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Ár nDraíocht Féin
Three Cranes
Chaos Matrix

August 16th, 2010

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10:22 am - 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.
Current Location: Southeast of Disorder
Current Mood: busy
Current Music: "Train to Dixieland", -JB

(12 comments Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:August 16th, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC)
Must have missed the story when it ran. Darn!

I think that their point is pretty good, actually. Burnout is easy when you're "always on," and the stress and lifestyle that accompanies that is likely to lead to being sedentary (because you don't feel like you have time to get active), high blood pressure, and depression.

Depression can be particularly problematic: not being visible (or not living up to expectations others have) can cause people to indicate that you're not doing a good job at being clergy, which can make you want to be less visible and to hide from criticism. This leads to reinforcement and acceptance that you're not doing your job, which can just make you feel miserable.

Yeah, I've experienced it. But I've recognized it for what it is, too. And that's led to me being more comfortable with saying, "No," to people and being okay with that decision. It's when you either say "Yes" to everything, or you say "No" and dwell on it that problems arise, I tend to think.

The "Yes to everything until I burn out" is a common problem in the clergy, both mainstream and non-mainstream. I've seen people put their families and "real-world" jobs on hold, often to the detriment of their marriages or careers, because they couldn't say "no" to things, or they felt guilty about the "no's" they got out. Major Christian publications run articles all the time about how important it is for clergy to recognize their limits and say "no" before they cross them.

The chats have been particularly hard, because they fall on nights that many of us have long-standing local plans, or families that need attention, or jobs that we need to be at. We often just can't make it to them, because we have other obligations. But often, it feels like we're ignoring the Folk because we can't attend them, even though we're still spending that time with/on the Folk.

Most recently, I'm seeing some guilt from people who can't attend Isaac's memorial service, as if we'll think less of them because they couldn't travel across the country (or across the Pond, as the case may be) to attend on 1 week's worth of notice. And really, it's okay. But it's hard to accept that it's okay.
[User Picture]
Date:August 17th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
I can imagine it being hard. And don't feel bad about the chats. I would love to make more too, but meat world beckons... lol
[User Picture]
Date:August 17th, 2010 02:55 pm (UTC)
Indeed. Stupid meat world :)

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