John M. Crowe, M.Div., D.Min.
In 2004, I assessed my collected data for the various pages on my old Body Anatomy Church Health Development Model web site. I looked for which pages received the most and the second most hits for 2003 and then for 2004. The same was done for each month. The patterns within each year for an individual month in connection with the others were discovered. Significant increases in the number of hits a page received from one year to another were found. How often various pages were repeatedly recipients of the most or second most hits from month to month were noted.
I observed and interpreted the statistical data as a whole, of each year, and of each month along with their various relationships. The following implications arise from my observations and interpretations of the collected information from 2003 until now.
What I found gives us a cyberspace view of who is probably looking into this theme the most. There is a high probability that the largest number of hits come more from clergy than laity. This may hold true for other church health related sites as well.
This cyberspace view of church health also says where people’s interests are. These themes point us to issues needing to be addressed by denominational leaders and others. Many para-church groups focused on clergy and church health have been around for several years while others have popped up all over the country and in cyberspace. The issues calling for help include the following:
Informing clergy and their families about what is available for them and their churches in crisis,
Informing clergy as churches concerning opportunities for education in church health,
Making available and accessible training in boundaries directly related to the life and work of ministry for clergy and their families,
Offer intentional and adequate help for healthier clergy marriages and families,
Creating educational opportunities concerning mental health ministry for clergy,
Remove the disbelief concerning church pathology and the epidemic of ministry leader fallout for both clergy and laity,
Guide and encourage clergy to lift up the importance of godliness for healthy churches; and
Call for more laity to get involved in the pre-ceding subjects. Thank God for the laity who are searching in these areas, but more are needed.
When I wrote this article, there were around 15 clergy/church health ministries with web sites listed on my Emergency/Triage page. I sent the above article to the leaders of these organizations and seven responded. All of them agreed that they are seeing in their ministries the same dynamics and issues raised above.
Those who responded included the following:
1. Rev. Kim Wenzel, the director of “Smoldering Wick Ministries” in Colorado.
2. Mark M. Marxhausen, Executive Director, Pastor in Residence in Virginia Beach, VA
3. Robert Clark, Ex. Director of the Kairos Institute and founder of the Clergy Consultation Services in Madison, New Jersey. He is one of the country’s leading authorities on spiritual psychotherapy.
4. Dr. Bimler, the executive director of “Wheat Ministries” in Itasca, IL. This is an independent Lutheran charitable organization that provides support for new church-related health and hope ministries.
5. Rev. Timothy J. Fangmeier who is a Congregational/Clergy Coach & Consultant. He lives in NC is Staff Associate with Wheat Ridge Ministries working especially in the area of the care and development of church leaders Years ago, he consulted a church in Goldsboro, NC.
6. Revs. Pauline & Arthur Kennedy from England the directors of Bullied & Abused Lives in Ministry: A Christian Support Network for Damaged Ministers International and Inter-Denominational”
Additional comments from those who responded included the following
Few denominations take the risk of abuse seriously enough to have any kind of anti-bullying policy in place or to give it any time during ministerial training.
Many of the items that you have listed were never taught at Seminary.
Many clergy and their families have no idea that there is help in times of need.
Many exited pastors feel like they're the only one who this has ever happened to.
Most people who contact us after visiting our website are in the midst of some kind of crisis because of bullying, and their experiences have consistently highlighted the immense destructiveness of bullying.
Most denominations continue failing to take destructive bullying seriously or to offer constructive support - though there are occasional glimpses of encouragement on this.
Getting denominations to take the items you have listed seriously is another big issue.
I am disappointed in the lack of concern for others who are needing help fast. Christian organizations seem to be racing forward on the road to Jericho not even seeing the hurting on the side of the road.
Additional issues imbedded but not specifically mentioned on your list are:
1) the state of physical health (obesity, high blood pressure,etc) in the clergy ranks, and
2) issues specific to challenges of being a clergy spouse.
Seems like a good curriculum for a church health institute...
See my Triage/ER Page for Clergy in Crisis to note how many clergy crisis ministries there are today.