Ministry and Stress
Update on Lydia Fellows from Associate Director Rev. Kenneth Young
“Fewer than two-thirds (62.2 percent) of churches in the United States have a full-time pastor, according to the 2015 Faith Communities Today survey. That’s down from 71.4 percent in 2010.”
The increase of bivocational pastors is becoming more of a norm in today’s church. How will the church function without a full-time pastor? Will the church continue to be impactful if there are more part-time pastors than in the past, or will the church begin to fizzle out? Can pastor tend to the flock and maintain a healthy balance while working another job to support their responsibilities? The questions mentioned above are being asked more frequently especially in New England. The cost of living is higher than in several places in America. The institutional church is not as strong in New England. According to Pew Research, Massachusetts is amongst the least religious states in the US. Lipka and Wormald write, “Only about a third of people in New Hampshire (33%), Massachusetts (33%), Vermont (34%) and Maine (34%) qualify as highly religious by these criteria. Roughly one-in-five residents of these states report attending religious services at least weekly, and roughly half or fewer say they are certain of God’s existence.”
The church must pay attention to the atmosphere around it to survive the shifts happening. The Lydia Fellow program benefits all bi-vocational pastors who are asking questions surrounding ministry at this time. The Lydia Fellows have been able to meet monthly and engage with national leaders on various topics. The topics are thought-provoking and continue to spark a fire amongst those engaging in bivocational or multivocational ministry. Topics such as Ministry and Stress, Understanding Church Finance, and Rest and Reflection have helped the Lydia Fellows begin living in bi-vocational leaders’ tension.
Last month, we were under the direction of Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Dyer in coping with ministry and stress. Dr. Dyer is the Director of the Doctorate of Social Work Program and Associate Professor of Practice at Simmons University’s School of Social Work. She presents professionally and in the community on the intersections of mental health and faith and maintain a community-based private practice. Dr. Dyer gave techniques and strategies for helping ministers relieve stress and anxiety. Dyer said, “Anxiety could cause internal health problems that pastors or leaders cannot see until they are in the hospital. She offers ways to relieve stress such as exercising, deep breathing, and investing time in a hobby.” As pastors live in the reality of post-pandemic issues, it is imperative to learn to cope with the trauma and stress of leadership.
We are excited to close our Lydia Fellows program for 2023 with a closing retreat at the Warren Inn and Conference Center in Ashland, MA. The Fellows can share some of their learnings and gleams from a few speakers. We pray that this will be a refreshing time and that what they have learned will help them through their ministry. Please look for more information about the Lydia Fellows program on our website. Applications to apply to the cohort will be open soon.