Nearly half of Texas Baptist pastors who responded to a recent statewide pastor health survey don’t get enough sleep, four out of 10 have high blood pressure, and one out of 10 has experienced a heart attack, stroke or other cardiac event.
Two-thirds of the pastors who participated in the survey report doing church work on their scheduled days off at least half of the time, and three out of 10 said their church-related income is insufficient for their household needs.
The survey, conducted by Texas Baptists’ Church Health Initiative of San Antonio, explored spiritual, physical, mental, financial, relational and work health. Out of 4,302 potential respondents, 560 pastors of churches affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas completed the survey, a 13 percent response rate.
The survey showed 20 percent of Texas Baptist pastors who responded are experiencing at least one critical issue in the work life category, defined as:
- Being highly dissatisfied with their overall work situation with their church, the quality of their relationships with other church staff, the quality of their relationships with lay leaders, and/or how much care/concern their lay leaders show toward their needs as a person.
- Feeling not at all well trained for their ministry position.
- Working 80 or more hours per week in any combination of jobs.
- Having no days off from church work in a typical week.
The survey revealed in addition to the 40 percent of respondents who have high blood pressure, other diagnosed medical problems include high cholesterol (31 percent), diabetes (16 percent), depression/anxiety (12 percent) and heart disease (10 percent).
Other findings included:
- Only 14 percent of pastors who responded to the survey qualified as having a healthy Body Mass Index, while 46 percent were considered obese, including 6 percent who qualified as extremely obese.
- Young, white pastors were more likely than others to have considered looking for another job or leaving the ministry entirely.
- More than one-fourth (27 percent) reported the presence of critical financial issues.
- The average pastor who responded to the survey estimated spending 4.1 hours per week (or 35 minutes per day) in personal prayer. Nearly three out of 10 pastors who completed the survey pray fewer than two hours per week.
“This survey shows that being a pastor can be tough on your health,” said Ben Hanna, director of the Church Health Initiative. “When Jesus said ‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full,’ that included every part of our lives. So, we want to minister to the whole minister, help them grow in all areas—wisdom, stature and favor with God and man. That’s stewarding our health and honoring our Father.”
Hanna and Elizabeth Coffee, regional specialist for Texas Baptists in San Antonio, will host a webinar “You Are Here” at 2 p.m. on July 23. It will include an overview of the main findings of the study and allow pastors and church leaders to discuss positive ways to move forward. To register, click here.
Hanna met with the Church Health Initiative Team to determine what key issues related to pastoral health could be addressed through current and future convention resources. The team is composed of Baptist institution representatives, local pastors, health experts and convention staff.
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“The results from this survey will serve as a map that will guide our efforts to positively impact the health of our pastors,” Hanna said. “While we have a clearer picture of where we are, the next question is, ‘Where do we go from here?’ The Church Health Initiative is working to provide a clear path for holistic health.”
Resources being developed
The Church Health Initiative Team identified four key areas—physical, mental, financial and relational health—and determined resources for pastors that will be developed in the coming months.
To address physical health issues, Bobby Contreras, pastor of Alamo Heights Baptist Church in San Antonio, has volunteered to write a weekly blog about pastors’ health.
Jim Furgerson, associate professor of internal medicine at TCU School of Medicine and attending cardiologist at Brooke Army Medical Center, will produce videos specifically targeting pastor health. He also will pilot a comprehensive health program in the San Antonio area that will shed light on the specific health needs and solutions for pastors statewide.
The Church Health Initiative also has provided Teladoc Health services to 50 pastors in the San Antonio area.
In regard to mental health, Katie Swafford, director of Texas Baptists’ Counseling Services, will produce several videos to address burnout and chronic stress. Counseling services are also available to ministers and their families through Texas Baptists’ Counseling Services Network and South Texas Children’s Home Ministries.
To equip and encourage pastors with financial resources, Texas Baptists’ Center for Financial Health provides grants and financial training for ministers.
To promote relational health, the Church Health Initiative will partner with Blake Coffee, founder of Christian Unity Ministries, to share “The 5 Principles of Unity” in an online format.
The Church Health Initiative of San Antonio is made possible through a grant from the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio. It is strengthened by partnerships with organizations that provide resources to churches including the Baptist Credit Union, the San Antonio Baptist Association, Guidestone and STCH Ministries.
With additional reporting from Managing Editor Ken Camp.