Why Worker Wellness? A word to pastors

Editor’s Note: This new series from LCMS Church Worker Wellness is hosted here on The Lutheran Witness site. Visit the “Ministry Features” page for regular Worker Wellness content.

“Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not” (Matt. 10:30–31).

As a church worker, your daily work is crucially important. God works through all people in their vocations — but your service to the church is direct and constant, as you encourage people in their faith day in and day out. With such important work before you, it can be easy to put your wellness on the back burner as you seek to give your all to your congregation, school or ministry.

Going into church work, you probably expected as much. You knew that this vocation would not be an easy one. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you,” wrote Peter to those in the Early Church (1 Peter 4:12). Perhaps you have reminded yourself of this verse as you make great personal sacrifices to carry out your work.

Such sacrifices are noble. Your service is noble. And yet, as recent statistics show, many of our church workers are facing crises of wellness. A 2017 study of Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) church workers showed that 24% had been told by a professional that they suffered from depression or anxiety. The same study revealed that 26% had experienced serious marital difficulties while in ministry, and a majority had a Body Mass Index (BMI) considered overweight or obese.

As Christians, we understand that “wellness” does not mean a life free from all suffering. Indeed, we are called to “rejoice” in suffering that befalls us as Christians (1 Peter 4:13). However, we also understand that we should not bring suffering upon ourselves by neglecting our own wellness — and indeed, that by taking our health and the health of those around us seriously, we will have more resilience to handle trials when they come, and to continue to serve one another well through them.

Sacrificing your personal wellness to your work can seem like offering a gift to the church. But you are a part of the Body of Christ: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26). Your wellness is a crucial part of the wellness of the Body. When church workers are well, they are able to serve longer and more vigorously. They also show the young people around them that church work can be a joyful, healthy vocation. Prioritizing your wellness in all its aspects — emotional, physical, intellectual, financial, relational, spiritual and vocational — is not selfish, but is a central part of your service to the church. It enables you to serve well and impacts both the retention and recruitment of LCMS church workers.

LCMS Church Worker Wellness is encouraging the whole church to serve one another, to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). The burdens of life can be heavy for all of us, in every walk of life, and Christ has given us to one another in the church to care for each other. As a part of this initiative, we are reminding lay leaders of the difficulties that church workers face in their vocations, and of the ways they can share those burdens. We will also be encouraging and resourcing you, our church workers, to attend to your own wellness, even as you care for and share the burdens of those you serve.

“In the world you will have tribulation,” Christ told His disciples. Yet He said more: “In me you may have peace” (John 16:32–33). Your work is important, and your sacrifices to your sacred vocation are noble. But remember that as furiously as you may plant, as tirelessly as you may water, it is God who gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). Be at peace in Christ, in your work and in your rest — in Christ who will bring your work to completion (Phil. 1:6) and who alone brings lasting replenishment (John 4:14).

In the coming months, you will hear more about the work of LCMS Church Worker Wellness initiative, including new resources and more. Stay tuned to Reporter, The Lutheran Witness and the LCMS Church Worker Wellness site for updates.

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