Death by Ministry

Years ago, I spent several hours per week doing research (and meeting with other pastors) about pastoral health and vitality for my denomination.

I chose to spend some time doing that for selfish reasons. I was and am still learning how to take better care of myself in ministry (as evidenced by the scary picture above) – while completely acknowledging that sometimes, it’s not supposed to feel right. We all know that work…well…is supposed to be laborious. And those in ministry know that ministry in itself is difficult. There’s no way to get around it, but…

What I learned was pretty shocking and heartbreaking, but one of the conclusions I came to was that as ministry leaders, pastors, and other pursuers of God’s work, it helps to understand some of the challenges ahead and to be proactive rather than reactive.

Recently, I posted Part I of this post entitled, Why Is Being a Pastor So Unhealthy. The reasons are complex, and I’ll acknowledge that when one looks for “doom and gloom,” you’ll find some discouraging things. I can focus an entry purely on the joys and blessings of pastoral ministry and feel confident I can write a compelling piece. But these statistics (and stories that many of us are aware of) and our personal stories are hard to ignore.

Here’s a summary of what I learned and shared:

There are varying reports from different sources, but I believe most will agree that the ministerial profession (life as pastors) is now considered one of the most dangerous or unhealthiest professions. It’s usually rated last or second to last. Read this from a local Northwest minister, Mark, on a comment on an earlier post:

“At the first church I served, we had an insurance agent who was a member of the congregation. When I went to see him about some auto insurance needs, he said ‘Hey, wanna see something that will scare the crap out of you?’…He pulled out a form that had various professions rated for their risk of giving life insurance policies to…Anyway, to make a lengthening story shorter, he showed me that clergy members were in the same category as Deep Sea Welders and Loggers as the second highest risk group to give life insurance policies to. We were behind crab fishermen but ahead of munitions workers.

It was a little disturbing to know that statistically I was gonna die due to my profession before someone who builds explosives. This was back in 1994; the statistics may be better (or worse) now.”

If you don’t believe the above comment, read some of these statistics:

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Eugene Cho
Eugene Cho is the co-founder (with his wife) and executive director of One Day's Wages — "a movement of People, Stories, and Actions to alleviate extreme global poverty." He is also the founding and lead pastor of Quest Church and the founder and executive director of Q Cafe — a non-profit community cafe and music venue in Seattle. Follow Eugene on Twitter or his personal blog.