In 2012 HealingChoice launched a Clergy Health Initiative for ministry families in the greater West Texas Area. The health of clergy is not a new concern for ministry leaders. A plethora of information exists that shows clergy struggle with a number of issues related to the work of the ministry. Dr. Marcus Tanner, our founding President, has been researching the health of clergy for a number of years and has focused some of that research on the phenomena of forced termination.
In 2007, a study among Assemblies of God ministers in the Southwestern region of the United States showed 41% of those responding to the survey had experienced a forced termination at least once during their ministry. Because the prevalence was so high and there was a general lack of empirical research on the subject, a national study was conducted to examine the prevalence of forced termination among all denomination in the U.S. In his research, Dr. Tanner found 28% of ministers among thirty-nine denominations had experienced a forced termination at least once during their ministry. In general, ministers who had been forcibly termination experienced more health problems, were more dissatisfied with their family well-being, had a lower self-esteem and a lower self-efficacy. In addition, they had higher levels of depression, stress, and burnout than those who had never been forced from a ministry position.
In a third study clergy and their spouses were interviewed about their termination experience. That study revealed, more than half of the respondents scored above the clinical cut-off scores for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD); a little less than half scored above the clinical cut-off scores for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In fact several of the couples interviewed revealed they had been diagnosed with either GAD or PTSD by a clinician.
Among all the respondents in the national study (whether they had been forced out or not), 44% were dissatisfied with their family well-being, meaning they were unhappy with the state of their marriage relationship and the relationship they had with their children. Forty-two percent were in poor physical health, 81% had high levels of stress, 43% had increasing levels of burnout, 44% were depressed, 59% had a low self efficacy and 47% had a low self-esteem.
In general, clergy are struggling to balance the demands of ministry and family. HealingChoice has an extensive background in work and family research and application. The Clergy Health Initiative will primarily focus on Education and Crisis Care. We will provide education for ministry families, churches, church boards, and denominational leadership that will address the unique issues facing clergy and their families today. The crisis care component will focus on providing immediate services to clergy families who find themselves in a crisis.