You may think Clergy Members have an easy life. My husband and I use to refute comments almost every day with people saying “you only work one day a week”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because of the demands placed on clergy, they are at a much greater risk to suffer from depression and anxiety than any other profession. This was confirmed through a study of the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School. We use to tell those people that they “see the glory but don’t know the story”.
A powerful predictor of depression and anxiety was most notably job stress. Activities, including grief counseling, navigating the competing demands of congregants, and delivering a weekly sermon that opens them up to criticism are among the most stressful. When pastors have to move from one activity to another quickly, this exacerbates the stress.
Pastors often experience a sense of guilt about not doing enough, which leads to depression. If they have a minimum of social support, they’re at a greater risk.
“Pastors may have created a life for themselves that is so strongly intertwined with their ministry, that their emotional health is dependent on the state of their ministry,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, the Clergy Health Initiative’s research director, and assistant research professor at the Duke Global Health Institute. “So it’s possible that when pastors feel their ministry is going well, they experience positive emotions potent enough to buffer them from mental distress. Of course, the converse is also true.”
My husband’s life was so strongly intertwined in the ministry that we never took a real vacation. Our time away was built around conferences and conventions. Additionally, whenever we traveled, he always had a place to spread the gospel. He loved the church and loved the congregants wholeheartedly. He sacrificed much of our family time to serve the church and her members. There were still comments that what he was doing was not enough and the appreciation was many times minuscule.
Betrayal was the ultimate act that lead to his severe depression, subsequently leading to his demise. This seems so senseless when your whole life is built around love for people.
I believe pastors know what they can do to preserve their mental health. But congregation members can best preserve their pastors by volunteering for tasks, following through with commitments made by the church, sharing with your pastor when you are helped by their work and word and making it possible for them to take much needed time away.
#AllLivesMatter, if not to you, certainly to God!
Denyse H. Turner, L.H.D, M.P.H., M.A., ACC
First Lady who is out to help others win!
I am picking up ministry where my husband left off!
Public Speaker/Author/Trainer/Counselor/Faith-Based Travel Educator
First Lady and Chief Connector at Dr. Gregory C. Turner, Late Pastor of Christ Temple Baptist Church