As National Pastor Appreciation Month comes to a close, Chris Adams, Ph.D., executive director of Azusa Pacific Univeristy's Center for Vocational Ministry, reminds us that congregations must engage in ongoing efforts to help pastors flourish. In an opinion article, entitled, "How to Tuly Appreciate Your Pastor," appearing in the Christian Post, Adams points out that clergy have rates of depression as high or higher that the general population, according to research. He notes that a mutually supportive and respectful relationship between pastor and congregation is a key factor in helping clergy foster well being.
Adam's shares tips from his research that congregations can use to appreciate their pastors all year:
- Create clear, strength-based job descriptions that inform fair expectations, including a team-based approach and an average 50-55 hour maximum workweek.
- Develop policies around providing vacation time, on-call schedules for crisis response, and technology (for example, not expecting pastors to respond to texts or emails after 7 p.m. unless it is a true crisis).
- Provide healthy avenues for positive feedback as well as grievances, so that pastors are not the only person always responding to difficult church members or severe conflict.
- Establish healthy and fair mechanisms for defining and discussing ministry faithfulness and fruitfulness.
- Bring in consultants, denominational leaders, or other outside perspective to intervene when the environment becomes severely unhealthy.
- Introduce opportunities and provide resources for pastors to seek out restorative experiences, including having a hobby, retreats, continuing education, and sabbaticals.
- Support our pastors in seeking out spiritual direction, psychotherapy, and/or leadership coaching.
Adams is an ordained minister and a clinical psychologist who conducts research in clergy health and well-being. Adams is a part of the Flourishing in Ministry research team, and Azusa Pacific’s Center for Vocational Ministry is the West Coast hub of this project. Focused on the well-being of clergy and their families, the Flourishing in Ministry project examines what motivates pastors and priests to be engaged in ministry—and what disrupts them from experiencing well-being in their work