 2005.


Clergy Wellness, Self-Care and Congregational Care