By Jeni Miller
In 2016, the Synod in convention passed five resolutions regarding church worker wellness. In addition, one of the seven mission priorities of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Board for National Mission is to “promote and nurture the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of pastors and professional church workers.”
With that in mind, a worker wellness survey was conducted in 2017 to help focus and determine the extent and types of wellness that need to be addressed among the Synod’s commissioned and ordained workers.
Of those workers responding to the survey:
- 26 percent have experienced serious marital difficulties while in ministry.
- 24 percent have been told by a professional that they suffer from anxiety or depression.
- 75 percent have a Body Mass Index (BMI) considered overweight or obese.
- 55 percent say they have experienced stress from financial concerns.
- 40 percent question whether their work has any real impact.
- 32 percent admit that the busyness of life gets in the way of their relationships with God.
“The Spirit once moved across the waters,” said the Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM). “Over seven days He banished chaos and created life.
“That same Spirit has recreated us. In Him we are ‘a new creation.’ Each area of wellness is merely a description of a place where God creates order out of our chaos.”
To help serve church workers who are struggling with unmet wellness needs, the ONM has developed a webpage (lcms.org/wellness) that houses helpful tools, programs, retreats, workshops, apps, classes, videos, devotions and articles produced by Synod partners for workers and congregations.
The webpage’s resources are organized by type of need, including spiritual well-being, physical well-being, emotional well-being, financial well-being, congregational well-being, vocational well-being, intellectual well-being and congregational well-being. Resources can also be researched by topic.
“It has been a privilege working with our partners in this wellness initiative,” said the Rev. Joel Hempel, director of LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry and coordinator of the LCMS worker wellness project. “An equally wonderful privilege has been seeing our fellow workers speak up through the survey and now in follow-up focus groups.
“They are courageously identifying their needs and now considering how to care for one another. They are also speaking with a clear and undivided voice: Those who are hurting need to be Gospel-empowered to move from their hiding place to the light of Christ.
“From the workers to the leaders, there needs to be greater trust and a readiness to have our fear cast out by the love of Jesus.”
Reinforcing the necessity of workers’ well-being, the LCMS Council of Presidents recently invested time focusing on wellness needs and considering ways to give additional care to LCMS workers and their families. Those results will be made available at a later date, along with the results of focus groups with workers and their spouses.
There will be more resources continually added to the wellness webpage in the coming months, and workers and LCMS members are invited to suggest other helpful resources as well by contacting Worker Wellness at 800-248-1930.
“The goal is to gather the many, many wellness resources available to workers, so they can find them in one place,” said Deaconess Heidi Goehmann, mental health and wellness advocate for ONM.
Watch for a January 2019 insert in Reporter for a more in-depth look at Worker Wellness and the new webpage.lcms.org/wellness
Deaconess Jeni Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta.
Posted Nov. 27, 2018