Posted on November 9, 2022 by Toni Larson, LISW
Church Worker Wellness
Lutheran Family Service is shining a light on the issue of church worker wellness within the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). Our goal is to flip the switch and proactively maintain wellness instead of reactively fixing an extremely unwell situation. Professional church workers within the LCMS include the following roles: Pastor, Lutheran School Teacher, Director of Christian Education (DCE), Director of Christian Outreach (DCO), Director of Family Life Ministry (DFLM), Director of Parish Music (DPM), Director of Church Ministry (DCM), and Deaconess.
As stated on LCMS.org, “Pastors proclaim Christ and administer the Sacraments, means through which people receive Christ’s saving work. Church workers assist the pastoral office in service to the Word, witnessing to Christ daily in various roles.”
In working with our LCMS schools, I have been privileged to visit with some of the most dedicated, Christ-loving, child-committed individuals that I have ever met. Functioning with bare-bones staffing, these teachers do double-duty frequently, taking on tasks that aren’t in their job description, but that need to be done for the sake of the students. They are accommodating children in multi-level classrooms, instructing students with varying abilities in the same classroom, and working hard to bring the love of Christ to students, some of whom have never been introduced to faith on any level.
Is it any wonder that some of our teachers are emotionally, physically, and spiritually tired?
“More than four in ten K-12 workers in the U.S. (44%) say they “always” or “very often” feel burned out at work, outpacing all other industries nationally. College and university workers have the next-highest burnout level, at 35%, making educators among the most burned-out groups in the U.S. workforce.” These statistics were reported in an article by Stephanie Market and Sangeeta Agrawal in June 2022 at news.gallup.com.
The article goes on to say, “K-12 workers have consistently been among the more burned-out workers nationally, but the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges — and introduced new ones to a profession already struggling. School openings and closures; parent and community member frustrations with school pandemic responses; and social, academic and mental health challenges students faced only furthered K-12 burnout.”
Linda Kardamis, in her blog on “TEACH 4 the Heart” writes about “The Bible Answer to Avoid Teacher Burnout, Five Truths to Keep Up Your Energy and Passion.” Kardamis points out, “If you spent the whole school year working crazy hours with only the hope of summer keeping you sane, you are in danger of burning out – even if you love what you do.” Her five truths for hurting teachers are summarized below.
We are taking on the responsibility by ourselves what is only God’s ability to do, to impact student’s lives. God uses us as faithful but flawed individuals to help in carrying on this work, but ultimately it is His intervention and will that achieves results.
God clearly calls us to work hard, but He rebukes “anxious turmoil”. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.” – Psalm 127:2. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on mental and physical health. Building healthy and routine sleep patterns is essential to maintain wellness.
God provided for one day of rest as he created the world. A day of rest for teachers needs to be related to rest and renewal, not pursuing house work and tasks that don’t get done during the week, crammed into weekend. What would it take to find one day a week for that rest and renewal, to not stress about the next school day or about undone tasks at home?
God designed us for fellowship with Him and with others. Pushing friends away because we are too busy to see them distances us from that fellowship and the refreshment and renewal those relationships supply. Friends can be wonderful sources for keeping us accountable. If they point out we are working too much, it is best to take heed.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. – 2 Cor. 4:16
Bible reading and prayer are key elements in inward renewal. Activities that energize us, bring us joy, connect us with other Christians and allow us to experience the wonderment of God’s creation are soothing adjuncts to the essential piece of reading scripture and praying.
Lutheran Family Service counselors are available to provide in person or virtual counseling sessions to assist LCMS teachers and other school staff in achieving balance in life and avoiding and/or treating burnout. Counselors are also available to provide pro-active staff development and wellness sessions on these same topics. Reach out today using our contact form here: https://lutheranfamilyservice.org/contact/
And in closing,
Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Toni Larson, LISW
Director of Church Worker Wellness
Lutheran Family Service
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