Pastoral health and wellbeing is a growing concern across the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Recent research studies have revealed several critical areas of pastoral stress. This poster presents research data and recommendations to help strengthen pastoral health.
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Seventh-day Adventist Pastor in North American Division Health Qualitative Study Executive Summary
This report highlights the findings from the Adventist Pastor Qualitative Health Study conducted January through December 2020 by the Institute for Church Ministry. The research objective was to discover the ways in which pastors engage in stress management activities and their perspectives on how to best help pastors alleviate emotional, financial, spiritual, and workplace stress. The research approach is spelled out step-by-step following this summary of findings. An in-depth, detailed description of the findings appears after the Methodology section of this report. Finally, we offer research conclusions and recommendations as a way to initiate thinking about and planning next steps to address pastor health.
The primary ways that pastors used to alleviate emotional stress included seeking social support, setting boundaries, developing self-awareness and self-acceptance, and through exercise. Pastors addressed financial stressors through improved financial literacy, careful budgeting, having a spouse who was employed, and trusting in God’s provision for their lives. In addressing spiritual stress, pastors shared several ways to help themselves in times of spiritual dryness. These included: prioritizing devotional time, going on spiritual retreats, and taking vacations and just having time away from their daily routines. To relieve workplace stress, the principle strategy participants used was setting boundaries. Other ways to alleviate workplace stress included having church member support, developing a flexible mindset about their daily work plan and keeping a local focus on their work versus focusing on the Church as an organization.
In general pastors reported being very open to learning additional ways of stress management. Specific strategies that the majority of focus groups reported having positive outcomes using included: getting counseling, working with a mentor or coach, engaging in peer support groups, attending workshops, and using self-help materials. However it is important to note that with each approach, participants listed some cautions and reservations about its potential effectiveness. Ultimately, participants agreed that a multi-pronged approach was needed to address pastor stress in meaningful ways.
When asked about the level of Church organization that would be most effective in implementing stress management initiatives, participants agreed that the Conference that employed them would be have the most impact. Also, when possible, spouses should be included in these efforts.
Participants discussed the barriers that would impede learning about stress management. First, pastors need to be assured of confidentiality in any stress management interventions offered. Other considerations included the immediate usefulness of the materials/resources, presenter credibility, and the costs associated with the activities or interventions.
Participants offered a number of suggestions about how Church leadership might plan for improved stress management among their pastors. These ideas included: building a culture of trust, promoting financial literacy, and being proactive in pastor outreach. Based on these findings, the research team recommends the following actions:
• Acknowledge the levels of stress that exist among Adventist pastors
• Understand how pastors’ selflessness and self-sufficiency create barriers to health
• Recognize the limitations of a single approach or event for stress reduction
• Plan for intentional follow-up and ongoing support following any intervention
• Nurture and bolster social support
• Provide education on boundary setting skills
• Provide wide-ranging financial literacy opportunities
• Involve pastors in the development of interventions
References (Place all bibliography references, video links, & presenter bio information on the reference page of the poster – as above & below)
1) Aka, S. (2019.) Preliminary findings of pastoral survey. Unpublished study.
2) Cincala, P., & William, M. (2020). Pastoral longevity in ministry survey report. Unpublished report.
3) Day, D. & Gemmell, D. (2019). The current state of Adventist pastors: How today’s Adventist faith leaders in North America see their changing circumstances and expectations. Unpublished report.
4) Dudley, R. L. & Cincala, P. (2013). The Adventist pastor: A world survey. Institute of Church Ministry, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI. Report prepared for the Future Plans Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, May 2013.
5) Fraser, G. (2019). The health of Adventist pastors in the Adventist Health Study-2. Presented at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA.
6) Heck, A., Drumm, R. D., McBride, D., & Sedlacek, D. (2017). Seventh-day Adventist clergy: Understanding stressors and coping mechanisms. Review of Religious Research, 55(3). doi 10.1007/s13644-017-0312-7
7) McBride, D., Sedlacek, D., & Drumm, R. D. (2014). Pastoral family stress qualitative study: Pastor family spiritual life challenges and enhancers. Final Report to the North American Division Ministerial and Family Ministries Departments in conjunction with the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Presenter/Principle Investigator Bios