Monday, March 25, 2024

Challenges are Great Opportunities: Study Explores Clergy Health & Wellness Amid Post-Pandemic Realities 

Hartford, CT – A new national study from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research provides an in-depth look at the health and wellness of America’s clergy amid the post-pandemic landscape. The report, titled “Challenges are Great Opportunities: Exploring Clergy Health and Wellness in the Midst of Post-Pandemic Malaise,” reveals both challenges and signs of resilience among religious leaders. 

The study, based on a fall 2023 survey of over 1,700 clergy across Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox traditions, found that overall, clergy tend to be healthier than the general public on measures of mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. However, it also uncovered significant variations, with some ministers facing considerable physical, financial, and social strains. 

“Clergy health and wellness is a complex, multidimensional issue influenced by numerous personal and contextual factors,” said Dr. Scott Thumma, lead researcher on the study. “While the overall picture is positive, some religious leaders are struggling in profound ways that need to be addressed.” 

Key findings from the report include: 

  • On a composite wellness measure, clergy scored 0.7 points higher than the general public, though 34% still fell in the “fair” or “poor” range. 
  • Younger clergy generations, particularly Millennials, reported lower levels of wellbeing compared to their older peers. 
  • Maintaining spiritual practices like prayer and scripture reading was closely tied to positive wellness, as was a strong sense of pastoral calling. 
  • Significant correlations emerged between clergy health and congregational dynamics like willingness to change, vitality, and whether the church was thriving post-pandemic. 
  • Nearly half of clergy claimed frequent or occasional feelings of loneliness, underscoring relational challenges. 

The report emphasizes that enhancing clergy wellness requires a holistic approach that addresses personal practices, relational connections, spiritual nourishment, congregational cultures, and systemic realities. 

“Pursuing positive wellbeing for clergy is an ongoing journey requiring persistence and recognition of the issue’s complexity,” Thumma stated. “By tending to the interplay of factors impacting their health, we can better support ministers to flourish sustainably.” 

The full report, including recommendations, can be accessed at here. The Hartford Institute also recently hosted a webinar on the topic, which can be viewed here

The Hartford Institute for Religion Research conducted the Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations study with support from Lilly Endowment Inc. 

To request an interview or for futher information contact Thumma at sthumma@hartfordinternational.edu.