New `Wellness Team` supports church-workers` health

A newly formed Synod “action team” met for the first time in late January to look into ways of strengthening support and working together for the health and wellness of the Synod’s professional church workers.
 
The eight-member “Wellness Alliances Action Team,” meeting Jan. 25 in St. Louis, agreed to “strengthen the connection between entities at the International Center and elsewhere that are committed to supporting the health of church workers,” said Dr. Bill Duey, team chairman and a member of the LCMS Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support (CMGS) — one of the Synod groups represented in the alliance. 
 
LCMS World Relief and Human Care and Concordia Plan Services are the other International Center-based “entities.”
 
“It was a good meeting,” said Rev. David Muench, CMGS executive director, who added that the commission established the new team at its meeting in October, when it “reaffirmed the understanding that wellness includes the spiritual, physical, social, cultural, intellectual, vocational, environmental, and financial dimensions of church workers’ lives.”

Muench said that the team is starting to look at ways to “commit resources toward health and wellness initiatives, all in support of professional workers and their family members whose health and well-being are vital to carrying out the Synod’s mission, as worded in its mission statement: ‘vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and the world.'”
 
“Our long-term goal,” said Duey, “is the establishment of a culture of the church in which professional church workers and their families are faithful stewards of their total health, emphasizing prevention and self-care, and are role models for wellness in their communities.”

Duey said that among other Synod-related groups “committed to wellness and engaged with various delivery systems,” the new team “desires to work alongside such organizations” as Grace Place, based in St. Louis, and Lutheran Services in America.
 
Duey is a member of the faculty at Concordia University, River Forest, Ill., and chairman of its Human Performance department.
 
Other members of the new Wellness Alliances Action Team are Rev. John Fale, associate director of LCMS World Relief/Human Care; Jim Sanft, senior vice president for Actuarial Services with Concordia Plan Services; Dr. John Eckrich, founder and facilitator of Grace Place Retreats, St. Louis; Ruth Henrichs, president and CEO of Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Inc., Omaha; Rev. Quentin Poulson, a member of the CMGS from Charlotte, N.C.; Lois Peacock, also a CMGS member, San Francisco; and Dr. Gary Gunderson, director of the Interfaith Health Program of Emory University and senior vice president of a church-related healthcare organization based in Memphis, Tenn.
 
Gunderson will serve as consultant for the team — “primarily to provide direct feedback through an outside perspective,” according to Muench.
 
Duey said that “other key highlights” of the team’s first meeting included discussion of the need to involve the Synod’s education system “as a key asset” to its work; the need for “integrative logic that … integrates the best of the faith traditions with the best of relevant science”; and “realization that data from health claims will help point us in the right direction.”
 
He said that the team also discussed the prospects of convening a health and wellness conference in the Synod, within the next couple of years, to involve district presidents and other district advocates for ministerial wellness. 

Muench indicated that present funding for the alliance action team’s work is from the Synod’s “What A Way” initiative for recruiting and retaining church workers.

The Wellness Alliances Action Team plans to hold its second meeting May 8 in Memphis.

Posted Feb. 23, 2006

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