The North Georgia Conference wants to help its clergy be the healthiest they can be. A call into ministry can be a stressful one, making it difficult to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
Clergy of all ages often battle with depression, congregational tension, and the pressure of constantly being on the go. Working under these conditions makes it hard to make the right food choices, get proper exercise, and take time away from the ministry.
According to a survey conducted by the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits, close to 50 percent of United Methodist clergy who answered said their jobs are stressful.
Five percent suffer from depression, 26 percent report experiencing some functional difficulty from depressive symptoms and 47 percent experienced hostility in their congregations.
The survey also measured clergies’ troubles with physical conditions. Forty percent of participants admitted to struggling with obesity, 51 percent with high cholesterol, 11 percent with borderline high blood pressure (prehypertension), 17 percent with asthma, and 9 percent with pre-diabetes.
“Our benefits programs run the gamut from Employee Assistance Program services to wellness initiatives to insurance and retirement programs,” says Conference Treasurer, Keith Cox. “Our programs provide a strong support system for all participants, as well as their dependents when applicable.”
Conference health programs are constantly improving ways to motivate and fight the day to day struggles clergy and conference lay staff face with their health.
Clergy are encouraged to use the resources provided by Emory Clergy Care, whose mission is to accompany clergy persons throughout their vocational lives, discovering and providing needed support for effective ministry. Emory Clergy Care offers a wide range of beneficial programs that are available to both clergy and their families.
The Minister’s Health and Wellness Program is a part of the Emory Clinic. Families in ministry are able to meet with clinic physicians and health professionals, to take a comprehensive physical examination and create a health enhancement plan.
Counseling services are available for clergy upon requests. Many use these services during times of excessive stress. Peer support groups have also been formed around the Conference to benefit North Georgia ministers. Marital counseling and couple retreats are hosted through Emory Clergy Care as well.
Other services include psychological testing, and a professional development program that assists in enhancing pastoral skills. There is even a re-visioning program to aid pastors in transitioning from a ministerial position to a secular world career.
Emory Clergy Care also organizes various workshops and retreats for pastors to enrich their education.
Improving Clergy Health Today
HealthFlex Insurance offers unique ways to not only stay fit, but also offer monetary benefits with HealthCash and Wellness Points.
By creating a WebMD account, participants can gain Wellness Points based on their involvement with the site. Members are encouraged to set and then reach health goals, read encouraging stories and educational materials, and share personal success stories.
Signing up with Virgin HealthMiles allows participants to track their steps to reach certain targets. Clergy earn more HealthCash the more steps they take and report.
HealthFlex also awards HealthCash for improving different areas of health. Positive changes in blood pressure, blood sugar, Triglycerides, HDL Cholesterol, waist circumference, and Body Mass Index can each earn up to 15 points.
Another way to earn points is to participate in a Quest Diagnostics Blueprint for Wellness. This comprehensive and confidential screening assesses your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other common health issues. All participants and spouses covered by any HealthFlex plan are eligible to take the screening at no out-of-pocket cost. Participants enrolled in Virgin HealthMiles can earn $100 HealthCash and up to 90 Wellness Points. READ MORE to participate in this year’s screening.
Health screenings are offered in the summer during The North Georgia Annual Conference in Athens.
A total of $150 in Wellness Points, $150 in Virgin HealthMiles target points, and $100 from receiving a Blueprint for Wellness screening, clergy can earn up to $400 in total incentives each year. These rewards can be redeemed for gift cards or direct deposits.
Setting positive goals and incentives provide clergy with a sturdy landing pad while dealing with stresses and other moving parts of their lives.
Keeping Clergy Healthy Tomorrow
The Conference invests in clergy after they leave the pulpit as well. The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of The United Methodist Church administers the Clergy Retirement Security Program providing pastors and clergy with security in their retirement.
Retirees receive a Defined Benefit (DB) Component, which provides a monthly, life-long retirement benefit with various DB payment options, and annual cost-of-living increase options.
A Defined Contribution (DC) Component is also provided. The Church contributes 2% of clergy compensation to the clergy's “DC” retirement account. The Church also matches personal contributions to the United Methodist Personal Investment Plan (UMPIP). Both earnings and contributions are invested in a tax - deffered account.
Retired clergy can also receive a Blueprint health screening during Annual Conference, and participate in the HealthFlex programs.
“Our Conference has been blessed over the years with solid leadership by our Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits. Under its guidance, and with the excellent management by Karen Fullerton, Conference Benefits Officer, and her staff, the Conference can offer a comprehensive benefits package for our active and retired clergy and lay employees,” Cox adds.
The North Georgia Conference invests in its clergy to provide a healthy ministry for The United Methodist Church. To learn more about these programs, contact Benefits Officer Karen Fullerton at Kfullerton@ngumc.org.