Studies show that stress matters, and Matt Bloom, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame and principal investigator at the Wellbeing at Work program, has seen firsthand the negative consequences of chronic stress in the workplace. Stressors at work can be particularly difficult to process in a time of social distancing and relative isolation for many.
In an effort to address issues of stress, exhaustion, anxiety and burnout, and provide pastors with resources and tools that will help them take better care of themselves and their congregations, Campbell University Divinity School hosted its annual Ministers’ Health Summit virtually this year. The retreat promotes wellness, self-care and education for ministers across the state and region. This year, it took place entirely online over the course of two days and boasted the largest turnout to date, with more than 250 participants.
The focus on self-care and wellness for ministers is always important, but is especially important now as they seek to navigate ministry and church during a pandemic. This year’s theme was “Caring for the Called.”
Beginning with greetings from Dr. Lynn Brinkley, a member of the summit’s steering committee, and a welcome by Vice President for Spiritual Life Faithe Beam, participants were given access to video presentations on June 4. Today, a series of live video Q&A sessions with some of the speakers allowed audiences to ask questions and open dialogue. The free event featured a series of four keynote sessions led by Bloom.
“We have found that among helping and caring professionals, including clergy, daily wellbeing can be a challenge,” Bloom said. “It tends to be something that they ignore or find difficult to address. Daily wellbeing is about the quality of our daily life experiences.”
Bloom addressed the audience in terms that make sense to theologians. While scientists might measure people’s “happiness,” ministry professionals were encouraged to think about daily wellbeing and how their days accumulate as joyful or stressful. He provided strategies for building resilience and creating wise wellbeing practices that fit into ministers’ schedules.
“It’s a fitting time to gather, virtually, to talk about health and well-being, for our places of ministry and for ourselves—not just physical health, with the ongoing threat of COVID-19, but perhaps even more spiritual and emotional health, as we have been battered by shocking images and events in recent days,” said Dean Andy Wakefield. “I know how much I need space and time and tools and pointers to attend to my own well-being and to that of the Divinity School community that I serve; I have no doubt that every person attending this conference has the same need.”
Campbell professors and nationally-renowned speakers were also on hand as session presenters and practitioners. Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, Senior Pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA, emphasized how important it is for ministers to take a sabbatical to rest and focus on their own personal relationship with God. Dr. Nicholas J. Pennings discussed physical health and nutrition. Bo Prosser, the Director of the Missional Excellence Initiative with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global in Atlanta, Georgia, spoke on financial wellbeing and debt management. Senior Professor of Pastoral Care Mac Wallace presented on mental wellbeing, and Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Michelle Green led a virtual yoga class and talked about the benefits of yoga/mindfulness practices.
If the attendance, participation and feedback are good indicators, the fifth-annual summit was a success. Two hundred and fifty-five participants attended virtually. Summit organizer and Executive Director for the Center for Church & Community Brian Foreman was pleased with the timeliness of this year’s message.
“Being a clergy member is hard enough under the best of circumstances,” Foreman said. “Dr. Bloom’s research to date has focused on the normal we once knew. Now, his work is more relevant than ever.”
Foreman hopes that the summit serves as a stepping stone for ministers to take advantage of Campbell resources that can help in times of isolation.
“Our communities need clergy that are cared for and given tools to care for themselves and others, and the Center for Church & Community does that through our Rural Clergy Fellowship. The Minister’s Health Summit is but an introduction and invitation for clergy to get on the road to better health.”
Ministers’ Health Summit Steering Committee:
Lynn Brinkley, Director of Church, Alumni, & Student Relations, Campbell University Divinity School, Associate Director, Baptist Women in Ministry
Peter Donlon, Director of Planned Giving
Brian Foreman, Executive Director, Community Engagement & Leadership Center for Church & Community
Amber Johnson-Carter, Director of Admissions, Campbell University Divinity School
Muriel Lasater-Sizemore, Admissions & Student Finances Coordinator, Campbell University Divinity School
April Pope, Assistant Director of Clinical Partnerships, Associate Professor, Physician Assistant Program
Shana Stewart, Program Manager, Center for Church & Community
Ministers’ Health Summit Sponsors:
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina
Baggett Wellness Institute