How Healthy Are Ministers? I Ran the Numbers.

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As a minister it is important to me to understand the potential ramifications of how ministry affects my health and the health of my family. I ran the numbers on this in 2017 and want to share a few significant findings with you here.

I assessed health in multiple areas and then ran correlations and analysis of variance to understand how things were connected. Here is some of what I found. I am posting a video at the end that gives far more of the findings with data graphics so you can digest it all more easily

The sample consisted of 119 ministers in Churches of Christ. Almost all were men (97%), preachers (80%) who had been in ministry on average 18.3 years in three congregations.

Here are the highlights by area:

Physical health
– 58% were Neutral to Very unsatisfied with their health
– 58% were Neutral to Very unsatisfied with their diet

Mental health
– 82% were Satisfied to Very Satisfied (good news!)
– 52% expressed significant anxiety as a result of ministry. I assume that number may be typical of any profession.
– 34% expressed significant levels of depression related to ministry
– Stress on a scale from 0-100 average was 46 and that stress correlated with several important things – health satisfaction, hours/week in ministry, relationship with elders, and even satisfaction with relationship with God.

– 88% Satisfied to Very Satisfied with their marriage (good news!)
– 81% Connected to Very connected with their spouse (good news!)
– 53% reported ministry having a positive impact on their spouse and only 21% negative (that surprised me)
– 81% were Satisfied to Very satisfied with their connection with their kids (more good news)
– 65% said ministry has had a positive effect on their kids (often it is assumed this would not be the case). Neutral was 24% leaving only 11% of the ministers saying ministry has had a negative impact on their kids. Big surprise! More good news!
– How ministry has affected your spouse was correlated with relationship with elders (see video for more correlations)

Ministerial health
– 45.5 hours/week of ministry work
– This was a shocker for me…next employment will be: 56% congregational ministry, 16% noncongregational employment, 10% retirement, 18% other (many expressed uncertainty). 56% being certain their next employment will be congregational is concerning.
– 63% said they have considered leaving ministry for good

I then split the sample into two groups: those who have and those who haven’t considered leaving ministry and then ran an ANOVA to find if those groups had any statistical differences (at the 0.05 level). Here is where they differed:
– Satisfaction with mental health
– Marital satisfaction missed significance by .001 (bigger sample may have seen this differ)
– Spiritual connection with your spouse
– How ministry has affected your spouse
– How ministry has affected your kids
– Hours in personal study – those who consider leaving spend less time in personal Bible study (2.97 hours/week for those who think about leaving vs 4.85 hours for those who haven’t)
– Hopeful about the future – those who have considered leaving are less hopeful
– Sleep quality and hours/night of sleep

Spiritual health
– 91% said they have someone to confide in and 85% said they have people they can confess to

Ran another ANOVA on the difference between those who do and don’t have someone to confess to and found the following. Those who don’t have someone to confess to:
– Feel less balanced in ministry
– Spend less time in study
– Report lower satisfaction in their relationship with God
– Are less hopeful about the future

Who are they turning to for support?
– 33% – minister outside the congregation
– 29% – friend outside the congregation
– 18% friend inside the congregation
– 14% elder

Satisfaction with their relationship with God:
– Very satisfied – 11%
– Satisfied – 65%
– Neutral – 13%
– Unsatisfied – 11%

This satisfaction correlates with stress, time in personal study (more time higher satisfaction), ministry balance, hope for the future – see video for more.

More good news – 89% reported being hopeful or very hopeful about the future!

There is a lot more in the study that you can get through the video below. All in all there are some really healthy things going on and then a few glaring weak spots we need to address. Healthy things include family life. Unhealthy things include stress, ministry longevity threats, and elder connection. Let me know what you think in the comments!

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