In a June 2019 supplement to “The Reporter” a publication of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, survey results gathered by an LCMS research team in 2017 assessing the well-being of church workers and their spouses were shared.  This data indicated:

  • 26% have experienced serious marital difficulties while in ministry
  • 55% have experienced stress from financial concerns
  • 75% have a Body Mass Index considered overweight or obese
  • 24% have been told by a professional that they are suffering from anxiety or depression
  • 47% do not have a Father Confessor or spiritual companion

The National Institute for Mental Health estimates that the depression rate for the general population is 7.1% of adults.  The rate of anxiety disorders is 19.1% (includes a variety of anxiety disorders from mild to severe).  Focusing on this segment of the data cited above, there is indication that the rate of depression and anxiety is considerably higher among LCMS church workers than the national average.

Church workers don’t enter their vocation without bringing along their personal histories. This is the case with many helping professionals; they enter service professions having experienced their own issues. These issues could be personal or family trauma (abuse, substance abuse, loss of a parent or sibling, etc.); they may be genetically or biologically predisposed to depression, anxiety disorders, or addictions;  they may develop, due to their circumstances and personality, depression, anxiety, addiction issues, etc.;  and they may encounter current stressful life issues with their own spouse or children, congregations, transitions in life such as empty nest and retirement, and community conflict.

We want and need our servants to be healthy. Physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, and vocational health are vital to maintain the optimal functioning of our servants in our congregations and schools. Wellness in these areas is vital to their own quality of life and the quality of life of their family.

Barriers to improving wellness can be concerns about being seen as “weak”; lack of available and appropriate services (Christian-based counseling); perceived lack of time; worries about cost; isolation from peers; and lack of an adequate emotional and spiritual support system.

Lutheran Family Service wants church workers to know that seeking wellness is a sign of strength and an absolutely necessary component to continue to serve others in the way God has intended. Caring for self is essential to be able to care for others.

In the coming months we will share resources on how to assess your own level of wellness; what to do if you find areas that need improvement; and more. In the meantime, give thought to what you can do now to improve wellness in all areas of your life, the barriers that stand in your way, and how these barriers might be overcome.

For the past 13 years at Lutheran Family Service, it has been my honor and privilege to serve pastors, their family members, teachers and other church workers of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). I have had opportunity to provide counseling services both in-person and via a confidential telehealth platform using a computer, tablet or smartphone to individuals and families.

I’ll close with a message received from an LCMS pastor in regards to his experience: “As a newly ordained pastor, not long after coming to Iowa, I contacted Lutheran Family Service.  After several appointments to help me deal with an initial physical issue, I realized there were other underlying related issues which I was not previously aware of that were affecting me and my ministry. Meeting with Lutheran Family Service over the past few years, I appreciate the professional, confidential, and beneficial assistance. While I have not been able to completely remove many of the issues, Lutheran Family Service has helped me in the way I am dealing with them. I would say Lutheran Family Service has not only helped me personally, but has also had a positive and lasting effect on my ministry as a pastor,”

I encourage you to think proactively and holistically when it comes to your overall wellness. Because staying in “shape” spiritually, physically and mentally allows you to give your best to all that depend upon you. Reach out anytime through our online web form at: https://lutheranfamilyservice.org/contact/

Toni Larson, LISW
Director of Counseling
Lutheran Family Service


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