The Diocese of Newcastle has recently produced an excellent resource called ‘Caring for your Parish Priest‘. It opens with some quite shocking statistics about clergy wellbeing from research in the UK and USA. Findings include:
- 85% of church leaders have considered leaving the ministry.
- 70% consider themselves lonely and do not have close personal friends, or anyone in whom to confide.
- 63% are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could provide for their family without working at a church.
- 77% encountered marriage problems because of the pressures of ministry.
“Just like members in a family, priests can sometimes be taken for granted, overworked and underappreciated. The result is compassion fatigue, decreased performance, stress leave, physical and mental illness and troubled relationships.”The resource provides a number of creative and practical ways congregations can care for their parish priest. These include ideas about how to:
- Pray for them
- Encourage them
- Love them
- Support them
- Free them, and
- Celebrate them.
- APPRECIATION VIDEO
Create a presentation of photos and video of the priest in action during the past year. Make a video of parishioners and people in the community giving one reason why they appreciate their parish priest? Set it to music and play it as a pre-service video.
- DON’T DO BUSINESS BEFORE OR AFTER CHURCH
Let worship be the Parish Priest’s focus on Sundays, especially before the service begins. Preaching and leading in worship require an enormous amount of physical, emotional and spiritual energy.
- SAY THANK YOU
Most clergy don’t hear these words enough. So send them a card or say it personally. We live in a digital era where you can easily send a text or email saying thanks for who they are and what they do. Be specific when you thank them. They need to know that you were helped by something they said or did. It is an affirmation to them that they are accomplishing their purpose as a priest.
- COME WITH SOLUTIONS Parish priests receive lots of suggestions from parishioners about ways to build the parish and people’s faith, and this can become overwhelming at times. When making suggestions, consider from a practical perspective how the suggestion could be implemented how you might assist. When you say to your priest “here’s my suggestion and this is how I can help make it happen”, it really helps to open up a priest’s mind and heart to the possibility – work as a team!