August 16th, 2010


NYT article: lowering burnout among priests

An interesting article popped up in the New York Times not too long ago: "Taking a Break From the Lord's Work". The article talks about a rise in obesity, hypertension, and depression among clergypersons in America, and a lowering of life expectancy. In addition, they apparently have "significantly higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma." Mostly, this is attributed to the "growth-ethic" of churches these days (wherein megachurches are the desired outcome) and social media and cell phones. I stumbled across the article when it was referenced on Wikipedia's "Clergy" article (which I stumbled onto trying to find out what a shorter word for "ordained priest" might be).

While we don't have to worry so much about "megachurches" (though Three Cranes is rather large, clocking in at around 50 people who are somehow officially related to the Grove, either as Members or as Friends), the social media aspect is huge with us: demands to be on e-lists, video chats, Facebook, and other net-savvy functions are high. . . so high, in fact, that those who are visible and quick to respond are seen as better at "doing our jobs" than those who aren't, which is a troubling (if understandable) trend. The social aspect of being a priest can really, really wear on folks.

I like the solutions hinted at in the article: yearly retreats (with longer sabbaticals every few years), teaching Priests to say "no" (I've learned that one, for the most part, pretty well), encouraging discipline of any sort (particularly silence, meditation, prayer, vacation days, etc.), and calming the need-for-growth mentality.

Anyway, food for thought.