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Why Church Worker Health Matters

“Do church workers as a group need special attention?” Dr. Bruce Hartung raises the question in his book Holding Up the Prophet’s Hands, Supporting Church Workers. (CPH, 2011)

When the Executive Staff of the Pacific Southwest District meets together they study a relevant book as a matter of collegial professional growth. Hartung’s book was one of the books. Upon completion of the study, it was determined that the establishment of a Worker Support Team was one that all of our congregations need to one degree or another.

Pastor Ron Rehrer, Rachel Klitzing and Gary Norton assumed the responsibility to conduct a series of workshops to train lay members of congregations to establish and operate Worker Support Teams. In this series of posts each of the key steps will be described and reported as to the level of adoption by each of the congregations in the pilot study. The first study was in Phoenix metro and the second was in north San Diego County.

Dr. Hartung lays the case for special attention for church workers. He sees them “at increased risk of sadness, despair, stress, frustration, cynicism, anger and disappointment. Church workers are at much more risk than many other folks. The risk comes from several sources. “

“First, people -oriented professions carry specific, inherent vocational risks. Church workers face stressors common to the helping professions. They deal with the crises of others-unemployment, financial distress, personal illness, and the death of loved ones. Professionals called to help others during stressful circumstances find these circumstances upping the stress ante in their own lives too.”

“Second, stress often increases when one’s vacation asks the worker to connect challenging human experiences with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” He speaks to this matter specifically in the book.

“Third, church workers most often have personal relationships with those they serve. Unlike counselors, whose clients come and go, or emergency responders who serve and then leave the scene, church workers walk closely with those they serve in a day-by-day, ongoing relationship. In short, church workers meet more than the average number of life stressors because of their people-oriented vocation. They minister to those they care about on a personal as well as a professional level, often during times of crises.”

“Finally, they are called by God to apply the Gospel to the most daunting of human experiences. Is it any wonder that church workers sometimes succumb to dramatic risks of body, spirit, and self?”

In successive posts the process of identifying and recruiting the congregations, and then the training of those who were recruited by the pastor will be described. Content of the series of workshops will be outlined, and the response of those in the workshops. Until next time…

Gary Norton

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