As you may have heard at the end of last year, we announced that the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, in partnership with Center for Congregational Health, was awarded a significant grant from the Lilly endowment. The money was given to support a new project we are creating that is designed to support clergy thriving in ministry. Over the next few months, we will be writing about what we and others are learning about the factors that contribute to thriving, and more broadly to the well being of clergy.
You may be wondering, “Exactly what is thriving?” Good question. It may be easier to define or describe the opposite of thriving: declining, withering, failing, stagnating, dying, or being moribund or unhealthy. We probably know what those look like. But what does thriving encompass? In its simplest form, thriving is about prospering or flourishing. “Thriving” hints at growth, productivity, action, development and achieving some high level of accomplishment. Thriving among clergy is both different from and similar to thriving in other professions or areas of life and work. Dr. Matt Bloom’s research at Notre Dame University’s Well Being at Work Project is providing some great insights. This quote from their website sets the stage for the work we are undertaking:
“Being a pastor is a tough, demanding job, one that is not always very well understood or appreciated. Pastoral work is more complex than that which transpires in the hour-or-so a week that many lay people see the pastor in action, as she or he leads worship and preaches. What happens during this time is surely of central importance to clergy and their parishioners, but it is not the only important thing clergy do…it is a job in flux…it is made increasingly difficult by rapid changes in the pastor’s work environment, including the broader culture in which pastoral work is done.” (https://wellbeing.nd.edu/flourishing-in-ministry/)
We are beginning to learn what drives ministers’ sense of well being as a group, but we also know it looks different for every individual. What does thriving in ministry mean to you? How would you define it? Does your overall work experience contribute to thriving? A good starting point for any clergy person is to spend a little time clarifying what thriving would look like for you individually. Likewise, it’s probably helpful to identify those things that detract from thriving and drain your sense of joy and fulfillment. We genuinely want clergy to feel they are thriving in ministry. We invite you to join us on this journey of learning and discovery as we seek to do just that.