The New York Times is reporting on new research that shows pastors appear to be struggling with health issues–both physical and psychological–more than other Americans. The article reports:
"Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could."
The article goes on to speculate on causes for the decline in clergy health. A key culprit: lack of boundaries. Pastors have an increasing number of expectations. Not only are they expected to function as CEOs for complex organizations, but also spiritual shepherds, teachers, and care-givers for large numbers of people.
One researcher from Duke University sums it up well: "These people tend to be driven by a sense of a duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7."
If we are to believe these findings, what should be conclude? If ministry is proving to be unhealthy for those closest to the center of the church, what are we communicating to those on the edges? And is this simply another example of already unhealthy people being attracted to the "helping" professions? In other words, are the people most drawn to ministry those with a messiah complex who lack boundaries, who seek to satisfy their ego-needs through saving others? Or are church systems to blame for putting far too much pressure on the paid clergy?
The questions abound. Let the conversation begin.
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