UNY Pastoral Wellness initiative launches
Church leaders have busy lives and many demands. And the past few years have brought about more stress with COVID-19, racial unrest, and denominational uncertainty. Stories of burnout among pastors are everywhere. What can be done to assure that pastors are taking a Sabbath and a day off, taking time regularly to renew their souls?
Upper New York (UNY) has developed a Wellness Team to determine what can be done to help church leaders across the Conference devote time to their personal spiritual wellness.
The Wellness Team was derived from conversations among the UNY Conference Leadership Team and the UNY Operational Team. In those conversations, it was determined that the one of best ways the Conference could help resource the living out of our primary task—"developing Christ-following transformational leaders”—was to deepen a culture of wellness in UNY and care for those already serving in pastoral leadership.
The Wellness Team was formed to gain a deeper understanding of the stresses those in pastoral leadership are facing, and to form some holistic solutions. This team was led by the Rev. Drew Sperry and included UNY Director of Connectional Ministries and Assistant to the Bishop, the Rev. Bill Gottschalk-Fielding; the District Superintendent of the Crossroads and Finger Lake Districts, the Rev. Nola Anderson; Rev. Sara Baron; Rev. Kristen Roth Allen; Pastor Donna Martin; Pastor Rebekah Solar; Martha Lynn Sweet PA.; John Brueggemann PhD; and Sylvester Doyle MSW.
Rev. Sperry said, “As a result of this team’s work, there is already collaboration beginning with UNY Conference leaders to address items such as minimum compensation rates, renewal leave opportunities for all pastoral leadership, and training for SPPRCs to support their pastors more effectively.”
Additionally, this team found compelling data that shows pastoral leaders across The UMC have both strengths and weakness in their own spiritual wellness, but that a majority struggle with maintaining healthy spiritual practices, especially Sabbath.
Rev. Sperry said, “This may not be new news for all of us, but the good news is we can work together to find ways to deepen and strengthen our spiritual wellness so that all of us can serve as leaders who help others live as healthy Christ following disciples.”
The Wellness Team is now working on collecting data specific to the UNY Conference.
They recently sent a survey to UNY church leaders to determine such factors as
- What spiritual practices do they engage in regularly?
- What would help them in their spiritual growth?
- What helps them to take a Sabbath?
The survey will also help determine how these factors vary across different demographics like race, gender, and age and how these factors differ based on size and setting of the local churches that the pastors serve.
The Rev. Nola Anderson said, “We are interested in learning how pastors are engaging in self-care to renew themselves and replenish their souls—how they are genuinely and intentionally taking their time off.”
In addition to the Wellness Team issuing a survey, in the coming months, the UNY Cabinet and Wellness Team will partner with the UNY Communications team to publish stories of how pastors are successfully supporting their personal wellbeing. Resources will also be shared on ways in which church leaders can replenish their souls.