Church leaders work hard to keep churches going but not a lot is known about the pressures and challenges they face, however, a new podcast is shedding light on some of these.
‘Clergy Wellbeing Down Under’ is the first podcast from Centre for Effective Serving, a research and consulting organisation, founded by clinical psychologist Valerie Ling.
The podcast came about as a result of Ms Ling’s research into clergy leadership and wellbeing as part of her Masters of Leadership.
So far, the podcast has explored the issues of psychosocial risks in church leadership, pastoral stress and burnout and women in ministry.
Although the focus is mostly on leadership wellbeing, Ms Ling believes there is also much to learn for the general church congregation.
Most of the episodes end with three questions being asked: What can pastors do? What can churches do based on this conversation and findings? What can the system do to make a difference?
“It gives congregations a deeper insight into what they can pray for the leadership teams and how they can really encourage and enrich them,” Ms Ling told Hope 103.2.
The podcast explores levels of conflict that churches face and the impact of this on ministry leaders.
“I think this provides churches with a sense of how to choose battles wisely and choose how we do conflict wisely,” Ms Ling said.
“It gives congregations a deeper insight into what they can pray for the leadership teams,” – Valerie Ling
Moving away from a consumer mindset
Recently, Ms Ling has been thinking about her approach to church and wants to move away from a self-centred approach.
“I’ve become more careful about having a consumer mindset of the service and the sermon.
“I’m more conscious… (that) when we walk out (as a family), how can we say thank you or encourage our ministry team, rather than giving them criticism or feedback.”
Her and her family have also begun praying for members of their ministry team by name, including their children.
“I think when you’re praying for your minister’s child or your minister’s spouse or your minister themselves and you’re naming them before God, I think you cannot help but have your heart softened and see them as people who you know God loves.
“I think that’s probably the foundational thing for us as the church, to encourage and to pray and to invest in loving our ministry team.”
“I’ve become more careful about having a consumer mindset of the service and the sermon,” – Valerie Ling
Checking in with leadership team
Ms Ling would like the podcast to be a conversation starter for the church community.
“I think I would love for churches to listen and inquire with their leadership team – ‘Hey, I listened to this podcast and it said these things, what’s your experience?’
“Almost every podcast is encouraging the church to personally enquire into how their ministry team is going and pray for them and to be kind and generous and forgiving.”
Church leadership teams can also do this with their team members, she said.
“I would hope that church leadership teams… would be listening… with their ministry teams to improve the health and safety of the ministry team, I think that’s important.
“Every organisation needs to make sure that they are ensuring that the health and safety of their workers is paramount and I think we need to have some honest conversations in that space.”
“It’s given (pastors) a language beyond ‘I am struggling’,” – Valerie Ling
A resource for Pastors to talk to the church
The podcast has been well received amongst church leaders, with many of them commenting that, prior to listening to the podcast, they hadn’t thought about these issues from that angle, Ms Ling said.
“It’s given them a language beyond ‘I am struggling’ to look at (how) we’re doing things as a whole body and a system.”
She believes this will help the congregation as a whole to know how to look after their church leaders.
“There are complainers but there are a lot of people who actually really deeply care, they just don’t know how to express that care.”
Ms Ling is working on collating all this information into a book and the next stage of her research will focus on the wellbeing of ministry kids.
“Nobody that I know of really talks about the kids in ministry… we need to raise awareness so that people start to research, learn, and ensure that our kids who have no choice, they get dragged into ministry because the parents are in it, come out of it actually thriving.”
Her and her team are working on designing a survey to go out to ministry and mission kids, with the results of that survey to be made into a new podcast series to be launched next year.
“Nobody that I know of really talks about the kids in ministry… we need to raise awareness,” – Valerie Ling