Friday, February 17, 2012

The Case for Healing Systems

We don't need another word about taking a day off! Most of the stuff I read about clergy health has to do with getting ministers to make a personal change. For every ten articles read on the subject, you will possibly find one that attempts some larger analysis of the problem.

The question of justice, of first doing no harm, asks, why is the health and wholeness of clergy falling at a rate faster than the health of parishioners? Very few are asking it- fewer are addressing it.

While there are exceptions, many pieces patronizingly conclude the obvious, with a sort of Good Housekeeping checklist for better health: better diet and exercise and rest. But that's all you get if the problem of clergy burn-out is only about certain individuals being careless about their health.

In some harsher, more extreme pieces, the culprits lie with clergy themselves: our idolatry, false teaching, and lack of true repentance is what gets us burned out. Elsewhere, clergy drop outs are explained by invalidating a previous call since what they said about you when you were ordained ("young and/or gifted") is no longer true.

The more we can reduce everything to a few maladjusted individuals having a problem, the more we can explain the problem away and no real structural changes or safeguards are needed. Of course more sabbath, real mentoring relationships, and regular spiritual direction are helpful for personal health and recovery! But with the institutional gold standard of success being higher and higher and higher numbers, we only become a healthier fuel for the furnace.


  1. Scott,
    I couldn't agree more re: addressing the larger systemic issues that surround clergy and clergy families.
    Consider my treatment of them both at along with my book, "The Love Paradox: Lead Others by Loving Your Self."
    The call to be receptive to love, see and work within the context of relationships, work to stay the course and stay connected, as well as engage the rhythms or renewal are all addressed.
    I would welcome your thoughts.

  2. Thanks Karl, both for commenting and for the references to your work. I look forward to visiting your site often!


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