Clergy Wellbeing Down Under
Available on all podcast streaming services
Clinical psychologist Valerie Ling’s findings shocked us when it was revealed that more than one in three pastors had considered quitting ministry altogether in the past year, due to the high level of stress and burnout they experienced. Now, stemming from that vital research into the wellness of our pastors, is the Clergy Wellbeing Down Under podcast.
The first thing to note is that this is not just a podcast for pastors. It’s for those who are church leaders, involved in church governance or who simply care about their ministers and want to see them thrive long-term as they do the Lord’s work.
Each episode’s discussion aims to leave ministers with the tools to manage stressful times and recognise when they need extra support, as well as equipping those around them to see when the engine light begins to flash so they can step in before the motor needs major repair.
For her research Mrs Ling interviewed 200 Australian pastors about issues such as stress, leadership behaviours and personal safety. She identified that the key three reasons pastors considered quitting included stress, loneliness and the impact of the job on their family.
Flies on the wall
The most enjoyable thing about the podcast is the privilege of being a fly on the wall for some insightful conversations between very clever cookies. These discussions are fun, lively, rich in knowledge and deep in wisdom.
Each episode asks a professional to deep dive into one aspect of the study’s findings. Experts interviewed include psychologists with a special interest in pastor wellbeing, human resources professionals, researchers who have conducted similar studies overseas, and theological lecturers.
Expect to grow in empathy and understanding. There is so much unpacked in each episode that it can be hard to know what to do with all the information. Mrs Ling is warm, charismatic and feels like the kind of person you could spend an afternoon with over a cup of tea.
As she chats, Mrs Ling never forgets about the diverse range of listeners she attracts. Each episode ends with her asking for tips and takeaways for ministers, those in church governance and general church congregants. Whoever you are, there is something to be learned and a new skill to be tucked away for when it is next needed.
The main issue with the podcast is the varying quality of sound. Some episodes are crisp and clear, others require fiddling with the volume knob every time the speaker changes. In the same way, the information contained in some episodes is easy to take in while, at other times, it can be hard work to decipher what is being said. It’s worth it, though, as the content is fantastic and very helpful.
Episodes average around the one-hour mark. Aware of the effort required to keep taking the information in, Mrs Ling helpfully flags intermission and encourages us to pause, reflect, jot down notes and even take a brain break so we are refreshed for the second half of the conversation.
If you’re one of the people in your parish who cares deeply about the ministry team and wants to support them and see them thrive in a lifetime of service, listen to this pod.
Three tidbits to take with you
Episode: From Corporate to Parish HR: “I thought it would be different”
“I think there are ministers out there who are really burdened, and love their staff and God’s people to the point of laying awake at night and worrying about them. Being burdened, and not in a bad way. I see that all the time.” (Vikki Napier, parish human resources partner for the Sydney Diocese)
Episode: Death by a thousand paper cuts – Psychosocial Risks in Church Leadership
“As we move more and more towards a world where we want to create a workplace that is inclusive of all people, different abilities and capacities, and workplace adjustments become more and more part of the way we work, we really need to break down those misconceptions and those previous ideas that the general population have. A lot of that is just raising awareness, talking through the stories, sharing stories of real, lived experiences, and it needs to happen before you have that individual in that role.” (Katharine Moore, expert in workplace safety and health)
Episode: Transforming the Narrative on Ministry Formation
“We had so many pastors [in our US research] tell us that some of their closest friends weren’t just outside of the church, but they weren’t even Christians. They said it was their neighbour or someone at a workout place or a social club they belonged to; that they had to get all the way outside the system, and that’s where they found personal relationships and connections and couple relationships and connections.” (Professor Donald Guthrie, Trinity International University and co-author of Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us about Surviving and Thriving.)