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preach the best sermon of their life each week for which they have been expected to prepare at least 20 hours this past week. In many situations, the pastor is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, loving and caring for his or her congregation. Short of driving out of town, it is difficult to take the time needed for Sabbath and rest!
All too frequently, the love of caring for others does not carry over into the love and caring for oneself, as reflected in the statistics listed above, gathered by the Pension Fund of the Church. It follows then, that clergy as a group may need some help to care for themselves, just as they offer help to so many others.
Laywomen in the pews could be the perfect candidates for such a task! Women are a natural choice to serve as advocates for better physical, emotional and spiritual health of the clergy in their churches. As those who are by nature often predisposed to care-taking and nurture, women can be of practical and concrete help with the stressful predicament in which clergy find themselves. Here are some ideas:
• Any possibility for the congregation to assist in the purchase of a health club membership? Money for pastors is always an issue, and he or she may not have the funds for this. The long-term benefits to the pastor and congregation, however, might be well worth the money spent.
• Protect and respect your pastor’s personal life – a day off means a day off without phone calls, or hospital visits. A vacation is to be away from the church, without church worries or the requirement to return to the church if there is a death in the congregation.
• Be sure there is time allotted for continuing education in the clergy contract, as well as money provided to take advantage of the opportunity. This provides great enrichment for fresh sermon ideas.
• Advocate and budget for a scheduled extended sabbatical leave of absence. A sabbatical provides needed rest and rejuvenation at a deep level. The congregation can also benefit from this as they learn to be more self-sufficient and lay-led.
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• Form a group in the church whose job it is to hold the pastor and the congregation accountable for better clergy care. A plan for care needs to be well-rounded. That is, take into consideration not only vocational and spiritual nurture, but also the intellectual, emotional, and social/interpersonal aspects of care.
• Insist that your pastor take all of his or her contracted vacation time each year, and if at all possible, get out of town away from the telephone and email.
• Encourage time for your pastor to take up a new hobby totally unrelated to church life. This is often challenging for pastors who spend so much of their time with church parishioners that the distinction between social and professional time gets very blurred.
• Provide your pastor permission to use his or her time in a more flexible manner that suits his or her lifestyle better. Perhaps he or she is not so much a morning person, but works very well in the evening. Or perhaps several evening meetings in a week mean that the pastor stays away from the church’s needs a couple of mornings that week.
Women know the value of taking good care of others. Mothers do so all the time with the children in their lives. They are aware not only of how to do this, but of the rate of return for their efforts. Good preventive care pays off far better in the long run than trying to heal the already wounded.
Women can encourage the wellness of their pastors with powerful positive results to both the clergyperson, and also, therefore, to the congregation that is being served. Take advantage of these basic ideas that might be just the beginning for a healthier, happier pastor. Think of the benefits to the ministry of your congregation all around! END