Earlier this year a survey was sent to 305 clergy over the age of 65 in our Diocese seeking to understand issues relating to their wellbeing. The survey was developed through the Clergy Wellbeing Development Group under the auspices of the Parishes and other Mission Agencies Commission (PMC) and in consultation with clergy in this age group. The response to the survey was excellent, with 122 people letting us know what they thought, representing a 40 percent response rate.
Initial analysis of the data has provided us with some valuable insights into this group and their wellbeing. Further work is ongoing exploring the results and assisting the Clergy Wellbeing Development Group as they shape initiatives and responses to care for and support clergy in this age group.
One of the first things that should be recognised is the size of this group of clergy and how many hours of work they contribute. At a time in life when people usually wind back work-related activities, clergy aged over 65 in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland are making a huge contribution. We have to wonder what the church would look like if the thousands of hours of quality ministry they provide were not given. If you know a deacon, priest or bishop over 65, take the time to thank and encourage them. They are helping the mission of our church in amazing ways.
The following bar graph shows how many hours of ministry priests/deacons associated with parish, chaplaincy, or another ministry contribute in a typical week (showing age group in the vertical axis)
Another positive element standing out in the survey results is that this group generally feels valued, are satisfied with the type of ministry they are exercising and are largely happy with the number of hours they are working. Clearly there is still much work to be done in improving the wellbeing of clergy in this age group, but overall as a Diocese we seem to be in a good position. It would be valuable to learn from clergy in the over 65 group how they have sustained their own wellbeing in ministry over many years.
The following bar graph shows how satisfied (regarding enjoyment and match to skills and gifts) priests/deacons are with the type of ministry they are exercising (showing hours worked in a week in the vertical axis)
The following bar graph shows how cared for and valued priests/deacons feel at this stage of their life in the Church (showing hours worked in a week in the vertical axis)
The following bar graph shows how many priests/deacons would like to increase, decrease or maintain their hours of ministry (showing hours worked in a week in the vertical axis)
There were a number of results that point toward areas of consideration and work for the Clergy Wellbeing Development Group. For example, it was found that:
- generally, the younger the respondent the more likely they are to have a spiritual director.
- those working less than 30 hours per week were less likely to go on retreat.
- across the age groups, at least half of all respondents desired to be involved in ongoing professional development.
Ways of making retreats, spiritual direction and professional development more accessible and relevant to this age group will be considered by the Clergy Wellbeing Development Group.
There is more work to be done with the findings of this survey, and the initiatives developed from it will be shared in 2020.
It is important for all of us in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland to recognise that we all have a responsibility to foster the wellbeing of those we live, work and minister with, whether they be lay or ordained, volunteer or paid, young or senior. What are you doing to support and nurture those around you?
One simple, but powerful, thing you can do (if you aren’t already) is to pray regularly for those around you — for giftedness, courage, faith and love.